Tuesday, June 14, 2011

outted and outsmarted

I have been chewing on this post since last weekend.  And came to realize something about myself that I hadn't recognized.  It took a comment by my oldest daughter to bring about this epiphany.

I don't like crowds.  I don't like crowds in general, but the crowds I am talking about now are the social crowds.  Those places where groups of people gather and socialize.

I hate them.  With a passion.  I always knew I hated them.  But I didn't know why.  For years I would go to gatherings, and escape as soon as I could.

Immediate family gatherings were no problem.  It's the extended family that I get nervous around.  Mother's Day is also Decoration at the local church cemetery here in my community.  It is a tradition to decorate the graves in the (very) old cemetery with flowers the day before "Decoration", and then go look at the flowers you put on the graves the day before.  It was an odd custom to me, but I did it, because it was expected of me.  After a few years of standing around talking to people I didn't know or barely knew, I stopped going. 

After going to the cemetery, it was the custom to have a big dinner with all the relatives within driving distance.  Steve always enjoyed that part.  But as soon as I could, I made my escape home.  I was lucky enough to live next door.

I am so uncomfortable talking about this that my arms are itching.  And I am thinking about the reunion that my family went to last weekend.  High school.  The school my kids and my husband and his sisters all attended.  The school is gone now, but they were expecting a huge crowd.  And it was huge.  Everyone was there.

Except two people.  My youngest daughter Deborah (Wretch).  And me. (Oh, and my son Jim, who had to work.  He would have been there.  He's like his dad that way.)

I was listening to Jen (my oldest) talking to her dad about why Wretch wasn't there.  She told him that Wretch told her that she doesn't like crowds, and avoids social situations like that whenever she can.

Then Jen said "she gets it from Mom.  Mom has never liked to be in crowds like that either."

I was stunned.  My daughter understood my anxiety better than I did.  It was like a light exploded in my head.

Or maybe it was just the fact that I finally acknowledged it.

I can stand in front of a crowd and speak.  I've done that many times, through graduate school and beyond.  I can talk to groups of any size at work.  Students, clients, staff.  No problem.

Just don't ask me to make small talk in a social situation.  I feel like an idiot.  Like everything I have to say is stupid.  So I avoid. 

Will I change?  Probably not...

But I will have Margaritas with a friend from work on Thursday at the local Mexican restaurant during happy hour.

I've been outted by my daughter, who understands me way better than I understand myself...

When did my kids get smarter than me?

38 comments:

  1. This resonated so much with me, Cathy! I,too, avoid such crowds and fail miserably at small talk. I've always preferred smaller gatherings and deep conversations. I get nervous when I know I'm about to hang out with ppl I barely know or worse, don't have much in common with. I'm a very reserved person and it's a challenge making new friends (especially after my migration). Anyway, it helps to know we're not really idiots, right? As they say, 'silent waters run deep' :-)

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  2. When they grow up, stop thinking you're stupid, and take time to reflect on the ways they want to grow up to be just like you - or not - they gain a few IQ points. They say the same of their parents, oddly enough, when they have kids of their own.

    I'm with you. I hate large social groups. I'm an only child from a small family, and that always suited me fine. Then, I married my husband - got a wonderful sister and two fantastic brothers as part of the deal, and a few years later, discovered a network of cousins and extended family that, for years, utterly overwhelmed me. I took refuge in the kitchen, making endless pots of coffee. I loved them all, one on one. Not so much in a crowded room. But over the years, a funny thing happened: They stopped asking if everything was okay, whenever I felt a need to "escape" and take a walk, or go to my own room for a bit and quietly read a book. They accepted me and began to understand me, and I began to enjoy the family reunions more. Now, I'm not so overwhelmed by the whole group; I know it's "safe" to retreat for a bit when I need a dose of solitude, and we're really family now - so we've moved past the "small talk" stage. I'm still more at ease conversing in smaller groups, but that's no longer seen as odd. :)

    I skipped my senior year of high school, and ironically, the thing that seemed to worry the principal most about that are the things that make me endlessly glad I did it: I never had to endure Prom, and I will never really have a "class reunion" to go to. I'm fine with that.

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  3. Wow - so do I!!! Is this why we blog? My problem with crowds has even been known to impact on my relationship with partners. They just could never understand why I would freak out so. Many a tears have been shed over my fear. These days it comes and goes depending on my mood, how 'confident' I am feeling and how tired I am. I will always be hopeless as small talk though. I don't see why I should entertain people who would not usually talk to me, and who just pretend at the slightest to be interested (takes me back to the weekend where I was actually sharing an experience from the previous week with some people. I actually opened up - only to find them looking in every other direction because the conversation was no longer about themselves...). Phew...that was a VENT!

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  4. Isn't it strange how the anxieties you think you hide from your children are the ones they are most aware you have. My Mum and myslef had such an epiphany just a few weeks back.

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  5. Cath, how wonderful that you are so open to share that of yourself. I dont like crowds either, I dont like social situations with more than 6 people and I dont like parties. I also dont like rituals that have no meaning for me and just refuse to do them anymore.
    Can we form a group lol?

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  6. Ditto - I could have written this. Not as well, but it describes me.

    No grandchildren yet, but I have to wonder what my daughters "know."

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  7. Maybe I do too. I hate gatherings, especially social. My mom is the very social kind and keeps pulling me into meeting people and getting together, I think otherwise. Though a lot of people would find that hard to believe (because my posts reflect me as a socially gregarious person); sometimes I am, when I am with people I am comfortable with but otherwise, like say weddings, engagements, reunions...I am found sulking at some corner!

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  8. Well brace yourself for your high school reunion, lol...but I'll be right there with you sissy!

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  9. I remember at my fortieth birthday party thinking yeh, I've arrived. I'm confident and can hold my own in work and outside. The following year I had to do a course in Social Personal and Health Education. I knew no-one on the course. I remember sitting that first evening and not knowing how to "break the ice" with the two people on either side of me. I discovered I was confident....but only within my social circle, with people who knew and accepted me for what I am. I totally understand you.

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  10. I don't like crowds either. The difficulty is that, here, in London, you have to go to the pub after work from time to time. Often, it is crowded and you can't hear a thing. You pretend to interact but you don't really. I totally understand you!

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  11. I truly think our children start analyzing us from birth and have us all figured out in about a week.

    I used to feel the same way in social situations and I always wished I could do better. The turning point was when I realized that the most outlandish people don't care how they look to other people--and in the long run we don't give them much of a thought at the end of the day. People are more accepting than we think they are. <3

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  12. I don't mind crowds; it's the small talk I hate. I think that's why I like blogs: we get to skip the small talk and get right to the meaningful stuff.

    And it is pretty amazing how our kids see in us things that we do not see in ourselves.

    Thanks!

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  13. Isn't it funny that it hadn't occurred to you? I had a similar thing happen years ago. I expressed reluctance to go to the usual pub Friday night after work, said I was too tired. My hubby said that I'd fire up when I got there and enjoy it. I didn't believe him but sure enough, he was right. I checked every other time I went too. But it's a small crowd, you'd be fine Cath!
    Josie x

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  14. I can relate, somewhat. I don't have the fear of familiar crowds but boy do I hate other kinds. Festivals, concerts, hell even malls. I suck it up when it's something I really want to see. Well suck it up means taking an Ativan to me! =)

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  15. I find it interesting, after reading the above comments, how many of us agree with you that we hate crowds. Is that the writer in us? Or why we turn to blogging or some such solitary pursuit? Or a lack of self-confidence, or disinterest in wasting our time, or a fear of crowds?

    My son recently called me an isolationist and anti-social. He's right because my worst dream/nightmare just came true, and I'm living - reluctantly - in my sister's home along with another 8 people who tend to do everything together. Fortunately, they've figured out that I like to be alone, but occasionally, I have to join in.

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  16. You are not alone. I HATE large parties/gatherings. I would much rather have a small group (or just two). I clam up in the large groups.

    So..complete understanding.

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  17. Hi Cathy –

    I am much like you are when it comes to being around social gathering crowds. I don’t like it much at all. I never know what to say and can tell most people really don’t care what I have to say either. It often goes like this. “So what have you been up to lately?” … “Oh not much. You know the same ole’ same ole’. And you?” … “Not much either.” Even in high school and college, I wasn’t a big fan of concerts, dances, or huge indoor parties. Wall to wall people is not my thing. Although I do like outdoor picnics and BBQs where there are many people, I have the open air and land to move about and get off to the side. I must have a phobia because feeling trapped inside with crowds makes me feel uncomfortable. I never know what to say, lol. Thank you.

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  18. @Joy
    I had lunch with my gf today and realized something else about me...I think the reason I hate small talk is because it is so superficial. Not that I want to discuss life or death issues...just that I enjoy being able to look into a person's eyes, listen to them, and hear something with a little substance to it. So yes Joy, you are right on target about the deep conversations...
    and thanks so much for the comment :D

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  19. @Holly Jahangiri
    I hear you on that...I was sweating so much my first prom I had to keep the bolero jacket on with my dress the whole time...or maybe that was the second prom. And I always listen to the voice in my head when it hollers "RETREAT" at me...it's time for a break...I have two wonderful sisters who know when we are all together that at some point I am talked out and need to be left alone for a while...they understand me...as my kids seem to...maybe I am more transparent than I thought I was. :D
    I appreciate your insight Holly!

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  20. @Janine If you read my post from September 2010 (the fonz) Janine, you will see I had no trouble speaking face to face with a major Hollywood star... if he'd been in a roomful of people I would never have gone near him... :D
    And yes I tend to be a good listener and mostly am quiet (even though I spill my guts on here) but sometimes it IS about me. :D Is that selfish? I think it is human... so you go girl and vent all you want...because I know you will let me vent back! :D

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  21. @Lucylastica2 And that's what makes families wonderful! We accept each other, warts and all. :D

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  22. @Mama Zen I sure feel less like a freak after reading all these wonderful comments and realizing I am not alone! :D

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  23. @Maureen Hunter I'd say we have a group right here on this page! :D

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  24. @Thom Brown Pffft Thom you have a way with words that far surpasses mine...and you better keep those ears open, those daughters may drop a bomb on you someday like mine did... :D

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  25. @Hajra oh Hajra I am so in that corner with you...and glad to be in it... :D I envy the family members (like my husband and sisters) who can plow their way through a crowd making brilliant small talk... :D

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  26. @Anonymous Meet my smart ass sister (Vix) y'all...who always has my back. :D
    xo sissy

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  27. I totally identify, Cathy! And I love how Janine asks if this is why we blog. =) The weird thing is that no matter the anxiety, I often don't show it when I need to be in those situations. Maybe it has to do with coming from a ginormous extended family. I've been forced into situations like that since birth. I often try to find a couple people I can relate with and stick to them rather than socialize in large groups! =P

    Thanks for having me think about this, Cathy, and for being so open in your post! =)

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  28. @hocam Mary you are so on target with those comments...and though 40 was many years ago for me, I swear I think I was not as backward as I am now...maybe it's old age setting in with me :D

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  29. @MuMuGB And where do I sit in a pub or restaurant? In the chair that has its back to the wall...if I am at a table in the middle of the room I feel as though I have a target painted on my back... :D

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  30. @sweepyjean SJ, can I stand next to you at the next social gathering? Maybe some of that wisdom will rub off on me. :D thanks!

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  31. @Eric@I've Become My Parents Whether I ever become a social butterfly (not) I am glad I raised kids that are smarter than I am... and I have grandkids that are even smarter than their parents. :D

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  32. @Josie Give me a drink for each hand and I'll be fine Josie :D

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  33. @Penelope J. My family too knows I need wind down time after work to let my brain settle...I have always been like that...up late with everyone in bed so I could just sit and ponder...

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  34. @BornStoryteller I am so glad I am not alone...thank goodness for all you fine people who make me feel so NORMAL. :D

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  35. @charlie nitric I've had that same conversation a thousand times...to the point I wanted to take a sticky note and print my responses on it and stick it to my forehead. Then at least I can eat or drink and not have to have the same stupid chat over and over again. :D

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  36. @Samantha Bangayan Thanks for that comment! I don't spill my guts about me very often...so you all had a glimpse of what I usually hide behind armor plating... I appreciate the understanding and nice comments!

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