On Being Social

I used to think I was a social person.

I’ve since realized this isn’t actually true.

Sure, I can communicate well with others.  I make friends easily.  I’m not too horribly awkward in public situations and don’t even stick my foot in my mouth all that often.  I read people’s body language and vocal inflection easily and can manipulate that if necessary.  I understand social situations.  In high school and college I attended the occasional party and had fun at dances.  I went out with friends once in a while, especially after cast parties and stuff.

I thought I was social.

Then my little brother and sister went through high school and college.

They are social.  I am not.

It seems like every time I visited my parents Teeny and Fuffy were out playing with some friends.  They were going to games or parties or were just over at someone’s house and always playing with a big group of people.  After seeing Teeny and Fuffy out doing stuff with friends seemingly all the time I looked back on my life and realized something.

That was not me.

I played during school.  I attended my early morning classes and meetings.  I stayed after classes for rehearsals.  I visited and had a good time with great people through all these things.

Then?

I went home.  I sat in my room reading by myself.  I sat in my room listening to music by myself.  I sat in my room doing homework by myself.  I sat in my room practicing for voice lessons by myself.  I loathed group or partner projects when I had to work with other people outside of school.  The parties I went to were usually after something I was attending anyway.  It didn’t just go to parties all the time.  The dates I went on (until I started dating ODD) were almost exclusively for dances.  Even the non-date dances (stake or institute dances and school sock-hops) I usually went to by myself and found friends once I was there.  I preferred going shopping by myself.  If I was just going to wander around I loved having a friend with me but if I was going someplace to actually buy things I much preferred being by myself.

I had only a few close friends I called to do stuff.  Lacey, Valerie, and Jon were it for me.  Even so, I didn’t call them all the time (this was back before the days of constant email, mind you) and didn’t see them a whole lot outside of school or church functions.  I remember talking to Lacey at the beginning of the school year once and asking what classes she had.  For every class she was in she already knew a few other people who would be in it with her or who had arranged to be in it with her.  I was floored.  People actually did that?   It never occurred to me to schedule one or more of my classes with a friend.  I just scheduled what I needed then showed up the first day of class and looked around to see if I knew anyone there.  Even in college she had classes with friends and played with these people outside of class events.  I, on the other hand, lost almost all contact with everyone I knew in high school and only knew what people were up to if I talked to Lacey, Valerie, or Jon.  They mentioned seeing so-and-so and I’d ask how so-and-so was.  I’ve never been great at keeping in contact with others with very few exceptions.  Even now, I get my update on how people are doing from Lacey because she’s good at that sort of thing and actually talks to people.

I didn’t think I became anti-social until I got married because aside from school, work, and church the only person I spent time with was ODD but I’ve come to realize that simply isn’t true.  I was a hermit in the making well before I even started dating ODD.  Marrying him just sort of finalized it.

Then I became a mother which seems to have put the final nail in the coffin.

I spend most days at home with my kids.  I only go out to go shopping or take the kids to the park or someplace.  Again, by myself.  In California I became friends with Jenny who lived in my building.  She started calling me up to go places.  What’s this?  Going someplace with another adult?  It was great for me!  Eventually I started calling her to play, too, and even if we were just going to watch a movie at home or something I’d call her and her dh to see if they wanted to come over.  It was so nice to have someone that close.  Someone I liked spending time with.  Someone who just had to come down the hall.  Someone who understood I wasn’t good at arranging things by myself and gave me a little help.  Unfortunately, when we moved after our third year, we only stayed in contact through blogging and occasional emails.  That’s kind of the story of my life.

One day, sometime after I moved to California, I emailed something funny to Kermit.  We had become good friends while neighbors in married student housing and had played quite a bit but after our move she was in another state.  I didn’t want to lose her completely so I continued to email once in a while.  After sending a couple of funny things her way with not much more she emailed me back and wrote, “No!  I’m not letting this happen!  I’m not going to let our friendship become one of nothing but email forwards!”  Really, I don’t forward many emails, but I was shocked to receive such a response.  And so touched to see she thought of me as a friend she didn’t want to lose.  It was a good wake-up call and I realized I was going to have to put more effort into keeping in touch but really, it is through her efforts that our friendship didn’t just fall to the wayside.  We started chatting online and not long after that she introduced me to blogging.

That opened me up to an entirely new world of people!  People like me!  People who weren’t social.  People who don’t love talking on the phone, at least not to more than a few people (for me its Lacey, Kermit, Val, and my mom).  People who would rather communicate through email.  People who want to be in touch with the outside world but maybe can’t quite figure out how to do it.  At least that’s the way I see it.

So while I’m much more happy to inhabit a world where I can “see” people and “talk” to people at my convenience I still live in the real world where my kids need to get out and do things and play with other kids.  Peanut seems to follow in ODD’s and my anti-social footsteps (have I mentioned ODD’s more anti-social than I am in some respects?).  In preschool the only person she talks about is her teacher, Miss B.  If I didn’t already know a couple of kids in our neighborhood were in her class I’d never know because she never talks about them.

The other day when I picked up Peanut from preschool Miss B told me another little girl’s mom wanted to talk to me.  I introduced myself and talked to her for a minute.  She told me her little girl talked about Peanut all the time and asked if I’d be interested in doing a playdate for Peanut and her little girl.  Of course I said yes and how fun that would be.  I went on to explain that I’m just not very good at arranging such things.  I think that threw her off a little and she said if I didn’t want to or was too busy that was okay.  I had to explain, I was definitely interested and had the time, I just suck at the making-it-happen part.  After getting our kids in the car she came over again to swap contact info and asked if Peanut ever mentions her little girl.  I’m a horrible liar so I had to admit Peanut never has but that she never talks about anybody from school except her teacher so it doesn’t mean anything.  I’m not sure it made her feel better.

Anyway, the whole incident got me thinking.  Maybe it’s part of my hermit thinking but calling people to arrange playdates is just beyond me most of the time.  It’s not that I don’t like playdates, I just don’t think that far ahead or would rather just stay at home and not deal with getting everyone ready to go someplace when we don’t have to.  It’s easier to do stuff at home not to mention just how much there is for me to do here.  It’s not like we’re sitting around bored all day.  I like going out.  I just like going out by myself.  I still prefer to go shopping by myself.  I like going to movies at the theater by myself.  I like eating at restaurants by myself.  And by “myself” I usually mean myself and my kids but really all by myself is even better.

Yes, I know this is all probably weird but – NEWS FLASH – I am weird.  And apparently I’m passing this weirdness on to my children.

So basically I’ve come to the realization that I’m not actually a social person.

I just play one on the internet.

21 comments to On Being Social

  • Tia

    “I just play one on the internet.” Haha! I love that! I used to be the super social, always going somewhere or doing something person too. But my husband is NOT and it has started to rub off on me a lot. There are still times that I have to just go somewhere just to be somewhere different, but I don’t have to be gone long just a short change of scenery. It’s okay to not be “social” in fact my life is much more peaceful since I’ve learned to slow down.

  • Linda Hicks

    You are definitely NOT wierd, HSF. The term anti-social conjurs up a picture of someone who doesn’t like to be around other people, and if he/she has to be, won’t interact with them. You’re great when you’re with people (at least when I see you) and you are very personable and friendly. I think there are some people who are more secure in themselves and don’t need that interaction to feel valued; they are creative (you) and confident (you) and enjoy using their time in their own constructive ways (you again!) I don’t know you as a “friend” would, little niece, but you are very sharp socially. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

  • You’re so good to me, Linda. Thank you for your kind comment! That’s a nice way to look at it. Love you!

  • Hatch

    I was really social in high school and now I feel like I am a hermit. At least as far as ,I like to keep it Sam and the kids and I.

  • Becky S.

    I can totally relate. I always thought I was so “social”. Then I got married and had kids and I really am not social, I never really was before too. I would rather just do my own thing and read a book. I even like baking all by myself. My kids never have friends over, I never think of inviting them. We have fun just playing here at home doing our own thing.
    I think I need to get out more and help my kids to also. It is easy to chat on the computer and pretend social but in real life we all might be missing something. “For the sake of the children”, get out there and make some friends!

  • em

    And this, my dear, is why we are friends.
    I think we are hermit soulmates.
    But I think in the long run we anti-socialites make a better, more deliberate kind of friend.

  • Amy

    You aren’t alone in your hermitdom. I struggle with playdates, hanging out, and going to dinner with friends. Once upon a time I was good at it!

  • I’m right there with you! Your description of playdates and not being able to make-it-happen, really hits home. I usually go along if someone invites us but a very rarely ever plan one myself. It’s all I can do to get through my kids’ birthday parties.

    I’m very much a loner by nature and I love it. It’s okay. Like one commenter said, it takes a very secure person to be alone and be happy doing things alone. :-)

  • Jessica

    Oh HSF! You are fabulous and have been since high school. Even if you don’t call to arrange the play dates ;)however, If my over eager social-ness ever gets overbearing, please let me know!

  • Melissa S.

    I sooooooo prefer email and blogging. Please don’t call me because I probably won’t pick up……that’s my policy. :) I love it…..and you’re right, you were NOT socially weird in high school. I see a lot of myself in your comments about high school. Brooks always asks me if I had any friends in high school. :)
    I use the computer as my social outlet and then spend the rest at home. It works out great.

  • Valerie Carleton

    Oh, HSF, you described me to a T. (Is that phrase even still valid?) I so much prefer talking to someone face to face than actually picking up the phone. I get so much out of reading body language that phone conversations sometimes scare me. I can definitely relate to avoiding arranging playdates, even with friends our age. A few years ago I realized I had to redefine my definition of friendship as I felt I had no close friends down here. It was because I spent most of my time alone at home, or with my husband. But I agree with you–people LIKE you! People like me! We just don’t spend every evening out “socializing” to prove it. I still count you as one of my closest (not in the physical distance) friends. And I think we were pretty darn social in high school–you’re just not remembering all the “running amuck” that went on. :)

  • Miss Capri

    You’re not weird, you just need your own space some of the time. I’ve become pretty content by myself, though I love to be social too, but mostly I don’t bother trying to arrange things with other people unless they initiate it. This is mostly because everyone else has their own crazy schedule – that gets changed at the last minute anyway, and I just don’t like trying to plan things, only to have other people turning it into a no-go. Your friend was admirable to not want the friendship becoming nothing but email forwards. You’re admirable for understanding it that way. I wish more people would. I’ve lost touch with so many people over the years because they’ve killed friendship with their forward addictions and it’s like – accept their junk or get abandoned, which sucks. So given the choice between their poor idea of communication and getting nothing, the latter looks pretty good.

  • Kermit

    I have always preferred a few close friends to scads of them. I can’t keep track of that many lives! The scattering that occurred once we all left USU makes me glad we have the Internet and social networking. Still, there are people I am not communicating with enough because of time constraints and I’m sad about it.

    Fozzie is NOT a hermit; he throws parties for college football games and if we are in town NYD we have a sort of open house of food and board games (and football, naturally). We have a new Thanksgiving tradition of rotating with three families in our ward and picking up any “strays” who need someplace to eat. We are close with those two families and double date with them. Of them, one couple is made up of two amazingly social people and the other is half and half like we are. The less social half is our bishop, hee.

    But then my “go to” buddy here is N, who is my HSF here. Playing with N doesn’t need to be extensively planned out, which is great. We can just chill out and look at recipes and decor magazines while the kids play. Low key.

    But I still love those solo trips to the store, or sitting in a bookstore with a new bestseller and a cup of herbal tea, completely alone…

  • Oh, HSF! You are so fun and honest and I just love you. I’m convinced that marriage make for social hermits- not always such a bad thing, in my opinion- and then children come along and force us back into certain types of sociality. While following your siblings on FB I’ve always been impressed by their super duper incredibly social ways! And even though you’re weren’t social in their way, I always thought of you as a very social person, so it surprised me to hear you say that you’re not. You always seemed to have lots of friends, got along with everyone, and seemed to be comfortable in so many types of social situations (like dances and such) that I actually avoided because I felt insecure. The way that you remember and describe me from high school is so interesting to hear… I can stand back and tell that it’s definitely correct from an outside point of view, but my view of myself is completely different. So funny! And if you hadn’t stated otherwise, I’d have guessed that today you are a social person- maybe just because every time I am with you in real life you really are just seem so comfortable and friendly with everyone around you. Maybe a better description for me to use of you would be to say that you’re a good people person. Because you are SO good with people… online people as well as people in real-life. And that is a talent!

    I have to admit that most of the reason I still keep up with people is due simply to the fact that I still live here where we grew up. You can’t help but run into old acquaintances at the grocery store or the Dr’s office fairly often. If I weren’t still here I’m fairly certain that any interaction I had at all with old acquaintances would be done online… most of it still is. :)

  • ShaeLee May

    I’m exactly like you! I have friends, but I don’t feel comfortable calling up and making plans. It is so much easier to do your own thing.

  • I totally relate! I love to do things with friends but it does get so nerve racking. I always feel like I am bugging the other person if I call and arrange things. I am also not good at arranging things either.

  • Love this post! Thanks for mentioning me. Those were fun times at Costco and being out and about in Emeryville, etc.

    I still think we should have Evan and ODD buy adjoining farms, so they can have their space and we can be semi-social together.

    Miss ya!

  • McKenna

    I think there are different kinds of social. Maybe you weren’t everywhere, all the time, but I think you were certainly a quality friend. You took the time to be thoughtful and invested in others. One of the things I remember most about you from that time is that I would always get these beautiful notes from you if I was down or if I was struggling. I still have this note where you drew all these vegetables and this pretty little soup pot to tell me to get better from my cold. I don’t remember every person in every group function I went to, but I remember the notes. I remember that you were a good friend.

    I’m totally with you about the scheduling of play-dates! I would love to go to them, but I SUCK at arranging them! And I feel so bad for Grace because all the girls in class hang out after school, so she’s left out because I’m a homebody. Guh. Kindergarten politics.

  • this is perfect.. : ) I love going by MYSELF to do things – movies, shopping, restaurants, fabric shopping (had to get specific with the ‘shopping’) – it is nice. quiet. I can get lost in my thoughts. I can think about all sorts of books or music or movies or projects or people.. I love it too. SO .. if I say you’re weird, then I’m admitting that I am weird too. That’s okay with me. : )

  • I’ve always thought that you were a pretty social person. Then again, I’m not what one would consider a social expert. Doing things by yourself is a good thing. Especially when you spend your days doing things for everyone else but you. So maybe that’s why we’re friends…our hermitness. Totally made that word up too. ;o)

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