I pushed them quite far and almost paid the price.
I know I should get out and socialize more, especially now that I am retired. Maybe 'should' is too strong of a word. 'Could' might fit better, less obligatory, more opportunistic.
Plus, I know I need to socialize more in order to..., um, to..., um, well, I just need to in order to manage my introversion. And avoid depression. And loneliness.
I’ve tried finding various social groups to join but was turned off by their admittance questionnaires. I found an LGBT social group and checked them out. The very second question on their required questionnaire was "Single or Taken?" If this is a social group, what difference does that make? I decided not to join or offer some smart ass remark, like 'none of your fucking business', or just 'unavailable' but that would invite far too many questions I wasn't prepared to answer. I believe I blogged about it a while back so I won’t rehash that here as I still think it’s ridiculous.
So, I waited until another one came along and checked them out. They had no such question. Yet, shortly after joining this newly formed group, I received a group email from the organizer saying he was elated at the level of interest in this group and asked for an indication of exactly how involved each of us intended to be as there were many people on the waiting list and some of us might be dropped to make room for those on the list. WTF? If this is a social group, why is membership limited to a certain number? I guess he didn’t want it to be too unwieldy. But, I can only be as involved as my schedule, budget and interest in the proposed activities allow. What more can I say?
Why not simply allow people to be who they are?
A third group caught my eye; a group of gay men meeting once a week for dinner at a cafe about ten miles from my house. Due to scheduling and other, ahem, conflicts, it took me about three weeks to finally go, but I did. There were about seven of us that night in a broad age range, mid-30s to mid-60s. I really didn’t get much of a chance to talk with three of the men, and the two I spoke with the most were both teachers with my district! Oh, the irony, being I just retired and here I am talking shop! Another man acted as organizer and made the introductions, as the actual organizer was absent that night due to a prior commitment.
As I sat there engaged in an introvert’s nightmare of idle chit chat, small talk and prattle with total strangers, I could feel the anxiety creeping up. But, I told myself to breathe, (if only in my mind-the telling, not the breathing) as this was actually healthy for me and I continued talking in while eating my dinner.
In all reality, I did prepare myself for this experience. I mean, I knew I would probably be the new guy and I expected that dreaded question, "So, what’s your story?" I mentally rehearsed a synopsis, "Retired teacher, living in North Hills, no pets, just plants." And the evening was only going to last two hours. I could do this.
In the end, it wasn’t all that painful, but the inevitable did happen. One very nice man invited me to join him and his partner in all the groups they belong to, in order to meet other people. I'd heard of some of the groups and had quite mixed reviews of them. Regardless, none of the groups were ones I'd be comfortable attending.
Once the evening was over, I headed out to my car and back home to my sanctuary.
Due to the location of the cafe, I had wanted to tag an errand on to the beginning of the evening but that didn’t pan out, as I discovered the shop I wanted to go to closed earlier than I had anticipated. So, I put that off for the next day and treated myself to my favorite lunch from another restaurant in the area. While there, I noticed an attractive man having lunch with a friend. I saw no visible indication of gayness, so I drew the conclusion he was straight. I tried not to eavesdrop on their conversation but it was apparent they knew each other and some of their family or other associates.
But, I began thinking. After my sojourn into the community the night before, if the handsome man, or someone else had asked me out on a date, how would I feel? Yes, I will admit, I am projecting. But, it is a potential bridge I need to keep in mind, because it is a potential reality. Maybe.
Well, it wasn’t pleasant. It was excruciating. The nightmare of last night just exploded into a dream full of terror today. Instead of idle chit chat, small talk and prattle in a group setting with strangers, it was now idle chit chat, small talk and prattle in a one-on-one face-to-face singular situation! Being that this was all an admitted projection, taking place all in my mind, I used it as kind of a self-check in.
It’s quite clear, I am not ready for dating.
The hyperventilating and near-vomiting once I was back in my car was additional proof.