You’d think – being a journalist and working in the communication industry – I’d have some idea how to talk to people. But this week I made an embarrassing discovery.
I have lost the ability to socialise.
I became aware of this when I tried to hold a conversation with someone at a party and came off looking like a total git.
It’s not as if I can blame it on baby brain. My ‘baby’ is eight years old!
What makes it worse is that it was someone I knew, and one of the loveliest women you’re ever likely to meet. We hadn’t seen each other for a couple of years. I asked her how she was.
“Great,” she smiled. “I’ve taken up running.”
That’s when my brain decides to freeze up.
“Wow. Running.” I say.
She smiles. I smile. An awkward silence hangs between us like a big wet sheet.
Oh shit. I’ve said it twice.
Suddenly panicking at my complete inability to think of anything sensible thing to say, I actually say it again.
She’s still smiling but the alarm in her eyes tells me the poor woman has clearly seen me for what I’ve become: A few bricks short of a barbecue (socially speaking). She politely makes her escape, and who could blame her? Especially when she’s just been subjected to the social equivalent of having an ingrown toenail removed.
Cheeks burning with embarrassment, I’m furious with myself. There are plenty of perfectly good questions I could have asked a person who runs. For example:
Where do you run?
How far do you run?
How often do you run?
Why do you run?
It’s not rocket science.
Instead, I stood there grinning like a maniac, sounding like a stoned-out hippy. Like WOW, man.
I had a similar brain freeze when I took my son to a birthday party at a school friend’s house. I barely knew this boy’s mum, and I ended up saying something incredibly intelligent like “Oh, I like your floor.”
I ended up wishing that floor would swallow me up.
What’s happened to me? I talk to people for a living, yet put me in a social situation and I can’t seem to string two words together anymore.
The truth is, I’ve actually come to fear social gatherings. Especially when they involve people I don’t know. The thought of walking into a room full of strangers and standing there like stale bottle of wine leaves me paralysed with fear.
I’ll be honest. I’m an addict. And what I’m addicted to is staying home. Curled up on the couch in my pink polar fleece slippers with a glass of wine and a good book (or back-to-back episodes of Come Dine With Me) is my idea of heaven.
Don’t get me wrong. I love people. I love my friends. I just also love staying home. Maybe that’s why I’ve lost the art of how to communicate.
If only there was a twelve-step program for my kind of addiction. One that would force me to leave the house. And stand up and introduce myself to strangers.
I can picture it now: “Hi, my name is Sarah, and I’m a social screw-up.”
Now there’s a great conversation starter!