At 43 I have always accepted that I am a social person but only in a selective environment with selective people. I have never been one for getting glammed up and having big nights out or having a gang of girls to hang with. I have only ever attended one black tie event in my 20 -year career and that event was so horrific I turned down hundreds of invites thereafter, and I am not exaggerating that number because in my line of work in investment banking based in London events like that came with the job. Invite me to an occasion like a wedding and I can guarantee I have been working on ways not to attend or turned up knowing I plan to bow out at the earliest opportunity. I created excuse after excuse as to why I couldn’t attend invites before in the end just openly admitting that glamming up and socialising with people I didn’t know filled me with dread and I would rather stay home with a good book.
However, I always enjoy meeting with my close pals for a drink and a catch up when time permitted which in all honesty is more monthly than weekly. The people I enjoy spending time with are like me withdrawn from mainstream socialising and much prefer a lunch that without planning turns into sharing a few drinks before being home and usually tucked up in bed for 7pm.
Last night though I was put in an unavoidable situation that reminded me that nothing has changed and that its ok to be who I am and not even think I have to change if I dont wish to end up a social recluse.
My close pal and I needed a catch up following our February meeting and previous attempts had been a disaster. Holidays, crazy work schedules, boyfriends, moving house and other responsibilities left us with no choice but to arrange an event post my normal time zone and meet at the ungodly time of 5:30 which resulted in us still being out at 9pm. I should point out the night could have ended sooner had we not locked the car in a carpark and had to backtrack and persuade the security guard to let us in to get it out without being clamped and fined! Thank god for inviting my pregnant daughter along who took the full blame (which is was) for not reading the sign.
The night didn’t get off to the best start when we had arranged to meet at a wine bar we hoped would be quiet at 5:30, the reality was it was full of city workers and the music was blaring way louder than was necessary for such a small venue.
I had come straight from my new office (yes, business is going great and I now have co-working space in a cool office with lots of other professional creative entrepreneurs) I was dressed smartly in jeans and a white shirt athough felt fashion conscience amongst all the glamor of those finishing work in their work suits and dresses to those out on the town all glammed up to the nines. I felt I was shouting and straining to engage in conversation and watching ladies neck wine like it was water was pretty disturbing (been there done that and did I mention since I gave up wine on the 1st January I haven’t touched a drop and have since become a wine is over rated bore?). Even the Guinness I was drinking made me feel I was out of my comfort zone and that pints should only be consumed by females in familiar surroundings.
Making it a quick drink we tottered across to the local tapas bar which was much more subdued and enjoyable and decided we would have one for the road to kill the additional 30 minutes in a bar which was opposite the second carpark we had used.
Entering a pub is not an issue, I have been a regular pub abuser for as long as I can remember and often alone with a great book and the peace and quiet of people watching, the difference though is I am an afternoon drinker who knows what and where works for me so heading into town in unfamiliar territory at night, well that’s just a crazy idea for me even if I am with those whose company I enjoy.
A young 43 I am not past it and even though I am a soon to be nanny I am not in any way ancient in spirt or looks, if anything I look better than I have done in a long time so do not feel the need to shy away from the public. But the anxiety of being in an unfamiliar venue with loud music, that awful surround noise of multiple people chatting and even worse door security which means I really shouldn’t be in there made me feel very anxious.
What was most surprising though was my friend who many years ago, was one of the most social butterflies I knew looked equally as anxious as me to the point we was glad when my daughter advised she was exhausted and wanted to leave allowing us to drink up as quickly as we could and exit in agreement we had social pub anxiety.
So, why at a time when I am in my prime am I so socially backwards? yes I admit to being introvert but this is not about anxiety this is about my dislike of being around lots of people in unfamiliar surroundings.
Although we all agreed it wasn’t our thing and that simple afternoon drinking was far more enjoyable I started to worry about a few events I have in the diary that start next week which start after my 5pm ET go home time zone! Next week I am with my new office co-workers as a let’s all go out for beer post office to get to know each other, A pal is over from the South the week after and if someone is coming all that way I really cannot cancel him now and I have arranged cocktails with a pal I haven’t seen for 10 years and as I have cancelled twice I am nervously wondering if a third excuse will mean a total unfriend on her part.
There is only one saving grace to the excuses game to avoid being in uncomfortable situations and that is the closer it gets to my grandson’s arrival the easier it gets for me to say no to events taking me out after my watershed, if he is anything like my daughter he will either come early and when arrives will be demanding and need us all on board so what a great excuse!
But do I need an excuse and should I feel that I need to lie to avoid the accusations of being boring, turning into a recluse and the most common I hear that I have forgot how to enjoy myself!
It should be ok to admit that you suffer from social group pub anxiety, dislike busy bars and are very particular about who you spend time with but to avoid complete social isolation I guess it’s necessary to create a story to at least have an excuse to bail. And so next week its planned, I can only come for an hour because I promised my heavily pregnant daughter I would spend the evening with her and I don’t want to let her down and who can argue with that!
As for the other events, well I am already working on being honest that I would love to see them but lets make it lunch in a country pub with no crowds, now that I will certainly look forward too.