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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cranial Constipation

I was thinking recently about my book and how eventually I'm going to have to (gulp) go out and meet people to market it.
I like people.

I do.

But they also terrify me just a little bit.

My people skills are sadly lacking.  I'm socially inept.  No.  Really!

Say you meet a friend at the grocery store.  Let's also say, for the sake of argument, it's someone you LIKE.

You chat for a few minutes.  Then what?

How do you say goodbye gracefully?  And WHEN is it okay to say goodbye?  I mean, it's not like you're rushing off to save the world or anything. Nothing all that pressing about grocery shopping.  How do you know when it's 'safe' to say goodbye without offending them?

Does this time line change if it's someone you know but don't necessarily like?

Now let's pretend there's a party.

Parties are fun, right?

Except you don't know anyone.  Do you know what kind of anxiety this causes me?

It's easy to tell myself to grab a little plate of food or glass of wine or whatever and introduce myself to someone who looks interesting.  But see, the problem is right now I'm lying in my hammock in my backyard (oooh, be jealous, it's glorious), so all my neurons are firing just fine.

But when I walk amongst other people (outside of immediate family) my brain cells become paralyzed.   Complete  cranial constipation.  Like writer's block, only it stymies your ability to speak and think coherently.

Oh!  And let's talk about NAMES!  My cranial constipation is especially acute during the ten seconds I'm being introduced to someone.  WHY is that?  It's so humiliating having to admit to someone that you can't remember their name!  Name tags should be mandatory at all social functions.

What do you talk to a stranger about?  You see, the problem is that I'm deathly afraid of accidentally offending someone.  You know, that an innocent question like, "are you married?" will result in wails, sobs, and gnashing of teeth because unbeknownst to me said spouse just ran off with the nanny or pool boy. 

The thing is, I'm fine online!  I can talk to complete strangers about anything online.

That's got to be because I can always delete that remarkably stupid comment and retype it.

But in real life once the words fly out of my mouth, I can't ever take them back.  And they fly out with alarming frequency.

I hate talking on the phone.

And yet, I get compliments all the time at work for being so friendly and cheerful. 

That's different.  They're calling me. 

All I have to do is be polite and they're happy.

But when I have to call someone else, I break out in a cold sweat I tell you.

My mind goes completely blank.

I usually have to write things down before I pick up the phone or I will NEVER remember a thing once they answer.

Oh, and I hate hate HATE talking on the phone if anyone else is hanging around to listen in.  Then I'm sure to say something asinine because half my already depleted brain power is monitoring my audience gauging whether or not they're listening and whether they realize what an idiot I am being.

At home, I worry that I'm calling someone at a bad time. Is it too early? Too late?  Too close to breakfast/lunch/dinner?  What if they're in the shower? What if they're napping?  What if they (fill in the blank)?

At work, I don't worry about bad timing so much.  Most of the people I call are businesses waiting for my call.  But most of the people I talk to are technical financial gurus who rattle off a bunch of facts, figures, or anecdotes like I know what the hell they're talking about when in actuality, I don't have a clue....but I'm too embarrassed to admit this so I just laugh in all the right places and fool them as best I can.

All this is misplaced anxiety, I GET IT.  But knowing I'm being a nutcase doesn't stop it.

So, if you run into me at the grocery gentle with me!



Wendy Ramer said...

Wow. And I was going to call you now that I have your number. It's okay. We can stick to email ;-) Probably easier that way to discuss things that can become emotional. Lord knows I write my emotions so much better than I verbally express them. Looking forward to email chats. Until then, keep on writing because THAT you honestly do so well!

Mason Canyon said...

We are alot alike. If we meet at a grocery store we would probably just smile and nod to each other. :) Best of luck.

Thoughts in Progress

Jen said...

Don't feel bad I'm the same way, handle with care should be a label that is with me. I get nervous at the drop of a hat. Even in family events I find that too many people has me extremely overwhelmed!

Matthew Rush said...

Do you ever find yourself practicing what to say in a social situation ahead of time (in your head)? Yeah, me neither, I swear.

JustineDell said...

I'm so bad with names. So, so, so bad. We get a new staff every year (16 new RA's) and it take me a month (or more) to remember all of them by name. I have what I like to call "fish brain". Dora from Finding Nemo ring a bell?? lol

Oh, and I've got a good line for the grocery store. "My ice cream's melting." Heehee.


Lydia Kang said...

I'll be gentle! And then I'll tell you that I'm awkward around people too and though I've learned to hide some of it, it always escapes a little!
High five from another socially-awkward writer!

Creepy Query Girl said...

Woah! I say head for the alcohol as soon as you arrive at the party. It'll take the edge off and hopefull slow up your constipated brain vortex electro flashes. lol. And when I meet someone new, I have a bad habit of repeating their name three times aloud. They look at me like I have terets and then I end up forgetting it anyway...

Shannon said...

At birth I say. :)

I have the same affliction when meeting new people. One of my shining moments was when I met my ex's best friend and his wife. She is 15 years his senior, which I knew ahead of time. So, there we are sitting at a table in the bar, waiting for our dinner reservation.

"Ted and Jill," my ex said, "I'd like to introduce you to my fiance, Shannon."

"Nice to meet you, Shannon," say Ted and Jill.

"Hi. It's nice to meet you, too." (Pause). "So, when you two first met, did you realize the massive age difference?"


Good times.

You are not alone.

Talli Roland said...

I think everyone feels that way to some degree or another! I know I certainly do. But usually after I dread meeting new people or new situations, I'm glad I forced myself to do it. And I think if you're doing it for something you love (your book, etc) it makes a difference.

Lenny said...

wow i didnt know big people could be so scared of talking to each other. i just jump in and say stuff to any one mostly cause i love talking to people and learning about them. mostly people like to say stuff about them self.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Wow, not only do we stalk the same websites. We sound exactly the same. :D


This was so funny and charming. Fortunately writers don't have to meet people as frequently as those in the service industry. One thing that I think helps is to think of it as a performance, and having a set pitch to give to people. I'm also not fond of talking to people--even though my job requires me to do so every day. Thanks for the post--showing vulnerability is always difficult, but always endearing!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Umm, so we're not really friends??? We're just online friends...

Vicki--Something I've done over the years is learned how to act. Like act, like someone who has confidence. I've been at parties with THE Waltons, I think JB Hunt hit on me one time. I visited with President Clinton (when he was a Governor) about education. I've had breakfast with Patti Gauch and lunch with Cheryl Klein. It's all about acting like you belong and you will...(My family history and economic background did not prepare me for meeting the people I've met.) I think going to conferences will be beneficial for anyone who is shy. When I went to the Highlights Summer Workshop I was nervous...I'm talking Jerry Spinelli was there...It was wonderful, all the editors, publishers and authors made you feel like you fit in.

Maybe we should go to one of the Iowa conferences together. :)

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Ha! I get this entirely. I struggle to deal with people sometimes. It usually helps to have a drink or two, but cranial constipation (great term, btw!) often kicks in when I encounter actual humans. Is this a writerly thing, I wonder?

Matthew Rush said...

16!?! Damn. Hit me again I guess, I'll probably bust though.

Matthew Rush said...

BUSTED! Oh well ... this was still a lot of fun. Thanks Vicki!