Living Wright: Making new friends can be creepy
BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
6/26/12 at 5:42 AM
Go to Jason Ashley Wright's BlogOriginal Print Headline: Being social can be creepy
To have a friend is to be a friend. Or something.
That's a close approximation of what Dad told me whenever I'd mope about not having many (i.e., any) friends in middle school. Hindsight being annoyingly 20/20, I now know that, had I allowed myself the opportunity back then to believe Dad's sepia-toned adage, I would've proven him right.
Of course, that would've gone against the grain of teenage logic, one of my favorite oxymorons. Plus, Dad was a popular football player and Mom a cheerleader in high school, so they had no clue what it was like growing up hating sports, writing soap operas and watching "Style with Elsa Klensch" every Saturday morning on CNN.
As an adult, I publicly admit that Dad was right all along, as proven by small circles of friends who love me despite my neuroses and idiosyncrasies. Still, when looking back on how particular friendships were forged, it was almost entirely based on the other party's efforts, not mine. Had they not introduced themselves to me and kept talking despite my occasional Unabomber vibe, chances are we wouldn't be friends.
To keep middle school from repeating itself, I guess I should come up with some basic social suggestions - and, perhaps, share them with folks like me who probably shouldn't be allowed to socialize on full moons or within two blocks of a margarita machine.
Restrain the brain
I'm still hesitant to introduce myself to people. Mostly, it's because I don't know how to start a conversation or, more importantly, maintain one that doesn't hopscotch from one topic to the next. Sorry, that's how my brain works.
The key for me is to be somewhat relaxed. That said, I'll still be nervous, but I just need to make sure I'm not sweating or breathing profusely, which could turn the plainest conversation into a police altercation.
I also force myself to look people in the eye when I'm talking or they are. Occasionally, this freaks people out, which might be why a teacher in ninth grade suggested I look at someone's ear. But that's a bit too far off the face, isn't it? With my luck, I'd notice a stray frizzy hair, wonder to myself if it would be at all beneficial for this person to know what's going on, whether or not it's gray, if it's true that if you pluck a gray hair, it'll come back even more gray and more coarse, why people are reading "Fifty Shades of Grey," why some people spell gray with an E and not an A ... By this time, the person is staring back at me, probably wondering why my head is tilted toward his or her ear, and I'm slightly moving my lips to whatever I'm thinking. See, that's why I look people in the eye - it's a focal point that seems to keep me tethered in the here and now.
Beyond that, I ask people about themselves, avoiding politics, religion and sports - unless they bring it up, or they're wearing a priest's collar or a football jersey. Especially if it's both.
Otherwise, don't let anyone tell you there's something wrong with just sitting somewhere in a crowded place, silent and watching everything around you. You're merely taking stock of your environment - unless your lips are moving while you think, which is just plain creepy.