Music pulses the path to the crowded house. A sweaty palm clings to the bottle of wine embarrassingly purchased at World Market so I wouldn’t arrive empty-handed. I feel like an intruder— an outsider permeating this circle of belonging. Everyone is already at ease in their conversations aided by the IPAs of the night. My body is a sparkplug of nerves. With the best Rihanna confidence I can muster, I enter the party alone.
I go to parties alone. I dine at sit-down restaurants on dates with myself. I attend movies as a party of one. You could call my life a one-woman show. Sometimes, I wonder if this makes me a loser.
Crippling social anxiety courses through me daily. Most people are surprised by this. I’m so extroverted, chatty, always eager to make my new best friend. My unbridled friendliness is alarming in an era of casual communication. I am all enthusiasm, a giddy archeologist excited to unearth other’s artifacts through conversation. I’m a verbal Indiana Jones. Every person I meet is this fascinating treasure. That’s all sincere. But anxiety and my personality are bickering bunkmates in the same body. They war with each other, and on the bad days, anxiety wins.
The anxiety is the marionette of my ego. My ego feeds off likeability. My ego craves quantifiable evidence I am worthy. I still feel my eighth-grade self wandering through my desolate insecurities—friendless— peers asked me to hang out with as a joke and laughed when I followed up with them. I still feel like the girl who had garbage hurled at her face in her high school cafeteria, how later those same kids would scatter my books and notes on the stained floor. There’s always something to prove with me. It isn’t loud or overbearing, but there is a soft buzz at all times inside me, wondering if I will ever be enough, wondering if I fit in– if all these people are just nice to be in the name of politeness. Brene Brown would call that “hustling for my worth”.
Socialization is theater– we dress, posture, present in the way we will be best received, and it makes sense. Humans are just animals with really developed brains. Of course, we assimilate with the herd. I suck at assimilation. My words are the color of fire. My mouth is the barrel of a gun. Unruliness douses everything I touch. I am acutely aware of how I come off– how I say things nice girls don’t say, refuse to kneel to the same false idols of “go along to get along”. I would rather go alone.
Some company is more filler than fuel. The space all those empty bodies consume leaves me feeling lonelier, longing for my bed and the stale glow of Netflix. My mind makes islands of crowded rooms– surrounded by people, and yet, engulfed in loneliness. You know that feeling, right? The one where you’re talking to people, doing all the things you should be doing, but you know your happy is elsewhere. The best parts of you aren’t in this crowded room. There’s no sensation lonelier than that– a thousand bodies and not one friendly face.
I am 25. These are intended to be my riotous years, rampant with partying. Some parts of my twenties are that. Others involve a 9pm bedtime. Others involve me canceling plans because nothing will soothe me like my solitude. I am still learning not to punish myself for all of it.
My suspicion is that we’re all sweaty and insecure and trying to outgrow how hard it was to grow up. We all want belong. We’re haunted by our former selves, this lurking fear that we never evolved past braces and categorizing friendships by our top 8 on MySpace. That’s why showing up to the party alone, showing up to life alone, feels like a loser-y move. That’s how our social media becomes a fairytale about our own lives. We curate glossy memories that exist for our comfort more than the sharing with others. In our timelines and newsfeeds, there is proof that we are liked and have fun stories to share. It is photo evidence we are “living our best lives”, even when we aren’t.
This is not a story I want to share. Describing how socially self-conscious I feel lets you, the reader, know that I’m vulnerable. The admission is a surrender of power. I am not Rihanna (trust me, this devastated me as well). I want people to like me (even if I don’t like or respect them), and that feels like a betrayal to the unapologetic lass I wish I were. I don’t want to share this with you, but I feel like I should. You should know I’m showing up to the party by myself. I’m taking myself on solo dates because I know I’m the best damn date, and the next time American Treasure Frances McDormand releases a film, best believe I will be the unintentional third wheel to all the movie dates in the cinema.
Maybe I am a loser. Maybe I’m the subject of snickering that I have no friends or I’m that weird girl that does things by herself rather than with the security blanket of a group. And I do believe moments are meant to be shared. Sometimes, I want to share them with myself. I revel in my confidence and comfort piercing through my frenzied anxiety when I show up to the party alone. Especially as a woman, as someone whose existence is too frequently commodified by who you are tethered to, told hold this moment open on my own accord is a blessing. To be me, even if that is a friendless loser, is so much better than being anybody else’s.