Saturday, December 10, 2011

Last Night in Three Acts

Last night, I went to three things.

First, I went to my ex's to play board games. She generally hosts a boardgame night with her boyfriend once or twice a week, and I try to go whenever they don't have too many people attending. It was really nice. I like her, I like her boyfriend, I like his friends, I like her friends. It's a warm, intimate place with lots of laughter and engagement.

But I left because there was a going away party for someone I didn't know too well, but that I admired anyway. She was a member of LAMBDA, the gay-student group on campus, and pretty much ran the thing single-handedly. So I went. There were a lot of folks from Americorps there, because her girlfriend is in Americorps and they were her friends. And many of them were really nice. But I tried to have conversations with them and, due to my complete lack of interest in small talk, I tried to talk to them about their plans and passions and education experiences because I figured folks in Americorps would be committed to these sorts of things. And it largely failed. They'd talk, but it was clear they felt uncomfortable, and for all their years of study the level of their discourse was... somewhat less than I would have liked. Some other lesbians from LAMBDA showed up who I knew, which was nice, but I still found it difficult to have longer conversations with them. I had to work hard at it, asking lots of questions and drawing them out. And that's generally a sign that they're not interested.

So I went home, and then I went out to a gay club for about an hour last night, at the behest of some friends who were already there (it's a five minute walk from my apartment). It was interesting to people watch, certainly. Seeing so many queer individuals in one place, I can really appreciate how much diversity Knoxville has, even if it's not immediately apparent day to day. But I kept my long coat on inside, my coat of armor, my "don't fucking mess with me" veneer. And although I enjoyed the company of some of my friends, it was hard again. I felt out of place. And when someone asked me "Are you a real girl or not?" it pretty much deflated me entirely.

I say all this not to give a travelogue, but to point out a few themes. One is that so much social interaction is hard. It's not that I can't do it, but it just feels like I'm trying to force something that's not there. And it ends up being quite alienating. Another is that I'm quite guarded. I defend myself by reverting to cognitive discussions, I come on too strongly in that domain because it's the one I feel strongest and safest in, and I just give off uncomfortable vibes. Someone at an autoparts store yesterday asked me why I was so sad, and I thought "I'm not really that sad right now, am I?" I am uncomfortable, unhappy, and afraid. And it shows.

And that's the kicker. I want so much to connect to people, but *I'm* the impediment to connection. And I don't really know how to change. There are times that are better, like with my ex in places where I know everyone and we're doing things I like. But is there a way to translate that comfort and security to places outside that comfort zone? The only way I can think of is to carry a partner inside me, a safety net to fall upon. That, or love and believe in myself. But how the hell does a person manage to do that? I really wish I knew.

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