Sunday, January 4, 2009
Give Bambi Some Shades!
"This conversation is over!" Actually, it never got started, but I felt the words boiling inside as I recently stood at a cocktail party filled with dead air. You know how it is. A party invitation comes actually intended for your significant other, but it's a given that you're invited, too. And there you are in a room full of people you have little to nothing in common. Conversations buzz; people chat about events that never involved you, and the only time you can add anything to the discussion is if someone mentions how great the food is. "Oh, yes, I love those fudge brownies, too. Does anyone else think there's hash in them?"
Could it have been obvious that I was the shrinking violet in the room? I felt like time shifted back forty years to my first school dance. New to the town, I sat on the sidelines while all the popular kids made fun of the usual suspects, or nibbled nails to the quick waiting for that slow song. I did neither. It was torture in any event, me being the new kid in town. Nothing says "geek" louder.
Years have passed, as well as at least 5,428 cocktail parties, and at seventy-two percent of those I was a player. I got out more, was in the work-force and possibly slightly inebriated at most cocktail parties and other various soirees. Conversation flowed like the Hoover Dam exploded; there was always something to talk about. "Hey, did you hear that Edith in shipping was spotted with Kenneth in marketing? And let me tell you, the giving and receiving had nothing to do with getting it there over-night."
As a writer I value the importance of getting myself out there in order to suck up some material, but when the conversation flowing is a vast wasteland, my mind wanders to a different zone. And then someone always notices that my eyes are glazed over, and they try dragging me back into the conversation. "Did you guys know that Kathy wrote a book?" was announced at said recent party, to which I held up three fingers, and for those who couldn't count, I said, "Three books."
Now that's an accomplishment, right? Apparently it was a tough room, because every pair of eyes in the room glazed over while an occasional "Oh, uh-huh" floated half way around the room and then fizzled. Tough room. Could it be that no one in the room thought it was possible? I really didn't want to expound on my feat, but damn, not one "Oh, you've got to be shittin' me?" was uttered, just "Uh-huh."
Well, I wasn't crushed, but I did wonder when I lost the knack for controlling a conversation. At home I can talk about anything and not care if it's ridiculous or not. My husband still listens (or acts like it). But I have to admit, I don't get out much, and really don't like getting out. Shopping, going out to dinner, or attending a party - if I could do it all on-line I'd be thrilled beyond thrilled.
But it does worry me that I'm turning into a hermit because when in a swarm of people I feel the old armpits getting damp. When someone tries pulling me into a conversation my tongue swells and my eyes bulge. Cocktail party anxiety, that's what I suffer from, and there's an easy cure being that cocktails are right there. The only problem is, I don't drink as well as I used to.
As a writer it is essential to get out with the masses, but the fact remains that I do my writing inside, on a computer or in a notepad, a place where no other humans exist except for those I create. My social circle consists of friends I've made electronically, through on-line writing groups, etc. and that's where the problem rests. I'd rather co-exist with like souls, albeit electronic, than have face-to-face with humans right here in suburbia.
My writing friends get me, and right back at them. When I suffer a set-back, they're right there talking me through it, and when I've conquered anything that gives me great joy, they celebrate with me. Yet, I'm not exactly filling the creative pond by not riding the eavesdropping highway known as information gathering.
I imagine I can still eavesdrop, but that would entail leaving the house. Can I be the only writer turning into Howard Hughes, minus the bizillions? Could this be why some of our greatest literati were alcoholics or junkies? Is that where their brilliance was really rooted? Somewhere on a coke spoon or at the bottom of a Jim Beam bottle? I often wondered about Lewis Carroll and his giant caterpillar sitting on a mushroom while smoking a water-pipe. It had to take a little acid dropping to come up with that and all those pills that made Alice shrink and grow, right? (No disrespect to Mr. Carroll intended, but I really do wonder about that guy.)
I'm too old to develop another habit just so I can remain creative in my hermit-hovel. But I do feel the pressure both while trying to write and when in the midst of a social situation. Perhaps the key is in trying to get those situations to co-exist. One can't live without the other it seems to me. Maybe returning to college at the end of January will rejuvenate my creativity, but will it cure my social ineptness?
Am I forever doomed to be Bambi in the headlights? Am I alone or have other writers felt the same angst? This hermit's mind wants to know...