Chatty Cathy — er — Katie
Is it just me, or do all people get more socially awkward as they age?
I’m pretty sure it’s just me.
It’s unfortunate, because it almost feels as though I’m rolling backwards through developmental stages. I’m the mental — though certainly not physical — Benjamin Button. It’s like I was born to mingle and network as a kid, when my mom would let me crash her social gatherings because I was such an adorable little adult, holding my own in conversations and, more often than not, hogging the spotlight with the only thing I really had going for me — my ability to talk.
And talk, I did.
But with time, it’s been brought to my attention on more than one occasion that chattiness becomes much less adorable as we get older. Friends’ parents were always saying, “Katie, you’re too loud,” and people started worrying — justifiably — that I might say something inappropriate at a formal social gathering. The very thing on which I’d learned to rely so heavily as a kid had turned into a liability.
Conversely, there are other times I’m told people want me present in certain situations to stimulate conversation. When two different groups of people are brought together for an event — like a good friend’s parents and her soon-to-be in-laws, I’m brought in as the “ringer” whose sole purpose is to entertain via unrehearsed speech. I suppose it’s because I’m not afraid to embarrass myself. Or I understand that people are just people, and most of them have something they like to talk about. I just have to find it and ensure them I won’t judge.
So sometimes I’m expected to talk, and other times I’m expected to shut up. And these conflicting expectations have often been presented by the same people.
I’m still pretty confused about the whole thing.
As a result, I’ve started to feel all discombobulated when I’m thrown into a room with strangers.
Then yesterday happened.
Yesterday, I was not a great blogger.
Not just because I didn’t post anything, but because I didn’t take any pictures of the day’s events. Aside from the Annual 4th of July Parade, which is happening today, my neighborhood decided most of the night-time celebrations would happen last night, since most normal people — aside from those of us still somehow managing to leach off our marriage partners — have to go to work on Tuesday morning.
Except my husband. Seriously. If you want the type of job where you have the most days off ever, join the military. Of course, the trade-off is that you don’t get to choose where you live and the government can send you into countries that tend to hate us whenever it wants, but vacation time is vacation time, amIright?
But back to the holiday festivities. Justin and I decided to join my old manager from the bar and her son — Hey Danielle and Travis! — for some fun at our largest neighborhood lake. We had a blast, but it did make me realize 2 things: Sun and beer don’t mix very well with me, and we really need to make friends with someone who owns a boat. Boat friends are the best friends.
Then we headed back home so I could make some food to take to a party. I did take pictures of the food, and it’s one of my absolute favorite party appetizer recipes in the history of ever, and I will be sharing it with you soon.
I was nervous about this party. I’d been taking one of my dogs on our morning walk on Saturday, when I ran into some distant neighbors with whom we used to socialize a couple of years ago. They live about a mile away, and we’d lost touch over time, not making the effort to walk further than “just down the street” to say hello.
They’re fantastic people. They live right on the lake, and they have a boat.
Not that I would use them for their boat.
I don’t think.
They remembered my name, they said, because I’m the chatty one, but they couldn’t remember Justin’s. I wasn’t sure whether that was a compliment. But then they invited us to their party, which was going to have food, drinks, and live music.
Twist. My. Arm.
So we headed over last night, Justin toting our cooler of beverages and me armed with my favorite party appetizer ever. I wasn’t sure how to behave since I knew virtually no one, so I figured I’d test the waters before committing to a personality. We greeted our hosts, put our offerings on the food table, and plopped down on some lawn chairs to listen to the band.
When they finished the song they’d been playing when we arrived, I immediately started clapping and cheering. Loudly.
I was the only one.
It became clear that they’d been playing for a bit with virtually zero audience appreciation when the lead singer gave me a big thumbs-up, an audible “thank-you” through the mic, and the base player mic-whispered, “tough crowd.”
They played another. I clapped enthusiastically again, enticing a bit of accompaniment by some people nearby, and shouted, “You guys rock!” A little fireball of a Mexican woman whom I later learned was named Carmen looked at me appreciatively and shouted, “Yeah they do!” before walking over to introduce herself.
Before long, people were approaching me asking if I’d made those delicious little appetizers. And they weren’t afraid to talk to me because clearly, I wasn’t shy. And I even decided to do a little professional networking while I was there, since the online job search has been getting me exactly nowhere, and it’s possible I have a lead or two there as well.
It wasn’t easy to put my fully outgoing persona back on for an evening after years of trying to suppress it into tolerable, toned-down submission.
But you know what I realized? I think, for the most part, people like and appreciate the chatty Katie. I know the band did. The people who walked away with the promise of an appetizer recipe did. And anyone who didn’t is probably a little too stuffy for my taste, anyway. I’m friendly to everyone, and anyone can be my friend.
Is that really such a terrible thing?
I don’t like feeling socially awkward because I’m afraid to be myself.
It turns out in the end, a stranger at a party not liking me is far better than me not liking me.