I have always struggled with the need to, as T S Eliot put it so succinctly, ‘put on a face to meet the faces I would be meeting’. I would be more than pleased to be let alone, to not be ferreted out from underneath the tablecloth at a dinner party, then surgically separated from the book that would inevitably be in my hand, and be compelled to be polite and social, and answer questions from people I barely knew and had no interest in getting to know better. Give me someone I found interesting and I was all too keen to spend hours getting to know all their childhood separation anxiety issues and how they broke up with their imaginary friend, but put me in one of those where there were many people, lots of tinkling conversation and people holding other people in thrall and you had me in fight or flee panic.
Things didn’t change much as I grew up, but I did get more adept in the art of being ‘social’ when I needed to, although I would emerge from the experience quite drained and needing a lot of alone time just to recharge myself. I grew up thinking I was an aberration, but now I realise I am not alone, that many people, like me, prefer being by themselves than being with company. I have also accepted that I need to be fiercely possessive of my alone time, and make exceptions discerningly. But if you, like me, are one of those who prefer solitude or one-on-one time with a friend over meeting many people or being constantly out there in the midst of the action, this is what might help you stay unruffled.
1. You can leave an event when you want to. You are an adult now and you get to call when it is quite enough for you. You can also do the ‘show face’ thing to must-attend events where you really go to express solidarity and not feel guilty about it.
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