Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ambivalence and Company

Ambivalence is probably the best word to describe me when it comes to social interaction. Perhaps conflicted or confused also works. I was never good at it... indeed, obesity is a symptom of the desire to isolate oneself. When I lost my weight (, it didn't change my fear of interaction. Indeed, if anything, it magnified it. At a normalized weight and with the "hair and make-up" affect I've taken on, other's expectations of me are high. They assume I know how to do the interaction thing. They assume that I want to be where I am at. They don't understand that obesity is not always an affliction. Sometimes it's a barometer to measure your place in the world. A point of reference, so to speak. Not completely a bad thing.

Last night, I attended Francesca's lovely Open House. I've attended in years past; it's always been a wonderful experience. She and her boyfriend Ben have the nicest and most interesting friends. Their home is artsy and warm; not overdone. The food... ah, the food! Francesca is from Italy and her choice in cuisines reflect a true national identity (not to be confused with American Fare which is just fatty and overly sweet and a mish-mash of tastes and textures). What reason would anybody not want to attend?

Yet I was awash in panic. It seems as of late, that I screw up the most simple opportunities to interact and fit in. Exercise for example? Despite the three-to-one opinion that I should return (Therapist and two friends say I should go back, sister who understands me and my history/family pressures most believes that it's a toxic situation), I'm terrified to go back, even after having taken off a week. I'm sure that I have done something terrible there which has made the significant one treat me just horribly over the past couple of months, culminating in a week of mixed messages (maybe intentional, maybe not, maybe just all in my mind) and has left me confused and upset and a little sick to my stomach. You see, unlike in the past when I know when I've gotten angry and brought this kind of reaction on, this time, I'm not even sure exactly what happened. And then there's also the changing social strata at my spinning guild that has me confused and a little bit ill at ease. But all of this is just table dressing...

Anyway, I was very frightened to go to the party. In fact, scared to the point that even as I was driving up to their house, I was considering just turning around and leaving. "Nobody wants me there." I thought. "Nobody would miss me." And maybe it was true, maybe it wasn't. But then I thought that Francesca is a big girl. If she really didn't want me, she would just not have sent an invitation. Maybe she was ambivalent about me, or maybe she really did want me, but I had driven all the way to Glendale (a long drive) and it would be good for me to actually get out of the car. So I did.

As soon as I rang her bell and could hear Francesca call out with pleasure that somebody else was at her door, I started to feel better. And when she opened the entrance and looked pleased, my heartbeat started to return to normal. She ushered me in, and there were two women - C- and A- - sitting in her living room. I love those two gals... but with my newest insecurity in place, was not sure how they felt about me anymore. But they jumped out of their seats and ran over to hug me, admire what I was wearing (some of my own jewelry and hand spun-dyed-knit vest) and were a-chatter with the what-for's and how-to's and everything else.

We all went into the kitchen where even more old friends were. Unlike the museum trip of a number of weeks ago, I did not feel out of place. We enjoyed some fondue (which I had never had before and needed instruction on... thanks Ben!) and other exotic fare. And went into the dining room to talk.

It started out with the old friends, but most of them had to leave shortly (I arrived somewhat late). But J- stayed and she is so interesting and kind and also - I think - kind of gets where I'm coming from because she has also lost significant weight. Francesca & Ben's Personal Trainer Je- arrived, a tall, thin, beautiful amazon woman who actually remembered me from last year. And M- and R-, a lovely couple with whom I made first aquaintence were there. We all sat around the dining room table, and talked.

Again, I don't understand what happened. I was at ease, and was a frequent contributor to the conversation; not talking too little, but even more importantly, I don't think I talked too much. Je-, and everyone, was very interested in the physio-psychological dimensions of weight loss. Almost everyone there has lost weight although I have lost the most by far and it's a different psychology when you get over 300 pounds. I was able to contribute.

Then the conversation turned to the business and art of crafting. M-, as it turns out, is a silk embroidery artist who, in the last year, has been taking her work on the road and selling in craft shows. Something I would like to try dabbling in next year. She had a world of information for me, loved my work (as everyone there did!), and we exchanged contact information.

Again, I don't understand it. There are so many situations that I am extremely awkward in. Say the wrong things, do the wrong things, feel incredibly out of place. Inferior. Defective. Then there was last night when I felt ok. Ok, good. At ease. Like I belonged.

How does this work? Is it me? Is it the other people? The time, place, and luck? Why do I work well in some situations and not others? Is there a way of predicting where it's healthy for me to be and what to avoid? And if so, what is it?

What I know on an intellectual level is that I need to keep exposing myself to different scenarios and pay close attention to what happens in each. Even as the thought leaves me a little bit breathless. Maybe my gal-pals are right... I should end the break from exercise class after a week, and even if I am not well received, go and try to figure out what the dynamics are. Whether I am really doing something wrong or if it's just not a good personality match anymore.

Thank you Francesca, Ben, and friends. For the good time, the memory, and the belief that maybe, just maybe, not everything is because of my innate inabilities.


fluffbuff said...

Ah, you are being too hard on yourself. I am glad that you did not turn the car around and made it to our house. It would have been a pity if you hadn't.
I didn't realize that you were apprehensive about social gatherings, but if it's any consolation (perhaps for different reasons) I feel the same way and avoid crowded places or social occasions where I don't know many people. I used to think that there was something wrong with me, but as I get older I am more aware of what I like and dislike and go after what makes me feel good and avoid situations that make me uncomfortable. In any case, I hope you never have to feel apprehensive about coming to my place again. :)

Anonymous said...

Do you remember last year when we all met face to face..I felt the very things you described when I met you, C, and B in person and still do. You are not alone. You are handling it well in my opinion. Hugs


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