On hand shake anxiety and an inability to perform other social niceties.

When it comes to social cues, I’m basically a potato. I tell my friends time and time again that if they ever abandon me, I will be lonely and destitute, because I simply do not have the genetic makeup to make new ones. Perhaps they are only my friends because I guilt them into enduring my company every day. I’m ok with this.

When I moved to a new city and became the closest thing to an adult that I will most likely ever achieve, I did not entirely think the whole process through. There are many challenges to moving. And if you think the worst of it is sleeping on the floor and eating off Frisbees for a week because your removal truck was delayed, think again. The worst part is meeting people.

I used to spend my weekends forlornly gazing out my window across to the park, watching all the families gathering for BBQ’s, picnics and special events. Children would squeal, sausages would sizzle, dogs would bark. I’d take a bite out of a cold piece of pizza from two days ago and mutter under my breath. Look at those happy bastards, rubbing their sense of community in my face. I’d call my Mum and discuss my Grandmother’s bunions for an hour.

You’re probably thinking, well why didn’t you just go out and introduce yourself to people you sorry sad-ass? I will explain why, in a little story that my partner likes to bring up far too often.

It was two weeks after we had moved in and we hadn’t seen many of our neighbors about, having first entered the apartment building like very loud thieves in the dead of the night. And because it’s a city, and you avoid eye contact with people who live in such close proximity to you that you know their evening bathroom routine like the back of your hand. Anyway, we bumped into a friendly guy on the stairs who proceeded to introduce himself to us.

Now I want you to know that I hadn’t really talked to anyone new for while. I had been busy staring at social gatherings and cursing happy families and perhaps this had something to do with it. The guy stuck out his hand to shake mine and I completely forgot everything I had learnt about being a human being. I stared blankly at him. He smiled at me. My partner laughed nervously. I looked down at the hand in front of me. Sweat broke out on my partner’s brow. Enough time passed that the guy was definitely wondering if he was trying to shake the hand of a person or a potato.

I came to my senses and thrust my hand out as he was drawing back, grabbing his and pumping it wildly, staring him in the eye like a crazy person. I said nothing. I’m pretty sure the guy went back to his apartment and immediately installed five new locks on his front door.

This is why I can’t just go ‘introduce myself.’ People tell you to do it like it’s the easiest thing in the world. And it probably is, if you don’t overthink it. But overthinking is a fine art that people pay lots of money to study. Have you been to university? Perhaps this is what I got out of seven years of tertiary study; social anxiety and the inability to enjoy a movie without analyzing camera angles. Either way, if anyone wanted to pay me money to assist them in over thinking social situations, I’d gladly take it. After all, I might need to start paying my friends to stick around when the guilt wears off.


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