I went to a CD release party tonight for a guy I've known peripherally for several years. A few years a go I interviewed him for an article I did on farmers markets in town. I knew or recognized most of the people at the event, there were lots of interesting foods and drinks and wonderful music, and yet I still mostly felt out-of-place.
I do better in groups of ten or fewer. More than that and I get overwhelmed. I have a hard time walking up and inserting myself into conversations. I know that I am at least relatively interesting and moderately intelligent, but I clam up and get what my grandmother used to refer to as "shucksy" in a large group. I am not comfortable being the center of attention.
There were several broad categories of people at this gathering and I didn't really feel as though I fit well into any of them. I'm not a musician. I'm not a college professor. I don't belong to the Unitarian Universalist congregation. I'm not a young, hip, artist-activist. I can have a perfectly fine conversation with any individual member of any of these groups, but get more than a couple from any one of them together and I go back to feeling like I don't belong.
This is in contrast to a friend who was also there, who can and will talk to anyone any time about anything. I watched him circulate around the place, completely at ease with whomever he was talking to, and willing to insert himself into any conversation with any group of people. I sometimes envy that ability, because I think not having it probably makes people think that I am stand-offish or unfriendly rather than simply shy.
Conversing with more than one or two people at a time is obviously a skill I need to figure out how to cultivate, but I find that I'm at a loss as to how to go about acquiring it.
I have plenty of opportunities to go out and be social, and I do it a lot more than I even realize sometimes, but I still somehow manage to feel as though I exist in a vacuum, it's an odd place to be. I like solitude, I need it more than I need to be social, but if I don't get to spend time with people semi-regularly I begin to feel cut off and lonely, so it is most definitely a balancing act.
Tomorrow I will be attending a pool party at the home of a high school friend and will probably know very few other people. Seems like the perfect time to hone those conversational skills. I'll see how it goes.