A Night in the Life of An Outsider

[div:caption]Gertrude Stein, oil on canvas – Pablo Picasso

Begin the night at a bar with your two best friends. The night has been previously implicitly referred to a number of times as one of those occasions where there will be people to meet – where potential exists to make new friends, make new girlfriends, get drunk, do cocaine, whatever. So begin the night at this bar, and as an outsider, you’re almost definitely an ‘introvert,’ which actually just means you like, want to be friendly and talkative and smile with people and all, you just find it sort of difficult upon entering. There are so many young, attractive individuals here with smiling faces and inviting stares. You want to be included.

And so upon ordering your first beer and sitting down at a table with your two best friends and five others – three girls you don’t know, two guys with whom you’re vaguely acquainted – you notice that there’s something that’s stopping you from saying anything of consequence, of being the center of attention. It may be related to your self-confidence or the extent to which you ‘take yourself seriously.’ Maybe it’s a feeling that can be likened to encountering some frustratingly high, impenetrable wall of unreasonable resistance to communication that just seems to come out of nowhere, but not at random – just every time you’re sober at a social gathering.

“…you actually just start to focus on shit like the way the person’s mouth moves, or like, if for example the person sounds like she has dry mouth and needs to swallow some more beer or something.”

But, you’re somewhat normal – like, you’re socially adept enough to talk to people – and so you begin to interact, but unless the conversation is incredibly engaging, you actually just start to focus on shit like the way the person’s mouth moves, or like, the fact that the person sounds like she has dry mouth and needs to swallow some more beer or something. As a consequence you appear to the other party as this sort of dull idiot that’s just nodding and offering relatively little in the way of conversational feedback. This situation produces the quick and unfortunate shared knowledge that you aren’t up to par (or, wait, maybe that’s actually your interpretation of yourself, and perhaps this is where what can traditionally be called “low self-esteem” begins to play a significant role in your night). That you are fundamentally unable i.e. you just can’t seem to get right certain social conventions such as wit and innocuous jokey banter and are instead focusing on that piece of lint in your conversational partner’s eyebrow. This makes the situation halting and awkward. And the crappy thing is – you know that it’s awkward, you just feel powerless to reverse the course of things.

So, you’ve started the night off with a number of uncomfortable interactions at this table where there are sexually viable girls available if only you could muster anything halfway savvy from your brain/voice box, and so this sets in motion a downward spiral of vague and avoidant behavior that continues throughout the night. Moving to get another beer you make eye contact with other friendly-looking people, and perhaps some of them look inviting, like you could just go and strike up a conversation with them. Because, hey, you recognize him, he’s so-and-so’s friend. But your eye contact has uncontrollably turned into this sort of crawly, ambiguous, uninviting eye contact that makes any person with whom you could potentially interact feel shut off from interacting with you. Your eye contact is a sort of silent “No, actually communication between us is not possible.”

It’s not that you don’t want to talk to them. You do want to talk to them. You actually desire their approval; you’re just so, well, insecure, that there is simply no way you can open yourself up to someone’s unsolicited judgement (by being open to interaction first). Your insecurity dictates that you won’t talk to them until they’ve communicated clearly that they’ve already formed a positive impression of you. And the result of all of this ‘pussyfooting’ around is that you now, at this bar, in the bathroom, consciously arrive at this paradox where both your outsider behavior is perpetuating itself into deeper and more prominent/noticeable outsider behavior as well as your outsider behavior is indirectly cueing others to treat you as if you were an outsider, which in turn perpetuates your outsider behavior. And so this is how your night goes.

And then there is the day after, during which, well, you’re not that happy with yourself. You are at a coffee shop, and you feel embarrassed for discreetly shunning everyone you could have met, that girl you could have talked to, that person who might have gotten you a book deal. You know that the pattern will continue, and that indeed, perceptive others around you are aware of you as the outsider, as the drag. You will never be the wingman, you will never be the one to contend with, you will never be the one to surprise everyone, you will never be the one to make everyone laugh. You are always in the background, somewhat useless, except for when you are in front of your laptop, or doing whatever it is you might do that makes you money. This is what you are reflecting on at this coffee shop. You reflect on the fact that you really do like people. But that you really don’t like people. You are alone in the corner, and the sunlight is shining directly onto your forearms. Your laptop is open and your Gchat status is set to “available.” And perhaps it is here that you are most comfortable, but only at intervals the size of moments, broken up by other feelings, including but not limited to self-loathing, sadness, excitement, alienation, depression, happiness, contentment, etc. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

I am the co-publisher of Thought Catalog. Follow me on Twitter. I also use a pen name called Holden Desalles.

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