Sunday, February 3, 2013

Masquerade/Social Skills

For a variety of reasons, I have not written much about my personal life for the last few months, despite the byline of this blog saying I write about "life in general." I've decided to change that, at least temporarily. I'll bring back the dog pics soon, but I do have one or two personal blog posts that I want to write now.

I went to a Venetian-style Carnivale Masquerade last night.

OK, it wasn't quite as cool as the one from "Phantom of the Opera," but it was fun in its own right. I wasn't the social butterfly I wanted to be, but it occurred to me that social skills are something that need to be acquired and practiced - I can't go from being a wallflower for 30 years to the Belle of the Ball overnight.

So this got me thinking about my social skills and social life (or lack thereof).

 I've always been terribly shy. I never had much self esteem, due mostly to my weight. I went from a girls' size 14 to a misses' size 14 in the space of a year when I was about 13. A shy elementary school kid with few friends became a fat teenager and settled into the life of a wallflower.

I did have a few good friends in high school, some of whom I am still friends with today, but I never went on a date, never went to Prom, never kissed a boy (more on this topic later).

When I was about 22, I started learning how to do Country dancing at a local bar. I could (and still can) two-step, triple-step, triple-two step, waltz, and line dance, and I actually got pretty good. I developed a bit of confidence about my dancing, but being overweight, I was always much too shy to ask any guys to dance; I mostly stood near the dance floor and hoped somebody would ask me to dance.

OK, let's fast forward through my 20s a bit. I was in an on-again-off-again relationship with a guy for several years, due in large part to the fact that I am bipolar but hadn't been diagnosed yet. I put on about 50 pounds, lost even more self esteem, and, the last guy I was intimate with, over a year and a half ago, had to stop halfway through the first time to run to the bathroom and throw up because he was so put off by my weight. Why I decided to give him another chance is beyond me. I'm just glad I got tired of him within a few weeks.

Needless to say, this all messed up my self esteem even worse. I also spent the better part of 2 or 3 years in a clinical depression. I stopped dancing and doing other things that I enjoy. I became a hermit and avoided other people, eventually losing many of the social skills I ever had to begin with.

Last fall, I finally got my meds completely straightened out and started feeling better than I had in a long time. I joined Weight Watchers and a gym, and I've lost almost 40 pounds in about 4 months. So now I have some self esteem to go out and start doing stuff.

A few weeks ago, somebody reminded me about, so I decided to hop on and see if there were any meetups that interested me. That night, I found a meetup group for people who are interested in other countries, cultures, languages, etc. That sounds right up my alley! The very next night they were doing a beginner tango lesson, and I decided to go. I wrote about that here.

This same group put on a Masquerade last night, and I thought it would be a lot of fun, so I decided to go. I am going to put a pic of me in my dress and mask at the end of this blog post, but to break up the text, here's a picture of the shoes I found. I hardly ever wear heels, and the stilettos I wore to the tango lesson and my dad's wedding tore up my feet, so I needed something with a shorter heel that would stay on my feet and match my dress. These fit the bill better than I expected:

Anyway, for some reason I wasn't feeling as confident at the Masquerade last night as I was at the tango lesson a few weeks ago. I thought the mask would somehow make me less nervous, but I think the fact that everybody was wearing masks and I could hardly pick out the few people I did actually know unsettled me a little bit.

I got there early, of course, and there were only a dozen or so people spread over 6 tables and a bunch of chairs. I surveyed the room. I was tempted to go sit in a chair by the wall all by myself, since that is what the wallflower in me was screaming for, but I decided to break out of my comfort zone and sit at a table with (probably) strangers. Again, if I knew any of these people, I was hard pressed to recognize them. I settled on a table with two women who weren't talking to each other - obviously strangers, which made me feel more comfortable than sitting at a table with best friends who would talk to each other all night and ignore me.

One lady moved here from France over 20 years ago, and the other came from Moldova 14 years ago, so that was really neat for me to meet people from other countries. Unfortunately, I have a hard time hearing and understanding people in those types of loud events, and their accents made that even harder. They were as quiet as me, anyway, so we didn't talk much, but at least I had people to sit with and didn't spend the entire night alone on a chair.

I spent the next hour or so wishing the music was more dance-able (it got more and more dance-able as the night went on, but it started off with a lot of slow Italian, Spanish, and French ballads that weren't good for much apart from Ballroom dancing and the occasional tango - which I couldn't do without a partner anyway) and eyeing this guy across the room. I couldn't quite tell if he was good-looking or not, but except for a middle-aged lady who kept flitting to and from the table he was sitting at, he spent a lot of time alone. Eventually he got up from the table and stood against the wall. It took a few songs, but eventually I got up the nerve to go talk to him.

I went up to him and made some joke about him holding up the wall, and he smiled and thanked me for coming over, and we struck up a conversation. It didn't take long for me to realize - 

SON OF A -----! He's gay!

PLEASE don't misunderstand me. I'm not homophobic, far from it. I have gay family members and I was very good friends with a gay guy for several years (why "was" and not "am"? Never work for friends or family members). 

Let me explain why I was upset.

I have THE WORST gaydar on the planet. Always have, probably always will. It's set on reverse or something, I don't know. Pretty much every guy I had a crush on in high school turned out to be gay. Almost EVERY. SINGLE. DANG. ONE. Even in college I had a knack for pining after the gay guys. And that friend I was talking about? I had a crush on him for years. In all honesty, I was glad the reason he didn't like me as more than a friend was only because I was a woman and not because there was anything wrong with me.

Almost invariably, if I can comfortably talk to a guy, they turn out to be gay. Maybe subconsciously I know how flustered I get when talking to straight guys and find the gay ones to save some semblance of decorum?

I don't have a clue. All I know is that my reverse gaydar was in full force last night, and it was frustrating. It just makes it THAT much harder for me to find a boyfriend. 

Anyway, the music had picked up a little bit, and he asked me to dance.

Now, I love to dance when I have actual steps to do. Two-step, line dance, tango, whatever - give me dance steps and/or a guy with a strong lead, and I'm a pretty good dancer. But that whole standing around swinging your arms and hips and trying to vaguely move to the music? Yeah, not my thing. Of course, for once, I wasn't going to let that stop me. I'm wearing a mask, I can make an a-- out of myself on the dance floor.

So then the guy starts dancing and...Let's just say I suddenly felt much less self-conscious about my own dancing!

Cut to...I see the guy I gave my phone number to at the tango lesson who never called me. He's dancing with the Moldovan.


I don't blame him for not calling me. I'm actually totally cool with it - I was WAY more bold than usual that night, and he didn't actually ask for my number, I offered it. Anyway, him talking to me as much as he did that night totally made my evening, and I will always be grateful to him for that.


Here's where I started wondering what to do, how to act, and what he might be thinking about me. It crossed my mind to go up to him and make some joke and try again to flirt with him, but luckily I realized that would be a bad idea. I don't want to make him uncomfortable and feel bad for not calling me.

For a while I thought, hm, maybe he doesn't see me. Maybe if I get close enough to him he'll recognize me even with a mask on. Maybe he'll come talk to me? But I can't be obvious about it. So I just did things like walk across the room near where he was dancing a few times, like to the bathroom and for water.

Eventually I realized that he was definitely not going to come talk to me, so now I need to make sure he doesn't think I'm stalking him. Now I need to make it a point to not get too close to him so that I don't make him uncomfortable. I tried to ignore him the best I could, but you know how that goes. Actually, when I did take my mind off of his location, that's when I would go get water and he would be standing next to the water table chatting up some girl or another. 


Needless to say, this messed up my mojo a bit last night.

I did still get to dance with several guys throughout the night, so that was pretty cool. And the lady who organized the whole event had taken suggestions from everybody on any international songs they wanted, and she played a couple of the Bollywood songs I recommended, so that was awesome! You should have seen the look on this guy's face (even with a mask he managed to wear a quizzical expression) when he saw me singing along!

Anyway, I was a little more shy than I would have liked, and first I was upset with myself for not dancing and chatting more, but then I cut myself some slack and realized that this whole thing was WAY outside my normal comfort zone, and in context, I actually did a really good job (for me).

I left shortly after midnight because I had to work this morning. (Side note - I've never seen so many taxis in my metropolitan area before - they must make all their money Friday and Saturday nights.) 

I only got 4 hours of sleep last night, but it was totally worth it, and I look forward to stretching my social skills even further in the future.

Oh, and here's the pic of me in my dress and mask - with measures to further protect my anonymity. ;-)

It looks like I'm throwing a gang symbol or something, but I actually wanted to cover up the phone in my hand that I was using to take a picture.

OK, I guess that's it for tonight. The tango lesson a few weeks ago was a completely different experience as far as my social skills, so hopefully I will have a chance to write about that in the next couple of days.


  1. You GO girl! I'm also painfully shy. Keep at it! I'm proud of you for stepping outside your comfort zone!

    1. Thank you very much Anonymous! It's not easy, but I'm really trying to improve myself all around. I very much want my 30s to be better than my 20s, but I recognize that won't happen without some major effort on my part.


      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. You are a good writer and a good groomer. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now & sorry that this is my first comment but I thought you should know I was surprised to hear you suffered from low self-esteem. But then I know all too well what it is to suffer from anxiety & shyness due to being overweight. I’ve come a long way and I can see from your pic you have too. Super well done for that. Keeping that up is the path to feeling healthier long term but you also must learn that no matter what size you are it’s your heart that defines who you are. Not the weight. Keep a good heart & a positive attitude and before long someone will fall in love with that heart and then you’ll know why the weight never really mattered. Luckily you work with dogs and they teach everything you can possibly learn about what it is to practice good heart ;-)

    1. Lori, thank you so much for taking the time to comment and for the compliments. Loving yourself for who are is great in theory - but very hard in practice. I have made great strides recently in loving myself for who I am completely, but that has never been easy for me and may always be a problem - I fear even as I lose more weight, I will never feel "good enough."

      I love your reference to dogs - it will be good for me to remember that a dog loves you for who you are on the inside, not the outside - the same should apply to good people. This comment of yours may help me very much if I can truly take it to heart.


      Thank you SO much for reading my blog, taking the time to comment and compliment, and the wise dog advice. I appreciate it very much!