At various times in my life I have battled with shyness, and even in my later years when that was more or less under control, I've still tended just a little bit toward the antisocial side of being a functional person. Whether this was a result of natural introversion, 12 years of puberty, or the unshakable sense of superiority I feel toward everyone, basic social skills, like speaking or blinking at a normal rate, have always been just a little more challenging for me.
Michael Blann/Photodisc/Getty Images
"Are you flirting at me? Or ... trying to generate lift?"
And because I've read literally anything else written on the Internet, I know I'm not the only one out there so afflicted. For those of you in the same boat, you'll be happy to know there are a number of coping mechanisms that myself and other antisocial people have developed to deal with the stresses of navigating everyday life, which I'm happy to share with you here. For those of you who aren't so afflicted, you perfect blond bastards, here are several signs you can use to help identify whether the person you're speaking to is struggling not to vomit on your shoes.
#5. Overthinking It
I should state clearly here that I do actually have friends, and that I didn't pay for them, and that they probably like me, and that I could even make new ones if I had to.
Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
So don't any of you think of crossing me, or I will walk.
Basic friend-making skills like small talk and banter, once I got the hang of them, ended up being two things that I'm not actually that bad at. When needed, I can hold court like a motherfucker.
-Much delighted laughter-
But this is absolutely something I need to "turn on" to do, and when I don't make the effort, in most social situations I will drift into a conversation with a bookshelf or particularly friendly dog. So, in previous columns where I've talked about how small talk works, I knew all of that because I basically had to force myself to study it.
"No, no, no. Pithier, dammit."
I'm sure there are norms out there who breeze into and out of conversations like it's nothing, and hey, bully for their perfect blond heads. But for the rest of us, who have diagrammed in advance a conversation to order pizza, overthinking things like this is simply how it has to be done.
"So I nod, blink, recite Casual Joke 273-B, take a breath, blink, wait eight point four seconds for a response,
blink, respond with a comment about the sports, then enter subroutine Theta-4."
#4. Talking to Yourself
I talk to myself all the freaking time.
-Much delighted laughter-
This sounds crazy, and, well, it might be. Honestly, I'm probably the last person who should be self-diagnosing that. But I'll try to explain how it's not that crazy. For example, I don't tell myself to burn things. That's pretty sane! And only rarely do I ever hiss to myself that someone will rue crossing me.
Jani Bryson/iStock/Getty Images
People almost certainly do rue crossing me though.
No, the things I say to myself are almost preposterously inane. I'll replay conversations I've recently had, but try to come up with wittier responses. I'll imagine conversations I might soon have in the future and how they might proceed, again looking for killer lines. Or I'll imagine I'm a tour guide, explaining how the world works to a sexy alien visitor, who eventually succumbs to my charms.
See? All perfectly normal behavior.
This might be a byproduct of being a humor writer, that natural inclination to retry different forms of dialog to see what's funny. But I recall doing this as a kid, too, before I'd ever strapped on my first word processor, back when I was just funny looking, so I suspect it goes beyond that. For shy kids, where every conversation is a potential minefield filled with wrong things to say, we spend an awful lot of time worrying over the right thing to say. So if you do ever see someone mumbling to themselves, they might just be shy, not crazy, so don't start shunning them yet.
"They'll rue the day they shunned me before I did something to deserve it."
#3. Avoiding People
This sounds almost too obvious. Isn't "avoiding people" the very definition of being antisocial?"
But it goes deeper than that; we don't just avoid strangers. Even when dealing with friends and close acquaintances, there are minor interactions that some of us would just really rather avoid if we could. For some it might be making phone calls. For others it's water-cooler small talk. There's nothing specifically difficult or irritating about these interactions. They just require effort. And in the exact same way that you might take the elevator instead of the stairs or eat a pizza pocket instead of food, an antisocial person will send an email instead of making a phone call, or suddenly "remember" something and then spin around and scurry away to avoid even a minor interaction.
"Oh, right! My spine and sense of self-worth! I totally forgot that at my desk."
And although this is still fairly minor, we're starting to get into the realm of actual self-destructive behavior. These small interactions form an important part of the social fabric of our world. Water-cooler talk, however inane, lets us know our co-workers just a little better, and we're less likely to go insane and start stabbing people we know. So although this definitely is a coping mechanism the antisocial use, and it's something I've absolutely done myself, I can't really endorse it.
Unless you really want to keep your insane stabbing options open.