yet more on socialization

(Part I about my social anxieties here).

So on Friday, after the movie and bonfire, I went for a handshake and the other person (whom I met just that evening) went for a hug. I ended up kind of tossing up my hands in a “what the bother” fashion and hugging. That was an extremely awkward moment and I am still sort of wincing, but for whose sake I cannot tell. This is not the first time this has happened. I never know what to do in such situations.

I have also heard the remark, when I went for a hug (mind you, upon the second time meeting this person socially, we had hugged the last time, and it was an invite to their house for a dinner party thing), “that was weird” by the person who expected a handshake or slight hand wave. (Yes, it is kind of jerkish to hear that out loud in front of others from the huggee and your then-boyfriend.) So really, I never know what to do. Heaven forbid that some non-European would throw me by going for a cheek kiss, which I am super awkward with in non-date situations. I wish that everyone would agree to stick to hi-fives or something.

I am just going to go for hugs, except for people who say expressly that they are not huggy people, in which case I would appreciate advanced warning. I received such advanced warning from TC the first time I met her, and that was really useful knowledge. I do not know if I am overcorrecting based on anecdotal data, but because the number of times I have misjudged the situation and come off stiff and not-friendly outnumber by a considerable amount the number of times I have come off too-huggy, I have decided to make hugs the default for goodbyes after social interactions. So, yesterday, I went for a hug. Score one for correct social response, or at least I think it was correct. In any case, I was not hug-blocked, so I am going to go with my mantra of “hug tight, it’s alright.”

I also discovered that I have no small talk skills, but okay “big talk” skills. I do not know what that means exactly, other than that when I ask “what do you do” I really am interested and then want to learn everything about neurobiology and smooth tracking eye movements. And then we can talk about what that means quasi-philosophically. I need better ice-breakers. Although perhaps asking “when’s the last time you played thumb war” is not one of them.

Also, I wish I had more group hobbies. I have solitary hobbies like running, baking, and knitting. But no group hobbies. I suppose I could try to beef up my sailing skills and join a team, but I am not that great a sailor. I don’t sing or play a instrument, so no joining a band. I do not have a trivia bowl team. I need to find people who think that doing 8 mile urban hikes are fun or that riding the bus around town from random stop to random stop all day would be a good way to spend a Sunday.

I do not generally wish to be less idiosyncratic, but occasionally I wish I that I was into more common pursuits–but I just don’t know what they are. Perhaps I do not have it within me to be The Zeitgeist Avenger, so I may have to stick to my original Halloween costume idea of being Super Emo Girl.

5 thoughts on “yet more on socialization”

  1. I like that “hug tight, it’s alright” motto! As for getting together with a group how about turning one of your solitary activities into a group one by finding a knitting group. The other idea I have is one we tried last year and it worked really well. I was new to town and had met another new faculty member and we wanted to meet more people. So we organized an urban hike around town.

    Both of us invited a couple of people and told them to invite some friends as well. We ended up with about 10 people (6 were new to me, mission accomplished) and we spent a few hours on a “walking tour” around town one saturday morning, ending up at a restaurant for brunch. My friend had heard of this idea online somewhere.

    We had asked a few of our students, fellow faculty members and the best source — my nosy neighbor, for little known bits of info about our small college town. We then had some facts to impart on our new friends… we went past the best and worst bars in town, the campus pond with some interesting college lore, a house with a suspicious fire – investigation still pending, a ‘haunted house’, the local eccentric’s house…it worked so much better than we had ever imagined. We met new people, got out for a walk and there was much laughing – we even picked up an extra 2 people along the way because we were having such a good time. You could do this anywhere – the bigger the city, the more opportunities for interesting places that people may not know about (you wouldn’t have to get as creative as we did in this very small town we live in). And at the end – a big group hug…or high five!


  2. Belle, I think that if your Secret Geographic Location is on the West Coast (not that I think it is, mind you), you are safe to assume the hug.

    Some midwesterners can clarify this for me, as I only lived there a few years, but my sense is that there, even a handshake is too much physical contact for most goodbyes, and a simple nod is appropriate.


  3. I’ve lived in Indiana all my life, and hugs are hit and miss. Some people hug, some don’t. Definitely more common among females or relatives, and typically only after friendship has been firmly established. Or for the outgoing.

    But then, I’m less of a hugger than most people I know. It’s like my whole body involuntarily goes on the offensive if I see a hug coming. My mind might be like, “yay, hug!” but my body freezes up. I was even like that as a baby; I always stiffened up and looked panicky every time someone tried to pick me up.


  4. belle, i’d be totally into urban hikes (esp like rvrlvr describes) and random bus riding. i often think that when i move to a new town the first thing i’ll do is ride public transportation for a whole day in all different directions to get a sense of the place. but i’m not sure that me liking those same hobbies makes either of us meeting new (esp non-academic) types any more likely or smooth …


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