I'm a bit of a hermit. I make no bones about it. My favorite way to spend a weekday is to go to work in the morning (well, if I could avoid it, I wouldn't, but that's neither here nor there), spend all day there, come home in the evening, hop online, and spend until the late hours of the night typing away on various chats/blogs/IMs and so forth.
On a weekend, I'll usually drive home to my parents' house for Sunday afternoon dinner, and stay until the late evening enjoying the company of my parents and my many siblings.
This is how people generally define "having no social life."
And you know what? I'm really quite okay with that. But it always startles me a little to realize that some people...well, they aren't. Folks have different ways of interacting (can you see it's been on my mind of late?), and for most young, single, Mormon people that involves spending weekend nights at each others' apartments or at various Singles Ward functions talking and laughing and getting to know each other and generally having fun.
Today, I went to the movies alone. I saw Nanny McPhee
, which had Colin Firth (swoon!) and Emma Thompson (who I adore) and some delightful young child actors. And when I got out of the movie, I had a voicemail -- "Hey Arwyn," it was my Visiting Teaching companion's voice, "We've got a couple people coming over to watch a movie and have some ice cream -- come around seven, if you're interested."
Aside from having dinner a couple times with some old friends from high school (who are now married and/or have children), this is the first time I've been invited to something informal like this since I moved into the ward seven months ago. I was a little shocked, and not a little pleased -- I like the VT companion a good deal, and have thought that we might even become friends.
I arrived, stepped into the living room, and met VT companion's boyfriend, her roommate, and another friend. We made odd and slightly awkward conversation, then some other people showed up -- "This is Joe, and his sister Sarah. They're not dating. They're siblings," the roommate informed me. Apparently this was essential information.
"If they're siblings," I replied, "I sure hope
they're not dating."
Well, at least I thought it was funny. The looks I received were odd, but...as they liked. Movie started. We watched Millions
, a slightly odd, slightly sappy, very funny movie about a kid who sees saints and ends up with over two hundred thousand pounds (that English currency, not weight) of stolen money, which he is determined to give to the poor (including a trio of Mormon missionaries who, woe, have no microwave), and which his older brother is determined to invest in the housing market, or maybe stocks.
Well. Movie was cute. We laughed. We predicted. We mocked. Good show. And when the movie was over, apparently the night was just beginning -- there was more popcorn, there was ice cream, there were a number of other people who'd shown up in the middle of the show and were debating which games we should play now.
I got there at seven; it was now nine-thirty. All I could do was sit on the couch and think, "Why do I feel like if I stay here another minute, I'm going to puke?" These were nice people! They were having fun! They were people
for crying out loud!
And then it hit me.
The only thing I had in common with these people is that we are all young, single, and Mormon. And as a young, single, Mormon, I'd been drawn into one of those settings where people -- often entirely unconsciously -- weigh each other and size each other up. Girls size up girls as some sort of competition; girls size up guys as potential mates. They were discussing cookie-attacking, or making dinner for the apartment of guys next door -- things that I know happen at BYU, but having never lived in that area -- having attended school where, if there was cooking for anyone, it was the guys cooking for the girls not to get them as dates or to marry, but because the guys really liked watching Emeril and wanted to practice their mad cooking skillz. Yes, we're nerds. But you know -- I'm okay with that.
I believe it wasn't conscious or intentional, but I was suddenly sitting in an environment not unlike that in high school when you're sitting in the same room as the "cool kids" but you know you're not a "cool kid" and don't really want to be a "cool kid" and you realize that you're trying you're hardest to make them like you, but...why?
So I muttered something about needing to get up early in the morning, and I left.
Actually, I ran. This may sound even more nerdy than Emeril, but I ran to my car, I sped home, I ran into my apartment, I shut the door, and I proceeded to call people who could assure me that I wasn't just being weird, but that it's okay to be a hermit and to be myself and to not
want to sit around at that sort of a party.
And then my mother called, and when I told her about my evening's adventures, she only laughed. I said, "Mom, I'm so weird!" and she said, "No, I'm so proud! I didn't raise you to be programmed with the young single Mormon programming that requires you to be so focused on getting a husband that you forget to be yourself."
That's what had struck me wrong about the party -- not the event itself, and not even the people, who were very nice and kind, even if I felt like a three-headed monster sitting in the same room with normal human beings because I found their conversation completely uninteresting and their current life priorities had nothing to do with my own.
What struck me wrong was that I couldn't be myself there. Not and fit in. Not without leaving awkward pauses after jokes that they didn't quite get, or didn't think were funny. And this, because we had nothing in common, except that we were young, single, and Mormon.
And for me these days -- that's just not enough. That's not a game I'm wanting to play. So I'll sit at home with my computer, my boy on the other end of the line, my various online peeps. I'll go home and enjoy the company of my family on Sundays, or whatever other day of the week.
And the Singles Ward...I'll keep going to church itself, because I believe in the Gospel. But it won't ever, I think, be the basis of my social network. Or, really, much of a part of it. It's fine for other folks -- it does a lot of good -- but it's really just not for me.