You might be able to guess from my glasses and general bookishness that I would be bad at socializing. You’d be right. Sometimes these first judgments people make are welcome, though. I don’t have to talk to many people I don’t want to. I can excuse myself for a homework assignment. The book I always have in my purse saves me at a coffee shop; no one wants to disturb someone reading. But sometimes when I’m trying very hard to not be completely inept, by some magical power I end up making things worse. Take my first week in a college dorm. My parents had left for good, and I was alone in my room, listening to the noises of foreign socialization outside my door. The day before, I had left my door open while still unpacking in a reverential attempt to abandon my high school prone-to-righteousness self. When it was clear no one was going to go out of their way to pity me, I closed the thing and didn’t open it again. They clearly didn’t know the depth of awkwardness they were missing.
I didn’t just wake up being socially disabled. I think it started when I tried to make friends in high school. Thankfully, weirdness in my school was celebrated, so I had friends. But that meant I had friends that were also just slightly weird. Just something a little off to make people wonder if there was something in the drinking fountains.
For some reason, during middle school, I decided I would rather go to the high school where my dad taught instead of the one where all my friends were going. Maybe this choice of social variance filled my yearly allowance for adventure, or maybe I had some leftover daddy’s girl feeling of neglect and thought it would be fun having my dad teach at my school. Probably I possessed an oversized ego fueled by the hormonal confidence every fourteen-year-old seems to have and simply desired to have my friends miss me and talk about me at that other high school like I was living some parallel life and they weren’t invited.
The point is that this false confidence at the time vanished when I entered high school, and the awkward alter ego that took over was encouraged by every other student on campus. Oh, you’re socially awkward? Me, too! Well, that camaraderie didn’t last when I went to college.
Back to that first night alone after my parents left. I was ready to wallow in loneliness and enjoy the large leftover chimichanga in my mini fridge. But beggars can’t be choosers. I had just put a greasy bite into my mouth when the bathroom door opened. The bathroom door that connected to the room on the other side. Maybe the rules on introducing yourself had changed and I didn’t know it, but I didn’t think anyone was supposed to be coming in through the bathroom to say hello in college.
What came through the door and into my room was not either of the two color-coordinating Minnesotan girls who occupied the room next door. I was shocked to see two very tall guys slip into my room and shut the door behind them. If not for the braless, chimichanga-mouthful state I was in, this might have been the realization of so many girls’ fantasies. I’m sure they were equally as surprised; the bathroom door had a straight view of my bed, where I was happily cradling the restaurant Styrofoam like someone who hadn’t eaten in days.
“Shh,” one of them held up his hands. I didn’t know what he was expecting from me. God knows the Mexican food shoved in my mouth was inhibiting any sort of conversation.
“Don’t freak out.”
Surprisingly, I didn’t. This was quite possibly the most awkward first encounter I had ever had. And it was hilarious. I mean, kind of embarrassing, since I had to contort myself in an attempt to make my shabby pajamas seem intentional. I was quite possibly the last person they wanted to walk in on, the chubby suitemate hanging out by herself the first week of college.
The cops were at my suitemates’ door asking if they were drinking, so the guys ran and hid. Naturally. Lucky for them, there was no way I was going to rat them out for drinking in the room, which would surely seal my fate as the boring nerd on the floor.
Looking back, that encounter instead probably sealed my fate as the weird girl in the guys’ drunken story.