Pythonism

writing about my life

Short Study of Social Anxiety #00862

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I walk out of the front door of my block and point myself in the direction of the shop. As I emerge I sense that the “bad family” neighbours might be there. Sure enough my senses pick up their trace even though I have only seen the vague shapes of people out of the corner of my eye. I am dressed more smartly and my hair is brushed. I feel that this time the encounter may go better. I focus on “minding my own business” which primarily involves not looking at them, and giving out completely neutral body language. I advance pace by pace, walking quite slowly because my usual rushed walk sometimes arouses attention. As I am nearly passing them I sense the exigencies of ths siutation more clearly and realise instinctively that it is appropriate (or even required) thing to flick my gaze up at them very briefly. as I do I realise that the female, who must be in her early twenties I should think, is actually not at all pretty, contrary to my previous impression of them.

I pass them noticing that they are both smoking, which implies that by the time I return from the shop they will be back inside their flat again. I feel slightly relieved at the prospect. I approach co-op starting to realise that the encounter with them has gone stunningly well in real terms. They did not have any reaction whatsoever towards me. Was this because I have now fully mastered the neutrual body language. Or was it because I was looking better kempt. This matter is subtle because I think the clothing and appearance is secondary to the body language, but the body language… in old terms “demeanour” must closely match the physical appearance. If this does not happen then it is a case of “the face doesnt fit” which will bring on reaction, suspicion, censure, bafflement or hostility, each of which is highly undesirable to a man with the hypersensitivity I have to bear.

I enter co-op and grab a basket. This is fortunate to remember because on occasion I have simply stuffed all my shopping into my folded arms and dangled bottles from my hands. Again,a piece of ordinary stupidity which does not imply any malicious streak, but if the forces were against you it might, in commmon parlance, using the vernacular, make you look like a bit of a dick.

I greet the cashier and complete the transaction reasonably smoothly, although I feel a minor sense of anxiety grow at the thought that my hands may tremble as I am paying with my card. I also suffer a mere frisson of a hint that, as usual, for some reason the fact that I am friendly and pleasant with the till staff may result in incurring dirty or impatient looks from the person behind me in the queue. I stuff the wine and fish into my day-sack, again trying as hard as possible to make the movement look graceful and unsuspicious. I leave, silently hoping that my trip out will not end up leaving me with scars. I turn the corner feeling confident enough that I have not had any social-phobic accidents, and that, given my current slickness of demeanour, none will occur. The only remaining hurdle is if the bad family youths are still outside their block. What if I get the fear and my walk becomes ungainly or staggering? What if a slip like this occurs and they notice and comment to each other, perhaps using an epithet?

I near my door… they have gone inside. I smoothly insert my key and reach safety. This is incredible. I am absolutely astonished that, this time, I seem to have got the magic completely right. I am almost a little baffled and distressed, since I can’t work out what I was doing so much better this time…

I get up to the flat and unpack my shopping, worrying about whether I shouldn’t have bought the wine for the sake of my liver. I sit down on the black sofa and stare into space musing on this improvement in my circumstances for a good ten minutes. Is it really a question of the body language? Why do people not complain loudly about this constrictive need to wear a forbidding mask that results in individuals being thoroughly unreachable? After all, these many times I have been subjected to aggression, disgust, puzzlement or whatever have only ever been because I was looking around myself actually curious of the other souls who were in proximity. How can it be that looking at someone and smiling results in this? Anyway, I tell myself I shouldn’t question it too much in case the magic goes away again. “Your life actually hangs by a thread!” said Martin in one of his extended monologues about Tai Chi. The Tao is so fragile…

But now I can’t stop the analysis. Is it because this place is more or less a village? It has a population of about 6,000. But it is a part of the larger conurbation of the Isle which consists of something more like 140,000. Can mores and moodspaces change that dramatically over 8 miles of land? Should I have stayed on the other side of the Isle? Is it universal that people are so bloody horrible, or is it something I invoke subtly myself? Did I forget to wear clothes or something, all those times I got called rude names? Hardly anyone else seems to get it. I think Martin borders on it sometimes. Hmm.

Why did my social perceptions change so much? I saw the bad family couple as of a different grouping and best left alone. They reciprocated and there were no problems at all. “So if you are posh, and don’t dress, act and speak posh… you’ll get shit.” Is that it? But that leaves no room for me to style myself as a friendly approachable guy. I won’t meet so many people and have so many pleasant encounters. Shit! Is this a prison, this convention that surrounds us? This need to conduct extensive lying about the nature of the human self. This fenced, boundaried, controlled intersection of disparate social groups. Groups who *create* a situation where they have nothing in common with other groups, simply by *believing they have nothing in common*… when what we all have in common is our humanity.

But then raging against society like that is an ungrateful thing to do directly after an instance when I did “get out and back and live to tell the tale”, (Bill’s phrase). Am I being hugely too analytical over something microscopic? Is that my problem. Dad didn’t like the piece about the panic attack in Calais. Hmmm. But I am trying to understand human interaction for fuck’s sake.

I get up and write this. Hopefully this marks an improvement in my fortunes, please god let it stick. Maybe I’ll suss this properly, I did get it together this time!

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Written by Luke Dunn

March 28, 2018 at 2:38 pm

Posted in Mental Health, Prose

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