Social Butterflies.

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I would be a great party-planner.

I imagine immersing myself in the detail of it all: the colours, the cake, the food, the dress-code, the invitations, the entertainment, the play-lists, the lighting, and the decorations.

I could tie it all together with a theme.

I could make it really perfect for somebody.

***

I wish I was good at going to parties.

Going-to-parties is one-of the top-ten things that I am bad at. This is unfortunate, because I want so badly to be good at it. I look-forward to parties so much because in my head I’m a neuro-typical girl. I think about what present to buy. I like to make a big-effort to find the right card. I worry a lot about what to wear, because I am not fashionable, and most girls my age are. I like to make sure I am familiar with the venue in-advance, because it is important for me to know where all the doors and toilets are. I like to travel there with a friend so that we can share the ‘hellos’ on arrival, (or maybe I can smile and nod and they can talk for me…) I plan the timings intricately, because I need to know when I will arrive and when I will leave.

These are not choices and decisions; they are social-survival mechanisms.

***

It is my friend’s 40th birthday party. My taxi arrives at the venue and I am early, and I’ve got butterflies. For fifteen-minutes I sit on a wall outside, practicing what I will say when I walk through the door. Happy Birthday John, here is a card for you. I want my voice and my smile to be bright when I say it. I try to predict John’s reply so that I can be ready for every eventuality, but the butterflies are getting everywhere.

I like to know what is going to happen next all the time.

I haven’t been here before. I have memorised the guest-list. The band is at nine-o-clock. My taxi is booked for ten. By ‘normal’ standards, I am hyperly-organised. Everyone looks so dressed-up and I feel out-of-place. I feel out-of-place whenever there are people near me. I’m not sure where the toilets are.

I’m starting to worry that my taxi home will arrive early, and I haven’t even walked through the door yet.

I head toward the bar because I feel dangerously-safe when I have a glass-of-wine in my hand. It calms my social butterflies. I am still clutching the birthday card. I haven’t said, Happy Birthday John, here is a card for you, yet, and the words are getting impatient.

I give myself an instruction to go and find the toilets.

The bar is noisy because the dishwasher is being unloaded, the coffee machine is hissing and the music is blaring. Someone has got a laugh so loud that it could pierce my ears. Even the carpet is loud. The band is sound-checking over the music.  Happy Birthday John, here is a card for you, Happy Birthday John, here is a card for you.

I am ready to see John, but he is nowhere in this big crowd, and it is making me want to pause time, and crawl into a hiding-place.

Things are not how I visualised they would be: things are happening differently. I tell myself that this is normal, because I am not psychic and this is a party. But this does not help me at all, because preparation and visualisation are not choices and decisions to me, but social-survival mechanisms.

I am ‘literally’ swallowing anxiety.

I haven’t joined my friends yet, because I still haven’t seen John to give him his card, and I planned that this would happen first. Happy Birthday John, here is a card for you.

I stop looking for the toilets a) because I look ‘lost’ when I am wandering on-my-own b) this might attract attention c) if someone asks me if I’m lost, I don’t want to have to say that I am looking for the toilets.

There is a girl with a pretty dress at the opposite end of the bar: her shoes compliment her dress impeccably. I wonder how she knows how to do that. I wonder if all of her clothes match like that. Her hair is done in an up-style that suits her. I wonder how she found out what suits her: I wonder if I will ever know what suits me. Her nail-polish doesn’t match the colour of her dress but it clashes in a deliberate way. I can’t help but think that if I swapped clothes with that girl, I would look a mess, yet she looks glorious.

I decide that she is a creature in her natural environment, so I copy her.

This is how I will know what to do and how to do it. I will concentrate on being her mirror image. If I stand how she stands, hold my drink how she holds her drink, smile how she smiles, say what she says, I will be okay.

I will be okay.

Someone grabs my shoulders, turns me round and hugs-me-hello, unexpectedly. It is my friend Ann: “I’m going to share your taxi home if that’s ‘ok’…” she says “…we can stop at mine before yours… I was going to drive, and then I changed-my-mind, last minute, you know… is that ‘ok’?”

But I haven’t got any words ready for her. And this is… sudden.

Happy Birthday John, here is a card for you. 

I can’t stop saying it.

Happy Birthday John, here is a card for you. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN, HERE IS A CARD FOR YOU

Ann looks like she thinks I am angry, but I am scared.

The words burst-out before I can stop them. They are bursting out-of-me because they have been hanging-around in my head for so long.  And I am a balloon, not a butterfly. And I am hot. And I want to be hidden. And I am about to burst.

The rest is private.

***

I have had a few social disasters lately.

It takes me two-days and a depressive-episode to get-over-them.

It is hard to know your limits unless with hindsight. With hindsight I know that I cannot be social for the same length of time as other people can, because socialising with people is unpredictable. I must either take lots-of-breaks, or leave a social-event early, so-as to avoid the unbearable side-effects of socialising. This is sad. I am a wannabe-social-butterfly: I really love people.

But I think I’m just a caterpillar, and I can’t change.

I think I’ll stay at home and be a party-planner. I could make it so perfect for somebody.

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