Making the Nose


Lately I've been reading The Shy Single, a book by Dr. Bonnie Jacobson, Ph.D. on dating for shy people.

For a while I've felt that I've been spending too much time home alone and not enough time going out and being sociable. But I've sort of always fallen back on the assumption that I just really don't like people and don't enjoy social interaction. So I've been vaguely dissatisfied with the way I've been handling life, but not sure that doing anything about it would make me any happier. Then I spent this last weekend with Dianna, of Snoqualmie fame, and it's somewhat altered my way of thinking about things. I quite enjoyed all the time I spent with her, even though nearly all of it was spent in conversation, which I normally find exhausting after an hour or two.

This makes me think I can enjoy socializing, and that I'd like to know more people and get out and do more things. And it also makes me think that, having been single for about a year and a half now, it's time to move on and start dating in earnest again.

Because I am a dork, my current situation reminds me of some dialogue from the British Science Fiction TV show Red Dwarf:

HOLLY: I was thinking it might help pass the time if I created a perfectly functioning replica of a woman, capable of independent decision-making and abstract thought and absolutely indistinguishable from the real thing.

LISTER: (Sitting up eagerly) Well why don't you, then?

HOLLY: Because I don't know how. I wouldn't even know how to make the nose.

Dating is something I'm eager and excited to try, but I don't even know how to make the nose. All of my experience, really, comes from the first few months of college, which was over five years ago now. I don't really know what to do or how to do it.

So, in line with my general modus operandi, I have turned to books in the hopes that they will provide the answer. And thus: The Shy Single. It's written by a Manhattan therapist who apparently specializes in group and individual therapy for shy people, with an emphasis on helping them with dating. Jacobson delineates three distinct elements of shyness, and focuses chapters no each: First, the fear of initiating contact with others, which leads the shy person to avoid socializing entirely. Second, fear in the midst of conversation that the shy person is making a fool of herself, leading her to either sit in silence listening to others talk or babble incessantly out of nervousness. Finally, there is the recrimination and self-criticism that follows social contact, which leads the shy person to over-analyze every element of her performance and reach the conclusion that everyone involved now hates her for what an ass she made of herself.

I'm not very far in the book, but so far it's been an eerily accurate description of my own feelings about informal social contact. Hopefully it will prove as astute in its advice as it is in its observations. It seems as though it mostly states the obvious (that the only way to get more comfortable with dating is to force yourself to do it) and provides advice on coping with anxiety, both in terms of internal mental techniques for getting through the ordeal and in terms of strategies for making the whole experience less stressful.

My plan is to put some of the book's initial advice into practice this weekend and actually go out in search of some sort of social contact. I'm not entirely sure that I know what I'm doing, but I suppose I have to go out and get some experience with this sort of thing if I'm to know how exactly to go about it.


Huzzah! It's a good plan and a good step. And I'll second your enjoyment of our marathon conversations, which is a statement that means quite a bit coming from me and particularly coming from me at the end of six weeks' non-stop socialization. So I believe that means you're an intelligent and fascinating conversationalist.

Good luck and report back!

Hum. Now I'm faced with the problem of not knowing exactly what my first step should be. My inclination is to go to a bar, but I'm not sure how fruitful that would be. Yet most of the other places I might be inclined to go, like bookstores and such, are the sort of places where people, I think, don't like being interrupted. Or do they?

It's tough, because I tend to assume that nobody wants to be interrupted in what they're doing, ever, even if what they're doing is staring into space. This is why the bar idea is appealing, because I tend to assume that, for each person there, there's at least some probability that meeting somebody is what they want to do.

Thoughts? Ideas? I need to figure out something to do with myself this evening, so sooner = better.

It's a trade-off; the likelihood of meeting someone in a bar who is not opposed to being met is greater than in, say, a bookstore. But the likelihood that you will have much in common with the person you meet at the bar will be lower than the likelihood of having something in common with the person browsing in the same section of the bookstore as you.

I'm no big expert on meeting people myself; I tend either not to meet them or to meet them in all the wrong places. But if it were me, I might be inclined to pick something like a coffeeshop as more social than a bookstore but less meat-markety than a bar. Plus, in a coffeeshop (rather than a bar), you can bring a book and amuse yourself with if you find yourself for one reason or other not currently talking to anyone. Hanging out in a coffeeshop with a book makes you appear intelligent and relaxed (and can provide a starting point for a conversation), where hanging out in a bar with nothing to do but talk to someone can make you seem a bit too aggressive.

Last night I learned the major disadvantage of being profoundly lightweight in terms of drinking capacity. Until now I had seen lightweightedness as a disadvantage, as it makes betting inebriated much cheaper. However, if socializing is your goal, being lightweight is a problem. If you go from zero to drunk (or at least, quite tipsy) in a single beer, your evening has to be called on account of drunkenness far sooner than you'd probably like.

I like the coffeeshop idea; I just need to find one near here that's frequented at night. I was thinking of books to bring, and it occurred to me that right now the book I'm reading is The Shy Single. That would be an interesting choice; on the one hand, it would signal that I'm interested, available, and might not be super-inclined to make the first move. On the other hand, there is a certain loser factor to it.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on July 27, 2006 5:04 PM.

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