An introvert behaving badly or, the day I was a plus-one

Self Care

A friend of mine, needing a plus-one for a Saturday wedding asked me if I would like to go. I should preface my response by saying that I was asked the day before which would normally illicit a “Hell no!” but as I was in my ‘Carpe diem/every day is an opportunity/I love people’ phase, I said yes.

And so begins the sad and sorry tale of an introvert behaving badly. Or, the day I was plus-one at a wedding.

The day began beautifully. In the morning, my friend and I hot-footed it to Barneys where I picked up a gorgeous pair of Tabitha Simmons satin pumps. I planned to team said pumps with a cute dress and an Alexander McQueen bag. Outfit sorted, made-up and dressed, I WAS READY!

First to the ceremony, which was traditional and sweet, with lovely teary-eyed friends and relatives. I should probably mention that I didn’t know the bride/groom or anyone else there except my friend and two other people I had met through her.

We all trooped outside for the photographs and as we watched I happily conversed with other guests. So far so good – I was a socialising machine!

Onto the reception for pre-dinner drinks. This is where I began to notice the time drag as we waited in a too-crowded bar area to enter the reception room. My conversational skills were starting to wither as the crowd and the noise started to permeate my brain. However, I was buoyed by the knowledge that we would soon be sitting down and eating, and I felt some relief because the last time I checked it was considered bad form to eat and talk at the same time.

Things then went to from ‘meh’ to well, awful. I hadn’t heard the beginning of the saying of Grace. I had also failed to notice that everyone elses head was bowed and hands clasped in prayer. How didn’t I notice? Because I was too busy tucking into my entrée.

A swift elbow nudge from my friend alerted me to my error. I was mortified and as soon as it was appropriate I apologised to the entire table for my mistake. I received some warm smiles in response but it did nothing to deaden the anxiety I was beginning to experience.

The main meal came and went, as did the speeches etc. Within minutes of the music beginning, I found myself sitting entirely alone at a table that had just seated ten. With the three people I knew no longer in sight, I started to desperately alternate between looking at my phone/going to the bathroom/sitting there like a deer in the headlights.

My friend and I had earlier discussed a leaving time so I watched the minutes tick by. That time came and went, and down I descended into a panicky spiral of part-grumpiness for feeling abandoned, and part self-pity for pretty much the same reason. I can’t imagine what I must have looked like sitting there with my stony face. No wonder no one wanted to talk to me.

This is also the point in the story where I got it spectacularly wrong. What I should’ve done is necked a couple of drinks, taken a deep breath, and trotted out to the dance floor. But no, I was paralysed by my desperate need to no longer be where I was. It was these feelings that prevented me from thinking clearly and rationally. My friend came back to the table and I gruffly said something about wanting to leave. She told me I needed to chill (fair enough) and that perhaps it would be an idea to go and wait in the car. As my self-esteem plummeted to zero I realised I was being treated according to how I was behaving – like a child.

The drive back was excruciating. I had lost the power of speech and my friend’s body language made it clear she was not impressed with my behaviour. Once safely inside, I fell onto the bed and cried.

“Why did I agree to go?” I asked myself. But perhaps what I should’ve asked was “Why didn’t you have a strategy in place that would help you in this situation and not make you behave like a complete arse?”

Being introverted and knowing yourself is one thing. Expecting people around you to accommodate you is another. I learned another valuable life lesson from this experience – for crying out loud decline the invitation if you can’t trust yourself to be cool at a social event, AND most importantly call an Uber so your friend can stay at the wedding reception and have a good time.

Over to you! Has your introversion dictated your behaviour in a negative way at a social event? How did your deal with it? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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  • Reply
    August 11, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    I had to leave my own husband’s 40th birthday party. There were going to be 28 people in attendance, 3 of whom I felt comfortable being myself around. As my anxiety rose, so did my desire to not be there anymore, combined with my husband swearing at me and his best friend cussing me out for crying, and his parents disapproving glances at my every move. So what did I do? I ran! Took £80 from hubby’s wallet, called for a 6 am cab (to slip out and not cause any more of a scene. Did I mention I was staying in a Lodge for 3 nights with people I’m not entirely comfortable around, including 2 who have bullied me in the past?), and took a 4 hour train journey home from Wales. 4 days before the event I asked my husband if he really wanted me there, if not, I’d gladly stay behind, my anxiety was already mounting. I think I’ll trust my instinct next time! Now my parents-in-law hate me and I’ll never see some of those people again (not entirely sad about that part, I must say…small talk, self loathing, excess alcohol and abuse were never really my thing.).

    • Reply
      Maz Durbin
      August 11, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Hi M, I’m so sorry you had such a terrible experience. I too get anxious before social events, you’re definitely not alone there. The trouble is we shut down just at the point when we need to be able to explain what it is we’re feeling. We’re overwhelmed by our anxiety, and stimuli like loud music, and the din of multiple conversations. And if we can’t explain, people don’t understand. Like you, I’m all for checking in with my instincts these days. It’s a powerful thing to be able to say no! Thank you so much for sharing your experience, here’s to better days!

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