To live together in the world means essentially that a world of things is between those who have it in common, as a table is located between those who sit around it, the world, like every in-between, relates and separates men at the same time. --Hannah Arendt
I need to admit something: I don't like parties.
This doesn't mean that I don't like people, and it doesn't mean I can't have fun at a party. I really like the idea of a party, but when it comes right down to it, I have a hard time just being a person at a party. I want to break this down, right here, with you. And I want your feedback too, so feel free to answer the questions as you read along.
I don't like parties because I am awkward. I don't know what to do with my body--how to stand or where to sit. I don't know how to dance to music I don't like. I don't know whether to talk small or big. I don't know whether to hug people or high five them or just nod as I walk by or pretend to not see them at all. I have tried all of these things, and they are all equally awkward. (Until I get drunk, at which point my awkwardness becomes adorableness, all of my moves amazing, hugs for everyone.)
Let me get one thing straight. Awkwardness is not a bad thing. Awkwardness has hidden talents. Awkwardness wallows in empathy. Awkwardness is hyper-vigilant about meaning well. Awkwardness is self aware to a fault. Awkwardness is vulnerable. Awkwardness longs for intimacy but doesn't know quite how to connect.
You probably don't realize how awkward I am. But that's probably because you have only ever known me from across a piece of furniture. Somehow the furniture--whether a dining table or a bar or a store or kitchen counter--provides me with the context I need to keep my awkwardness at bay. Here I am. There you are. We are separate but have come together around this piece of furniture, and because of it, I know what I am supposed to do. I know where to put my body. I know how to communicate. Furniture creates context, and that context gives an introvert a break from having to constantly reorient herself to her surroundings.
For a very long time, it was part of my professional practice to throw a party at least once a month. If I do the math correctly, that is so many parties. Too many for an awkward introvert...but it was okay because I had a counter to stand behind! I had a job to do. I had a role to perform. I could engage with people as much or as little as I needed. I could lean on the transactional nature of my business as a crutch to keep from being weird (usually). I could hide behind the furniture. I could always "look busy". Lately though, the counter is gone. (Maybe it's time to change the photo on my home page?)
I thought that having some space from the counter would cause it to just fade away...but it's quite the opposite. I'm so curious, now that I have a tiny bit of perspective, about how comfortable that role was (my entire life) and how I rarely challenged it--to the point that the idea atrophied into being a part of who I am as a person. And it has me wondering: am I really a person who needs to have a piece of furniture attached to the front of me in order to feel safe at a party? Do other people feel like they have big heavy objects attached to them? Does it have to be this way?
What I know for sure is that I would way rather throw a party than go to one. But as I wake up to the truth of my own awkwardness, I think it might be time for me to challenge that assumption. Could I design a new kind of party for introverts? Could I design a new kind of furniture that makes connecting easier? Could I design a new kind of business that sells the magic of awkwardness?