Dear Bitter Butch,
I’m a generally nice person. I don’t take a lot of crap and I don’t like people, but I’m not mean. I’m interesting and smart and I’m not totally unfortunate looking- but I have RBF- resting bitch face. Constantly, but worse when I’m tired, which is all the time. It has led to some awkward social situations– which honestly, all social situations are awkward for me.
When I say I don’t like people, I should clarify. I like persons and individuals just fine, but people as a whole aren’t my thing. I am more than willing and eager to make individual friends, but in order to do that, you have to deal with people, and my RBF makes me not approachable. Also, my social awkwardness doesn’t help. I think I’ve missed out on friendships because of it, but I’m not sure how to approach the problem. I don’t do bubbly and I’m generally serious. Half the time, I’m more than thrilled to just play Dr. Mario by myself rather than go to a Girls Night Out, but I wonder if maybe that’s not healthy.
So what do I do?
Let’s put one thing to rest right now: it is PERFECTLY healthy to prefer staying home and playing Dr. Mario by yourself rather than go to a Girls Night Out. Anyone who says otherwise is an Extrovert Propogandist who thinks extroversion = healthy and introversion = unhealthy, and that person is WRONG. Also an oblivious asshole, but that might be for another column.
The only way I see this as a problem is that while it’s perfectly healthy to stay home and game, it’s probably not the best way to make friends (unless it’s a multiplayer game. People who game together online can be friends. Meatspace is not the only friendspace.) So let’s address that.
First, I want to debunk some other assumptions you’re making here that I think are incorrect, as well, such as the idea that in order to make individual friendships you need to deal with ‘people,’ as you define them: people in groups.
I myself have many friends. Many good, close friends. I do not think I have ever in my entire life been on something called a ‘Girls Night Out.’ Honestly the idea of it makes me very very very nervous. So, number one: you can make friends without ever going to a Girl’s Night Out! I promise.
I want to address something else you said: that you are always tired. Why are you always tired? This is a serious question and it affects friendships. If a person is feeling overwhelmed by her life, or sleep deprived, or just exhausted (especially if groups of people exhaust you and you’re forcing yourself to go out into them?), it’s very hard to start and maintain friendships. I know it’s easy for me to say ‘take care of yourself before you assist others’ and whenever someone blithely suggests that this overworked insomniac ‘get more sleep,’ I want to punch them. But I think you should maybe spend some time thinking about what it is that makes you tired all the time and address it — not necessarily for the RBF, but for the ‘being in a good place to start friendships’ area. One quick fix: if you are under the impression that being out with ‘People’ with a capital P is something you should force yourself to do because it’s ‘healthier’ than staying at home, and it exhausts you — stop it. Good lord. Friendships should be sustaining, not draining.
You also gave me some other information that seems to be getting in the way of you seeing yourself as friendship material: that you are not ‘totally unfortunate’ looking, that you don’t do bubbly and you’re usually serious; that you’re socially awkward.
You do not have to be socially adept, gorgeous, and bubbly to make friends. If this were a requirement, most of us would not have friends. (Plus I’d want no friends because bubbly sets my teeth on edge, and serious makes me lean in.) Because while it’s not entirely true that there is someone for everyone, many many people value seriousness, introversion, and thoughtfulness in their friends.
So. I hope I have convinced you that you are perfectly healthy for being a serious introvert (even a socially awkward one; some of us find that very charming), and that you are good friend material.
Now I’m going to say something that you don’t want to hear: if you don’t like being in groups of people, if you look somewhat formidable (isn’t that better than RBF? “Somewhat Formidable?” I like that better), and you are socially awkward, you are going to have to make the first move.
I know this idea can be somewhat terrifying for socially awkward people, but hear me out: people you meet in your everyday life that seem interesting? If you find walking up to them and saying hi excruciating, especially in a group situation, you can contact them electronically and ask them if they’d like to get a drink/have lunch/come over and play Dr. Mario. That takes a lot of pressure off of both of you.
I have made several really great friendships with quiet, shy people this way: they approached me on FB or in an email after having met me somewhere (other parents of kids my age, writing retreats, we’re both members of the same online community) and asked me if I wanted to grab lunch. And we did, and we’re still friends years later.
Many, many people prefer one-on-one time with friends rather than large groups getting together. Giving someone one-on-one time is a wonderful gift. Although I like groups just fine, even this raving extrovert prefers one-on-one time with a dear friend.
Is there someone you know through your faith community you’ve always thought sounded interesting? A parent group? A hobby group? Work? (It’s okay to be friends with coworkers! It is!) A neighbor? Drop them an email or FB message. Do it! You can start some wonderful friendships that way.
You can also have good, sustaining friendships online. I have several friends whom I would consider my nearest and dearest whom I see maybe once a year. Some of them, I have never actually met IRL, or haven’t seen in decades. That does not make them any less dear to me. And, if the idea of gaming did not make me want to go join a hippy commune that has no electricity or running water, I’d be able to game while texting or emailing them, from my own home, in bliss.
There are all kinds of ways to make and sustain friendships. Don’t buy whatever narrative someone fed you about bubbly groups of women out on the town. Make your friendships and your friendship style fit your life, your hobbies, and your joy.
BITTER BUTCH aka Haddayr Copley-Woods is a queer, a cripple, a nerd, a mom to two kids with neurological differences, and has a truckload of opinions on everything including sex and relationships, parenting, disability issues, family relationships, work dynamics, gender/sexuality issues, and etiquette. You can reach her with all your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org