We all have our things right? The situations that cause us anxiety or trigger panic? Strangely for me, one of those things is seeing someone I know in public. Well not exactly. If I know you very well then that’s no problem. It’s if I sort of know you, maybe I’ve met you a couple of times or just once even – you are my worst nightmare.
I don’t know what my problem is really. I think there must be a delay glitch between what I’m seeing with my eyes and retrieving the necessary info from my memory banks. We all forget the names to faces sometimes but there’s something about running into a person I’ve met when I’m out and about that throws my ability to recall into chaos.
My internal dialogue goes something like this:
Who is that, do I know them? Oh they saw me, quick look away like I didn’t see that they saw me. Now, keep thinking, who are they? Ok now look back slowly. Ok good, they’re not looking. Get a good look now. Did she visit my Playcentre or….. no wait, maybe her daughter is in Charlotte’s marching class? Oh god, why can’t I remember? Oh crap, she’s coming this way. Actually now that I’m looking, I don’t think I know her. But wait, she’s smiling at me. Oh crap, she does know me. Quick look distracted, okay now walk away. Don’t look back. Okay, she’s gone….phew. Oh my god! I know who she is now. Oh crap, we had that really interesting discussion at that kid’s birthday party. Oh no. We’re friends on Facebook. Oh, she’s probably thinking I’m crazy and she’d be right.
A dialogue very close to this happens inside my head often when I’m out and about.
Sometimes I have accidentally ignored people I know.
Sometimes I have stared to the point of creepy at people only to realise that I don’t know them.
Sometimes I have just waved or nodded at people who are actually people I would usually talk to on the street.
Sometimes I have rushed up to say hello and even hug people I actually didn’t know.
I’m not sure what this phenomenon is called but after talking to a number of people, I believe it’s actually quite common. I think perhaps we are often so busy and trying to get stuff done while we’re out that we’re looking at people with very distracted minds. Add the social pressure of ensuring we say hello and acknowledge people correctly and it’s a recipe for an anxiety-laden afternoon.
You might be reading this and thinking ‘what the hell is she going on about?’ Well if that’s you, then I admire your ability to recognise the people you’ve met when you’re out and about and respond accordingly. Even still though, if you don’t understand this problem and you know me, can I ask a favour? If you see me out and about with my kids or by myself, please come and say hello. I had a friend do this for me the other day and I was so grateful. I was busy rushing along looking down at my pram because it has a crazy wheel and I was trying not to crash it into people. She made the effort to rush up to me and say “hey Bron! It’s Jo.” I could have kissed her! Actually, Jo is someone I would have recognised but I was so distracted I didn’t see her and so I’m glad she made the effort to say hello. If you don’t feel confident enough to come and say hello because you’re shy or hell, you might have the same problem as me, flick me a message later and say “hey, wasn’t that funny today when we saw each other and didn’t say hello?” Because at the very least if we can laugh about the awkwardness of social etiquette then that would be something.
It’s uncomfortable, I’ll admit, to write a blog declaring that you are socially awkward sometimes. I did debate whether to write this piece or not. At the very least I hope that there are some people reading this who I’ve ignored awkwardly in public who might now understand what transpired. This is my blanket public apology to you, to all those I unintentionally ignore in the future and also to those strangers who received or will receive unwanted hugs from me in the future….sorry about that.