If you can’t tell already, I grew up lagging way behind everyone else in the social curve. I can’t say I regret it, even though I struggled to fit in. I’ve always been in la la land, never properly connecting with the rest of society. I played soccer, drew all the time, was a band geek, daydreamed, played my video games, and not too much else. No drugs, no underage drinking, no crazy parties, no law breaking or the likes. I was a goodie goodie and, I guess, I still am.
The only lawbreaking I do is having a lead foot and the occasional jaywalking. My thievery days were headed off at age five, where I stole bubblegum from a grocery store. My mother said I pulled out the package after we exited, and proudly said, “Tada!” as I showed her my pink prize. She then marched me back inside and made me apologize, on top of return the gum. From then on I’ve been thoroughly convinced that, if I step one toe out of line, I’ll get caught. I can’t get away with anything. Seriously. If I roll a stop sign, a cop is gonna be there to pull me over. So how do I get away with speeding? I just go with the flow of traffic.
I had plenty of friends growing up but I could never handle any more than one or two good ones at a time. More than that overwhelms me to this day. It’s just who I am socially. I think, if I’d achieved what my perception of what “popular” is, I would’ve been unhappy. I don’t care to be the center of attention. I’m the kind of person who likes to sit back in one corner of the room and observe everything going on. If someone strikes up a conversation with me, I’ll happily oblige. Other than that, I’m apt to open a book and start reading a party and let everyone else enjoy themselves. I don’t mean it as a rude gesture. Parties with a zillion people take me out of my comfort zone and I’d rather look contented with a book in hand than sitting there, looking like a deer in headlights.
Another reason I was never up to my ears in friends is my being behind in the social curve. It singled me out, made me the pariah, and a target for bullying. It used to hurt so much to think about it, but now that I understand why I got picked on so much, it’s understandable and easy to shrug off.
Growing up, I was dismal at reading facial expressions, body language, and I didn’t understand sarcasm, so I missed a lot of social cues. To this day I still struggle with sarcasm. I’m almost always in serious mode, so this makes me quite gullible, and presents my friends with lots of opportunities to see how far they can drag out a joke before I catch on. Oh, the endless comedy at my expense!
I’ve learned facial expressions and body language, though, and thus fit in much better—never perfectly, since I have an incurable habit of daydreaming, but more than enough to have a circle of friends I’m content with.
Bearing all that social awkwardness in mind, online gaming where you typed to communicate served as a fantastic buffer against my oddities. I was free to be me, flaws and all, and this freedom became an addiction. WoW became my drug, its side effects being a severe lack of exercise and becoming anti-social with face-to-face people. If I didn’t have work or homework, I would play WoW from the moment I got up to right before I went to bed. I wanted nothing more than to hide in my private virtual escape. I was free to be me in a world called Azeroth, free to pretend I could wield powerful magic spells, defeat big bad guys, and forget about the painful side of being human. If people picked on or harassed me, I added them to the ignore list and returned to my happy bubble. On top of all that, I lived in my mother’s basement while going to college full time and working part time in one customer service job or another, usually waiting tables.
I got into waiting tables because I was told it was good, quick money, and it was. I could easily make 100-120 bucks in four hours at my local Ground Round. Yes, I’m shy, but that was too bad while waiting tables. I pretended I wasn’t and did everything I could to make my customers feel welcome and enjoy their meal out. My shyness often reared its awkward head at the start of my greeting spiel, causing me to mumble or speak too fast, and have to take a deep breath and start over after a quick apology. I don’t remember anyone being unforgiving for being nervous.
It took me a while to realize I had a terrible addiction to a video game. I’d stopped buying new games every few months, focusing solely on WoW. To this day my game buying has slowed but it’s more because I have a day job and need to make a living. But it’s all good. Gaming is a great way to unwind and I don’t want to imagine life without video games.
I weaned myself off my addiction by convincing myself that WoW would still be there a few hours later and I wouldn’t miss anything important if I did something else instead. It took months upon months to assert a healthy balance and now I can’t sit still that long any more, but that’s a good thing. I rediscovered how wonderful the real world is, and how beautiful it is to spend time face-to-face with good company. I even went so far as to book a flight that carried me over two thousand miles to a WoW friend, whom I’ll introduce a little later in this book.
My social inferiority meant I was also a dunce in the romance department. I didn’t have to be, though. I’m fairly pretty—not supermodel stunning, but I have healthy proportions, a good smile, intense dark eyes, long of leg, and a healthy dose of self confidence. I wasn’t always confident in my looks. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I heard a man call me beautiful, and by then I didn’t know what to do with the compliment. I grew up hiding in hoodies, baggy clothes, and a soccer uniform, along with not making much eye contact. It took me years to unlearn the bad habit of always assuming I’m physically unappealing. Those stupid, self-hating thoughts need a regular dose of beating down, but at least I’m far more comfortable with who I am, along with my physical appearance.
Even though video games meant I was surrounded by guys all the time, I still didn’t know how to go about dating one. I’d met so many interesting people on WoW and, with sexual frustrations being constantly buried under workaholic mode, I was reaching the end of my tolerance for staying single. Social outcast me had a whopping one boyfriend in high school, and for a whopping one month. Stupid me broke up with the kid because I had a crush on another kid, who only liked my attention, and nothing more. I was a mere stroke to his ego. I severed myself from a gentleman who had fallen hard for me. It wasn’t until years later, when I was working in a Kohl’s with said gentleman’s mother, that I found out I’d really broken his heart when I broke up with him. What makes it worse is that he’d gotten a week-long OSS for punching a kid at lunch. The whole story, which I found out through the mother, was that he’d punched the kid for making fun of him for going out with me.
Since I was tall, athletic, and didn’t squeeze my toned soccer girl curves into skimpy outfits, many of my peers believed I was a lesbian.
Dear god, I’m the queen of awkward sometimes.