Somehow that old saying seems less cliché when you’re specific about the fish that’s out of the water, am I right? At any rate, this was me last night. I accompanied my husband and a couple of people from his company and their spouses to a networking function.
Networking. That word alone can make many an introvert (me included) break out in hives. And if the word doesn’t do it, these photos might:
I mean, just look at all the people. I don’t know ANY OF THESE PEOPLE!
How does a painfully shy, socially awkward, total misfit (for more on this, please see this post) survive a function involving an enormous banquet hall full of strangers? Well, booze helps.
The good news is that there was a lot of free booze. It was a hospitality industry fundraiser featuring wines of Chile and twenty of Vancouver’s top chefs. Needless to say, the food was incredible.
Upon arrival, each guest was given a wine glass for the purpose of tasting. I clutched this with both hands like a lifeline, so that solved the ever present problem of what to do with my hands.
The other good news is we were at the function for my husband and the people with him to do some networking. I didn’t have to mingle if I didn’t want to. And trust me, I didn’t want to. I wanted to hide in the coatroom and have someone bring me wine and food at regular intervals.
Unfortunately, this was not an option.
Still, it could have been worse. My job was simply to be there and be supportive. I can do that, as long as no one expects me to make meaningful conversation with strangers. At last night’s function no one expected that of me. My husband got to do all the talking and schmoozing, and all I had to do was be his arm candy.
My husband is the founder of the company, which is just weeks away from launching. The people with us were: the company’s CFO (the only person I actually did know prior to the function) and his brilliant wife who’s an ESL teacher; and a superstar sales rep and her husband who’s a master sommelier.
I want to take a moment to talk about the sommelier. I’ve never met one of these before. It was very interesting. Not long ago, I watched a film called “Somm“, which tells the story of a handful of young sommeliers preparing to take the notoriously difficult master sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world. And here was a guy who’d actually passed that test, a legitimate master sommelier right in our midst! I kept thinking how cool it must be to know that much about wine. He would go off and taste stuff, and then come back to the group and say things like, “They have a wonderful Burgundian Pinot Noir that you really should try” and somehow it didn’t sound pretentious when he said it. It was kind of amazing. I could never say such a thing without sounding like a pompous ass.
Anytime I find myself in a situation where I have to be “on” in a roomful of people, awkward things inevitably happen. I’ll give you an example.
I have a unique fashion sense, I guess you could say. I enjoy wearing things I have made myself, either knitted or sewn. I like thrift store, vintage finds. I love the idea of not buying new stuff (see this post, if you’re interested in that sort of thing too). I also like handmade, artsy gifts from loved ones.
One such gift is this wonderful pendant that one of my sisters and my mom got for me at an art gallery in Peachland, BC (see photo below). It’s a tiny empty ceramic jar called a “dream vessel”.
I was wearing this treasure last night to accent my outfit, which consisted of black, flowy pants that I designed and sewed myself, an asymmetric black top, and a colourful knitted scarf thrown carelessly (to show how much I just don’t care!) over one shoulder.
The previously mentioned superstar sales rep, after we were introduced to each other, pointed to my pendant and asked, “what’s in the little jar?” I looked at that gorgeous, perfectly put-together creature, and with a smile far too big for the situation, and in my quiet *oh god, people are looking at me* voice, I said simply, “Dreams.”
Yes. That really happened. I tell you, I shouldn’t even go out in public.
Miraculously, she didn’t skip a beat. She said, “how wonderful! Hey, that makes me think of a movie I saw recently.” She went on to tell me how beautiful and tear jerking this movie was, and I responded with, “Sounds great! Right up my alley. But it will have to wait a while because my dad just died.”
You know when you open your mouth and words come out and you just want to grab them and shove them back in? Seriously, next time I might just krazy glue my mouth shut before going out.
At least I can say that the night didn’t get any more awkward than that. In fact, it ended up being somewhat bearable. The people in our little group were cool, smart, interesting, and I will even go so far as to say they were lovely – each of them in their own unique way. I am actually looking forward to seeing them again.
But for now, it’s time to recharge. Alone. In a peaceful place. (For me, “alone” means the husband and dog are there, too, but that’s the way I like it). And maybe just an episode or two of Brooklyn 99. (I love that show!)
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t beat myself up for these awkward moments. I am an introvert. Awkwardness just sort of comes with the territory. And I have learned to embrace being different, being an introvert, and I’ve learned to laugh at myself (kindly and with love) for the weird moments, and to understand that it’s ok to be uncomfortable in crowds. That’s just me.
How about you? What makes you feel like a fish out of water?