15 Days of Social Anxiety: Day 6. The Subtle Art of Getting Pissed.

If Day 5 was messy, I am at a the end of my vocabulary. This was worse. This produced 9 pages of notes. This took so long I didn’t even have time to write about it when I got home yesterday – although, truth be told, I spent only a few hours really attempting to approach strangers. I had a a lot of fun just doing my thing, too – but I will try not to make this an overly long diary entry.

I traveled several hours today, hoping the distance from home would make this all easier. It did not. When I get out of my train, I have spent the last three hours reading or listening to podcasts – not something that prompts me to be more social. I leave the city’s central station and rethink my goals: approach or compliment 15 strangers and approach 5 girls. Damn, this is going to be hard. But there is no turning back. It is 11:05 am and I did not come here to jerk off and watch my favorite dramedy series (which, if you’re interested, is suits).

So, after being in my head for another quarter-hour, I ask a man where the townhall is… Which, understandably, makes him amused. Who doesn’t find the townhall? Who cares. His accent and friendly attitude instantly elevate my mood. Wasn’t so hard after all. There’s just one problem: I don’t care for the town hall. I may care for my bible friends, but they’re not here. So I ask an old lady and a man smoking something for a nearby park. The latter gives me a recommendation. Crossing a bridge, I try to formulate a compliment for style in my head. A man with a really fresh tie comes around – no, no, not now. I do it anyway. I haven’t yet understood the mechanism that sometimes makes me do these things robotically while I am thinking how much I don’t want to do it. It’s almost as if a part of my subconscious wrestles with the part that obviously tries to get me to not do it (and is damn effective at that).

The little off-beat park is amazing, and I snack on some cashews. I have a problem, though: I need to pee. So, I ask the internet and the internet responds: there’s a public library. Why haven’t I come up with that by myself, dammit? I’m going there. I ask a few people for the way. Not that I wouldn’t find it, but directions are too good a reason for approaching to let them go to waste. Eventually, I find it. This thing is huge. And I love books. So, I stay.

At 2 pm, I have finished Atul Gawande’s “Checklist Manifesto.” Time to get movin’ again. While descending a staircase on my way out, I see a pretty girl coming right at me… No chance. I am in my head from reading. Dammit. Such a good chance. I start walking through the city, disheartened, frightened. I give a man whom I pass in a side street a compliment for his amazing hat. The busy pedestrian zone intimidates me. I’m now hungry – let’s head to another, more central park.

2:20 pm. Eating cashews and listening to the woman on the bench right to me complain about some stuff. When I come back, after 20 minutes of walking in a direction that proves to be a dead-end, she’s still complaining. At 2:55, I set my intent on finding girls. The few remaining approaches/compliments can be done in 30 seconds. The girls – not. While I am amazed by a guy playing didgeridoo, I realize something: I am not afraid of rejection. In fact, I want it because it gives me a quick way out of interactions. I am afraid of judgment. That’s why I most favorably approach people standing on the side of the pedestrian zone and don’t even think of walking up to groups of girls. I definitely need to do more things in the realm of clapping/lying on the floor to lessen that fear.

At 3pm, a silver lining occurs: I see my good friends smiling at me, hoping I check out their free bible courses. I walk away from them. Some day, I might ask them if they’re stalking me. And while I consider turning around for that very reason, another silver lining: A perfect candidate passes me. I can’t see her face – but I sure as hell see her backside. Oh Jesus. You have heard my cries. There’s only a handful people in the street we are just walking down, her a little bit faster than me. But let me tell you who doesn’t give a shit about my cries: my brain. My heart starts racing and I do my best to muster at least some courage – no way. I make a note about it. It’s almost as if I want her to disappear.

And that’s what she does. So, relieved, I ask a guy of Arabic origin for directions. He doesn’t speak the language very well, but points me to the riverside. I am always intimidated by people of Arabic origin – you see, they don’t have the best image here and I can’t help but be influenced by that a bit. As much as I am open-minded, I won’t deny that subconsciously, I am scared of them all. Anyway, there’s a bigger problem: She is standing at a tram stop, with not even half a dozen people around. I stop and pause for a moment. I have to do this. Just directions. I walk towards her, the fear almost overwhelming me. I haven’t had that before. Most likely because I’ve never had the balls. She’s faced away from me, so I make sure to walk around her and approach from an angle of 90 degrees maximum. She is damn pretty, although probably about two to three years older than me (which, by the way, is exactly my target demographic). She looks at me like I’m a little puppy – I’ve heard of that before. What a beautiful look. I tell her that I just want to know directions – and with a smile usually reserved for four-year-olds and the aforementioned puppies, she tells me the right direction. I’d have ended up somewhere in the suburbs otherwise. I thank her and leave. I know she’s looking at me, and I’m pretty sure the people around are, too. But I don’t care. I grin devilishly and look toward the sky. I haven’t suddenly started to believe in God – I’ve regained faith in myself.

Now reasonably fly, I give a guy thumbs-up for his visible soccer team affiliation and intimidate a refugee on a bench by telling him that the book he’s reading – Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari – is a banger. I cannot, however, find any lone girls to make my state even better. And this is a theme that will continue as I am pretty much making laps through the pedestrian zone and its side streets (where I feel more comfortable approaching), spotting only girls who are with their family, boyfriends or female friends. The two solo ones I spot, I let pass. They’re not enough. I don’t do it in both cases. And by 4 pm, I’m severely pissed. So, I take a break and contemplate where to best meet solo girls, because it doesn’t seem to be in the city on a summer’s holiday Friday afternoon. Makes sense. What kind of hot girl would be sitting in a park or library at this time, and that alone? I wouldn’t say none, but I am also not exactly sure the number comes close to one.

Anyway, at 5 pm, I’m calling it a day. I know that this setback isn’t the end – after all, it shows me the necessity of getting really uncomfortable. I’d just hoped it would all pretty much fall into my lap after the last two days. Well, it doesn’t. But I figured out how to be more strategic about this: Warming up in side streets and with everyone, then carrying that momentum on into the pedestrian zone, and at some point focusing onto girls there. And I would do good in thinking about where to find them beforehand. And I need to do more anti-judgment exercises.

Which, by the way, I do. At 6 pm, while creeping through the central station’s main hallway, I finally put off my bagpack and lay down on the floor. And although my head starts getting red fast and EVERY passerby is staring at me, I’m having a moment of deep peace. It isn’t nearly as bad as my mind made it seem. The only thing getting me up are two security guys who ask whether they can do anything for me and amicably dismiss my asking whether I could stay where I am. But who cares. One of them winks. The journey has just begun again.

NOTE for followers (I love you): I will not continue this for quite some time as  family and school will not allow me to allot several hours per day for traveling and purposeful awkwardness. I will, however, pick this up again at some point.

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