Fortresses of solitude
I have a very social job.
I work in customer service and hospitality. That’s the nice, polite way of putting it. It’s one of the least demeaning and aggravating jobs I’ve had over the years, and the pay is actually pretty good, all things considered. Still I spend all hours of the day and night, dealing with the stupid, faceless, selfish masses of the greater Fort Worth area. Watching them drink overpriced, glitter-named alcoholic beverages and shovel food into their faces, with little understanding of how that food arrived to their tables in the first place. Every day I deal with a building filled with people with varying degrees of emotional damage and personal dysfunction, because the restaurant industry only runs on a very specific range of personality types. They’re pleasant but largely (endearingly) strange, and sometimes a little creepy, and all of them drink and smoke too much. It just comes with the territory.
So does my uniform smile, my uniform 80% black attire, my uniform politeness and civility.
After work, I come home to full house of people working odd shifts. They come and go at random hours. There’s little privacy, little solitude there, with somebody always arriving and leaving and entering without knocking. Having already spent all day staring at strange people at work, I listen to the shenanigans of the people I live with. Their fights, their jokes, their back-biting and their indiscretions. Emotional dysfunction on top of emotional dysfunction. So when somebody stops me on way leaving work or pokes their head in my room, to ask me to go out for a drink, I usually just shrug.
“Nah,” I say, my pajamas on, a drink already in hand, “I’m fine.”
People think it’s my social anxiety, or that I’m just lonely. There must be some kind of little flaw, under all the other little flaws that keep me smiling and faking politeness to my strange coworkers and all our stupid, wall-eyed customers. The reality is I get tired of looking at other people. I get tired of putting on faces and acts and uniforms and being around everybody else. Sometimes I just need to be alone.
Other writers don’t really talk to me. I’m surprisingly okay with that.
I’ve spent the last few years waging tiny, private wars against morons on the internet. You know who I’m talking about. The types of writers who masturbate over magnetic fridge poetry in 140 character drivel about “the writer’s life.” The types of writers who equate their work to a mystical adventure or a magical gift, to be shared with the hungry masses. The types of writers who talk incessantly about their words, but don’t have a lot to show for themselves past that. They can fill up a Twitter or Facebook feed like nobody’s business, though.
I don’t like these people. I don’t want to deal with these people. I didn’t talk to them at school when they were sitting around class. Always smug up in the front row, patting themselves on their backs for the odd original thought they had, when they weren’t following the instructor around begging for his or her approval. And yet these are the people that now send me endless follow and friend requests, and private messages about reviewing their books, and leave grandstanding notes on personal status updates to promote themselves on my social networking platforms of choice.
These special snowflakes offend me on a personal level.
So when people ask me why I don’t participate in the writing community at large, I need only point them to any masturbatory update on my Twitter feed. I’m fine with staying in my corner, with the small group of smart, talented artists and authors I’ve cultivated there. The larger sea of writers doesn’t interest me in the slightest.
If that makes me antisocial, so be it.
I was never good at parties. I can appreciate them, and occasionally have a good time, but I’ve never enjoyed them very much. I don’t like bar-hopping and clubbing, either. It’s all noisy and stupid and full of people acting like drunk children, who feel entitled to have fun at the cost of their friends’ personal safety and enjoyment. (I’ve had a few raw experiences in the club scene, but I won’t go into it now.) It’s not that I don’t like going out, because I do. I love going out for dinner and a few drinks with friends. I also love going to the movies, or to a concert, or to the museum. Or to the book store, or a music festival, or an art show, or the zoo.
Man, I love the zoo.
You know what? Fuck it all. Let’s just go to the zoo.
When I tell people I spend a lot of time in, they look at me strangely.
“But you’re so funny,” they say in a state of disbelief. “You’re so much fun to be around.”
Because apparently if you enjoy spending your Tuesday nights in your pajamas, watching Sherlock on Netflix and talking about it with your girlfriend Melissa, there must be something wrong with you. Even if that same Tuesday night involves a stiff drink — or the occasional magic brownie, after all, you’re not a savage — people can’t even conceive of it.
“Well, I enjoy going out,” I always say. “Just not with people like you.”
That usually shuts them up.
Today I have to go to work. It’s Sunday, which means everybody’s going to be out with their families. Having a good time, enjoying themselves with their friends and loved ones. After work, I’m going to go get something to eat at my favorite restaurant just down the way, and finish a book I’m reading. I’ll be alone. When I get home, I’m going to put my pajamas on, have a drink, and put on the television. I might call my girlfriend if she isn’t busy. I might not.
Either way, I’m going to have a fantastic time.