One of the things that marks my current job as different from my last is the preponderance of administratively condoned (enforced) social events.  They are, thankfully, on site.  I’ve attended them, even though they usually require hauling myself around a hilly and pedestrian congested part of my city.  I haven’t attended all of them, but many.  I’ve attended even when I couldn’t eat anything there, since these are work parties and the only way to mark a party at work from a meeting or other gathering is to add festive food.

We had one such event yesterday.  Thankfully, it was a Friday.  This is a good thing since for me, the parties are often physically difficult.  Even when they don’t require walking a distance that is a “nice walk” to everyone else but a death march to me, they involve doing physically taxing things like standing for a long time in a crowded and not well temperature controlled room.  I often feel unwell during and after.  Yesterday’s was a very short walk, just down the hall.  Of course I’ll go!  A chance to show my face and get counted as prosocial without having to worry about getting hurt just getting there is not something to pass up.

The invite announced that this would be a halloween themed event, including snacks, games, and pumpkin painting.  Well, at least I can do the pumpkin painting, so that’s nice, I thought.

I get there and I’m immediately greeted by two women who I know and am very distantly friendly with.  This distance is not my choice, it’s just there.  I’d like ways to move through it to more friendly, it’s nice to have friends at work.  But this is not happening.  We don’t work together much at all, and when we do it’s at quite big events where there isn’t much space or time for interacting.  So we’re politely friendly work people, not friends.  “Hey, Dyspatient wore something festive!” they announce, seeing my rust/orange sweater that I wore yesterday.  I made some remark that I intended to be nice, then pointed out that other people (including them) were wearing black…the sentiment was that not enough were.  Ok.  Then they moved off to more exciting and fun people who they were actually friends with.  I said hi to the few people I did have a history of chatting with, a very small set.  I stood on the edges of several conversations and tried to jump in…now please keep in mind that while I can be socially awkward, I am not generally. I’m funny, empathetic, a good listener, and more or less outgoing.  I’m not the life of the party,  but certainly not the death of it either.  I am, however, often not feeling well these days and standing and chatting boisterously as I used to is not an option.  I can do it for a few minutes but then I have to sit down and quiet down a bit.  Probably with a strange look on my face on account of the pain, dizziness, or nausea.   I think this is starting to come across to my coworkers as anti-social.  I mention the strange look on my face because I think that my countenance often betrays my not feeling well.  I have what I call the opposite of a poker face.  I’ve had friends and acquaintances remark that my general state of mind if not actual emotions are quite apparent on my face.  I try to keep this under wraps but it is just the way I am.  Big eyes.  I think that’s the key part of it.  If eyes are the window of the soul, then mine are bay windows offering a panoramic view of pain more often than not these days.  That makes people uncomfortable, even if they interpret it correctly…which I think few of them do.

So, now what?  I thought.  Now, under normal circumstances, I’d go browse the food table, maybe strike up a conversation with some unattached person who is over looking at the same food I am.  Except browsing the food is an exercise in futility for me.  Games?  The game was “pin the nose on the jack o’lantern”, and to be honest, not very popular.  I watched a person get blindfolded and spun around and though “oh hell no”.  Ah, pumpkin painting.  There, I can do that.  No one else is though.  Well, I’ll break ground on it.  Sure, what the hell.  One of the two remotely friendly coworkers saw me making my way to the pumpkins…. “Yeah!  Paint a pumpkin!” she called encouragingly.  Why not.

I’ll tell you why not.  Because I was the only person painting mother flipping pumpkins.

I’m referring to it as “awkward pumpkin painting”.  I was chatty with people who came by, suggesting that they also paint one.  One young intern either came over or was dispatched to the pumpkin painting station.  She was clearly a bit uncomfortable, I could tell because she’s a blusher.  We chatted while she painted herself a minimalist jack o’lantern themed pumpkin, then she was gone and it was back to just me.  A woman who is my boss’s boss’s boss (and the boss of everyone there) came by and said “Ah, you’re artistic….I can’t even draw”.  I said “Oh no, I can’t either.  The trick is you just have to not care.”  No pumpkin painting for her.

Well, I have two nicely painted pumpkins out of the deal.  I can’t shake the feeling that these events are becoming more and more of a chore though.  I’m inclined to bring a book to the next one, I mean since we’re reliving scenes from junior high school, I may as well fully embrace the part and return to being that friendly but quiet kid in the corner with her nose in a book.


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  1. Oh no! I have to admit I was laughing throughout that whole post. I was never great in social situations (rather like how you describe it), but the few times I’ve been in one in the last 1/2 decade or so have been abysmal.

    I don’t have a poker face either! People have told me that I scowl, which I really doubt, but what the hell do I have to smile about? I was doing my nightly walk in the hallways in here last week at whatever odd time (3 am or so) and this man appeared–creepy and I can’t see–and he told me to smile in a rude way, which is a comment I’ve heard too many times. I’m tired of putting on the smiley face, so done with that.

    Glad you got your pumpkins (and why are work events so juvenile?) and you should watch Awkward Black Girl if it’s still online. It’s all workplace-related and so, uh, awkward–and full of idiotic coworkers.

    • Oh it was funny. Left me in a bad mood, sort of a simmering thing, but I definitely see the humor in it. Did at the time too. You gotta laugh, right?

      I think we must have “resting bitch face”. Have you seen that video? Hilarious.
      I’ll look for awkward black girl!

      • Hahahaha. That’s totally me apparently! The scowler. Where do you find these things??? It’s not just my pain and crappy life, either. I have horrid TMJD and my jaw is full of knots so it hurts to smile and if I laugh too much, my whole body hurts. Maybe I need a T-shirt so people get it or something. Thanks for the vid! 🙂

        Oh, I got totally hooked on Awkward Black Girl earlier this year and I think it’s a show now, but no channels in here. Just Google it. The 1st season has some super awkward moments in the beginning episodes and then the job gets weirder and weirder. The music is so funny and the soft-talker guy is my fav. If I ever get a break from all the appts and then sleeping all weekend, I’ll have to watch the whole series again. Off to sleep now with my stupid, circadian rhythm disorder (need a shirt for that one too). :/

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