Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Woman in the Mirror


My mother used to say the worst thing about getting older was seeing her mother's face when she looked in the mirror.

No matter how pleasant your upbringing, there's resistance at the idea of becoming your parents. And lately, even though I'm not seeing my mother when I look in the mirror, certain aspects of her personality are creeping into mine.

My mother is a very shy person, uncomfortable at parties or meeting new people, while I've always been a social butterfly. But slowly, over time, I seem to have developed this aversion to social obligations--you know the ones. You feel obligated to go because you love the person who invited you, but that's the only reason you're going. And the person who invited you, since she is usually the host, will not have time to say much more than hello.

My mother would dread this situation, while a social butterfly would recognize the opportunity to meet new people--perhaps even strike up a friendship. Somehow, I've moved farther and farther away from who I used to be, and become my mother when faced with one of these "forced" invitations.

It is only when I'm dragged to one of these events, kicking and screaming, that I realize "Hey, I'm actually good at this! I can start up a conversation with almost anyone, and I always meet someone interesting." Why, then, all the dread? (My mother is also a champion worrier--she will agonize over things that never come to pass. Seems I've inherited that characteristic as well.) I'm in public relations, of all things--it's my job to mingle and network. I'm a journalist, used to making cold calls and convincing people who don't know me that they should talk to me. So why do I panic at the thought of making polite conversation with someone's co-workers, family, or friends?

It boggles the mind.

I've actually lost friends because I couldn't bear to attend their obligatory get-togethers, when it turned out they really needed me--and expected me to be there. You'd think I would have wised up by now.

So, adding to my pile of New Year's Resolutions is this--I'm going to say yes more often. While I can't possibly accept every invitation, I'm going to attend whatever social obligations I can without worrying or fretting about awkward silences and lousy conversations. If it ends up being an awkward evening, it's only one night out of my life, right? What's the worst that could happen?

Have you ever experienced the same aversion to social obligations? Any idea where it comes from? Anyone else becoming their parents? What's the worst thing that ever happened to you at an event?

I should add that I love my mother dearly, and there's many aspects of her personality I'd be proud to call my own...just not this one. :)

6 comments:

  1. Well put, Holli. I think many of us wouldn't mind becoming our parents IF we could decide which aspects of which parent we would acquire, and which aspects we would avoid!

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  2. Thanks for commenting, Graham. I agree! Why is it always the negative aspects we tend to acquire? Or are those just the ones we notice?

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  3. Being like our parents is a choice, a hard one because they spent a lot of time training us! ha ha but we can break the cycle if we choose, or make it better.

    The social obligation - I'll have to clarify my FB comment that was made without reading your post Holli. For me a friend inviting us over is something we do for fun, family stuff more often than not is in the 'not so much' category. But we go for three reasons: a) we care about them, b) we can help out (usually in the kitchen or something) or c) with the agreement that when WE are done being THERE we LEAVE! My hubby and I have even taken two vehicles so if we needed to get away and the other didn't we could make it work.

    Being social by choice or nature doesn't always make going to something an obligation. An obligation, for me anyway, is something I do for the relationship rather than the event. Christmas brunch with the once every five years cousin means not much to me, but to someone I love it means a lot. I do it for them.

    :-)

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  4. Thanks for your insight, MM. More often than not, the person who asks me to go is the one I'm going for. Sometimes, a little moral support is needed by the ones we love, and I admit--providing that support is worth the cost of a few lousy evenings.

    I'm just so damn protective of my limited spare time! :)

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  5. This strikes me as funny because another friend of mine just announced on her blog that she is making 2012 the year she attends NO parties or social interactions. Hah! She's too burned out, and she is extremely introverted and shy and anti-social. I will miss her at everything, but this is her choice and what she needs. I think it's nice you are making such a big effort to do what you feel will help you be happier!

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  6. Thanks for your comment, Michelle. I think I was influenced by all the Oprah shows over the years where people have to learn to say "no", particularly women. I got really good at it!

    I have a friend who can't say no to any invitation, so he ends up going to four or five parties a night sometimes. That's the other end of the spectrum.

    I'm not sure if this resolution will make me happy, but I'm sure it will make my friends and loved ones happier!

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