Substitute Socializing – Monday March 14th

One thing I really like about Facebook is that it allows me to participate in society while simultaneously cultivating my agoraphobia. The last time I went under the radar was in 2003. I lived in a second floor apartment in Lake View and my fellow restaurant workers liked to stop by at all hours of the night. My dignity would politely excuse itself while I crouched on the floor below the windows, hoping that my friends, who were trying to hang out with me because they like me, don’t see the light change under the door and suspect I was home. I had to take a lot of heat from my friends and family members who disapproved of my interior life style.


Then came social networking. Facebook could make any shut-in look like they’re living it up! I can spend 6 hours a day thinking of one hilarious Facebook post, and feedback from my on-line friends is extremely satisfying. In real life face-to-face conversation I have to think of dozens of clever things to say, and tailor my follow up jokes to the persons reaction. It’s very intimidating. The amount of invitations that fill my Facebook in-box make me think that at any moment, if I wanted to leave my apartment, there are dozens of exciting events at which I would be a desired guest.


Winter is a very special time in the lives of the socially anxious. We have a legitimate excuse not to leave the warmth and comfort of our homes. We work longer hours in the winter because we’re afraid to put our coats and hats and scarves back on. But on Facebook, at least one person I know is on a tropical vacation. I can stare at their photos and vow that I’ll go some where next year for sure! Then I’ll lift my spirits by researching topical vacation locales.


Saturday I looked out the window and watched St. Patrick’s Day revelers walk back and forth in front of my apartment. “Wooo Hooo” they said and waved green feather boas. I pressed my forehead against the glass and felt my dog lean against me. There was a very short time in my life when I thought it was fun to press into the crowds of drinking-holiday enthusiasts. Now I scour the cable menu for documentary style shows about misfits, or hoarders, or drug addicts, or people who keep wild animals as pets. When I can’t watch anymore TV I fantasize about driving across the country with Tom G and Ramona and no schedule.


I guess the bad thing about Facebook is that it is a constant reminder of how grounded I am. Still here in Chicago! Still an angst ridden chubster with more neuroses then motivation! That’s is boring. At least the grief was stunningly dramatic, a constant force to be reckoned with. I feel like a retired stuntman now.


There’s a saying about how in order to be bored you have to be a boring person. I think that’s very true. In fact most of my agoraphobia comes from a reluctance to socialize with myself. I’m always there, cracking lame jokes or acting awkward or eating too many appetizers. I’m so sick of my stories. I’m sick of saying things that show I can see the bright side. I really do want to tell every single person I meet what happened, if for no other reason then to help prevent them from saying something stupid and making me wish I hadn’t left my house. But that makes people uncomfortable, especially when I pull out my strange smile.


It will be spring soon, and I’ll make myself get out and enjoy the city. I’ll walk Ramona and take pictures and be glad I live in Chicago. But every once and a while I’ll let myself really believe in a writers’ community out West that needs a self-conscious comedy writer, a good natured lawyer, and an orange mutt.

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