Day 7518 | Day 7562 | Day 7579

"It's like I was playing some kind of game, but the rules don't make any sense to me. They're being made up by all the wrong people—I mean no one makes them up, they seem to make themselves up." —Ben Braddock, The Graduate

When I was 12 my parents decided that I didn't have enough friends and that I was going to have to call up a friend to play every weekend. Even in my pre-teenage years this struck me as a bit too much micro management of my life, so I refused and was punished accordingly. This continued for several weeks with my parents trying to coerce me and my choosing the punishment instead as the preferable option. In a rare moment, my force of will actually won out when my parents realized that trying to get me to be social is akin to trying to 'teach' left handed people the 'correct' hand to write with.

One of the difficulties to maintaining friendships when you hate social activities is not being able to do anything with your friends. Every social situation has a unique set of unspoken ground rules--how much interaction is required, what topics of conversation are appropriate, what activities are expected etc. When in a structured environment, I find socialization possible. These environments provide a framework for the appropriate times to talk and to be quiet, subjects to talk about, and duration of the event. But when in an unfamiliar situation or environment I find myself completely ignorant of the rules. Unlike most people, I do not memorize the etiquette of various events meaning that I have to relearn the rules each time. Because of this, I tend to default to dispassionate observation in most social situations.

On the occasions when I do manage to convince myself to do things with my friends I have to dedicate most of my brainpower to fighting the urge to run. Spending hours at a time in a state of dread is fairly unpleasant, so my normal policy has been to decline any and all invitations to do anything. Want to go to Cedar Point one weekend over the summer? Nope. Come over to my place and chill? No thanks. Hang out downtown, share a few beers, watch a movie? Not gonna happen.

Because the majority of my socialization is catalyzed by the structured environment of the classroom, I become almost completely non-social when outside of school. This suits me as I mostly hate social interaction anyway (mostly due to the fact that 'social interaction' in my peer group is synonymous with binge drinking followed by property damage). This, compounded with the constant feeling of dread and general lack of interest in activities of any kind, makes 'hanging out' pretty low on the list of things I like to do.

Which is why for the last few weeks I've been struggling with the dilemma of what to do with my friends who continue to try to prompt me into 'hanging out'—an idiom so nebulous and repeated so often that it becomes meaningless. In my experience 'hanging out' usually entails sitting around going "What do you want to do?" "I dunno, what do you want to do?" "I dunno. I'm hungry, let's eat," then proceeding to watch several excruciating hours of bad cable. This, to me, is the epitome of wasting your life and I say that having spent most of my waking hours during the last several days playing Minecraft. I 'hung out' with people once last summer to fulfill a promise to a friend, an overwhelmingly negative experience that only crystallized my resolve to never 'hang out' with people again.

The easiest way to do this is to avoid getting invitations altogether by going completely incommunicado: cell phone off, email and Facebook unchecked for weeks at a time, door unanswered. Plausible deniability. Of course, this is immature and avoident behavior and doesn't address the underlying cause of the issue but it remains the lesser of evils before me. I could accept the invitations, locking myself into doing something which I do not want to do for an indeterminate amount of time, all the while having to pretend I'm enjoying myself. I could decline, distancing myself and sabotaging the relationship in the long term. Or I could not reply at all, coming off as, at worst, unreliable and flaky.

I'm surrounded by asymmetrical relationships. Giving the amount I expect to receive is not an option when my needs are so out of sync with the mean. So I will continue to ignore my friends until they become acquaintances, and acquaintances until they become strangers again. Inertia is the word, carrying me down the contours of the path of least resistance. I'm probably not ok with this.

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