It’s not that I’ve been having a streak of bad luck generally, but when it comes to trying to do anything social I feel like something goes wrong every time. This evening, I found myself sitting alone in a diner pushing a bit of chicken salad around my plate trying to fight back tears and only partly succeeding in so far as I didn’t make a total spectacle of myself. I’ve asked myself this several times over the past few years, but how did it ever come to this? I used to be a normal person. Sure, I didn’t have loads of friends, but I wasn’t friendless either.
I know moving around one too many times in a large part of the problem. I’m far from anti-social, but I’m not gregarious enough to make a new set of friends every three to five years, and it gets harder as you get older. I’m just prickly enough and contentious enough that I don’t hit it off with just anyone, or even most people. Still, although it feels like bad luck, there might be a more general societal problem going on. Every once in a while, I see an article about how there’s an epidemic of loneliness. It might be true because I don’t think there’s any especially unique about me. A few months ago, when I was recently returned to New York, I tried searching on the internet for ideas about how to meet people, not sexual or romantic partners, just people. Most of the ideas weren’t appropriate to someone my age, or I might be the oldest person in the room if I went. Other ideas people have suggested, like taking a class, are not inherently bad ideas, but they’re both expensive and time-consuming. I’ve tried them in the past. You might sign up for a class that runs over several weeks. There might be about a dozen or two people in the class most of whom you don’t wind up getting along with well enough to see again after the class is over. At that rate, it could take years to make a friend.
So, I belong to a social club. Every Friday they get together for dinner, or so I thought. They also have other things like trivia night, but I thought dinner might be less threatening. Now, the newsletter comes irregularly. After all, it’s a volunteer operation, so it’s really hard to complain about that. They also have a website and the website seemed to indicate that the Friday night dinners were still a thing. This was the first event I was going to attend since returning to New York. So, I just went to the place they have been meeting for the past several months. There was a phone number in the old newsletter, so I wrote it down just in case.
When I got to the diner, there was no one there. Since the time had been for 5:30 and it was now past 6:00 I figured that it wasn’t because I was too early. I phoned the number and the voice on the other end confirmed the time and the place and said, “I guess it just sort of petered out.”
I’ve been on a really strict diet the past week and hadn’t eaten much today, so I stayed and had dinner anyway, which is how I wound up sitting alone picking at a plate of chicken salad and fighting back tears. It’s a smallish thing to cry over in and of itself, but I’ve been trying to chip away at this loneliness problem for several years now and I’m starting to get discouraged.
I’m some level, I guess it’s just bad luck.
It’s Friday night and I’m sure there are other things to do, but I’m not sure I have the emotional elasticity to try them tonight.