Tag Archives: Socially Awkward

More The Thing

In the first panel a person says "Looks like you're feeling more the thing!" And cartoon-me says "How did you know?" In the next panel cartoon-me has turning into a towering, dripping, multi-headed monster, a la 'the thing'.


One time after hardly sleeping for many, many days and nights (ah, the heady days of chronic insomnia plus university assignments and poor time management), I decided on a whim that The Thing (the 80s one) was absolutely, unbeatably amazing. As I was pretty much delirious from exhaustion, I figured it was completely reasonable to force the friends I just happened to be with at the time to watch it. Even though it wasn’t their sort of thing at all. Even though they told me this. Repeatedly. 

I fell asleep a few minutes in, and they sat next to my unconscious body through over and hour and a half of dripping vagina monsters out of politeness.

They’re still my friends. I don’t know why.

(That story doesn’t have anything to do with anything, not even this comic. But it’s true.)

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P.S. Go read The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. YOU’RE WELCOME.

(For a generous definition of ‘threat’, anyway)

introverted triple threat

“So, what do you do?”: An Apology

My apology comes on two fronts. First, I’m sorry to people who ask me this question.

You don’t really know me and you’re trying to maintain conversation through the inevitable lull. You pull out the old faithful “so, what do you do?” expecting a good fifteen minutes where you can just coast on me nattering about how being a vet or a lawyer or a real estate agent or whatever is just great and is really taking off for me right now and blah blah blah. You probably feel a bit good about yourself for offering me a hefty turn in the conversational spotlight.

But it doesn’t go that way. Because I’m not a vet or a lawyer or a real estate agent. I’m not even a whatever. 



And even if you have the guts (and I love these people, please have the guts) to keep the conversational ball rolling without changing the subject or jumping out the nearest window (and even though I don’t love the people who do this, I can sympathise), it doesn’t get any better.


Because I end up sad-bombing the conversation.



Second, I am sorry for asking that question.

Because I know it’s bad. And I can see it in a person’s face when that was the wrong question. They go very still while they mentally navigate the minefield ahead, looking for the best route, or they give me this quick, sad look like I’ve betrayed them in some unforgivable way. It’s the same look our pet Jack Russel gave us whenever we filled the plastic baby’s bath and got out the dog-shampoo.

Maybe because they are worried that I won’t think what they do is good enough. Maybe they think they should be doing more. Maybe they just don’t want to sad-bomb me.


And I always want to fix it.




But I just met the person, or don’t know them very well, and maybe if I was a charismatic extravert I could go back on it, derail that train I just set in motion. But I can’t. I don’t know how. I ride it to the end of the line because I’m an introvert with social anxiety disorder and terrible at small talk.

So I’m sorry.

But I think the world would be better and people would be happier if “so, what’s your favourite dinosaur?” was an acceptable conversation starter, and “so, what do you do?” wasn’t.

Foibles (little crazy things)

I parenthetically (in brackets) translate words in my head.

Not all words. In fact, not even most words. Most words slip through my mind without leaving a ripple. This lulls me into the false sense of security that I know them well. In reality if I was put on the spot to concisely define a word like, say, ‘define’, I would have to make up a plausible distraction to escape the conversation (“did you know that the reason they can’t find the Lock Ness Monster is that it actually lives in my bath tub?”). So the words I know well my brain can’t easily explain, but the ones that feel unfamiliar and clunky are succinctly (briefly but aptly) described.

Call it a foible (little crazy thing) of mine.

Unfortunately, the awkward weirdness of my brain has a tendency to spread. It’s gone a whole extra step with ‘foible’ (little crazy thing). Whenever I read, write, think or say ‘foible’ (little crazy thing) I don’t just think the words ‘little crazy thing’ I think of a little crazy thing.

I mean, literally (exactly as written) a little crazy thing.

This guy, to be precise.


Which does at least stand up as a conceptual definition. I think using the word ‘foible’ (little crazy thing) makes the weakness or quirk out to be a cute little lap-dog monster. And sometimes they are. You could buy a rhinestone (cheap diamonds) collar for a-tendency-to-mention-dinosaurs and carry it around in a purse.



But, like dogs, foibles (little crazy things) aren’t all purse-sized. Some, like difficulty-talking-sensibly-in-front-of-groups-of-five-or-more-people, are more like those Great Danes with delusions of tininess who think they can, nay should, perch delicately in your lap.







We pretend anyway.



Fighting Multi-Headed Anxiety Monsters with the Power of Song

But first a confession. I had a really hard time writing this, but an easy time drawing the pictures. In fact, I had more fun drawing these pictures than I did drawing myself being ripped apart by a bear (here), and I giggled continuously while doing that one. But the words were difficult. So this is how it turned out.

There’s this awful thing that follows me around wherever I go. Other people can’t see it, but I can. It’s always there in some guise. Maybe it’s not bothering me right now, but I can see it lurking and I know that it can attack me whenever it wants.

It’s called anxiety. Maybe you have your own version of this monster. A lot of people do.

When it comes for me I’m usually the only one who notices, but you could tell if you were paying attention. When it happens, I experience:




And a few other things which aren’t as easy to draw. Plus, lists of three are neat and the racing heart one is definitely the punchline. So we’ll just skip over hot flushes, hyperventilation and feelings of impending doom. Lists of six suck.

Actually … let’s quickly do a superficial interpretation of feelings of impending of doom, because that phrasing makes me giggle.


Lists of panic attack symptoms tend to refer to it this way. I’ve always found the terminology hilarious, but the experience is horrifying and (for me, anyway) it’s the worst part of a panic attack. But more detail later.

Even with these symptoms, I can fight it. But it isn’t easy.





If you cut off one head, another one grows back.

I used to be very shy and afraid of talking to people. Over the last few years I have fought this and it has become much easier. I am still shy, but I can talk to strangers and I am able to make new friends. I cut off that head, and my multi-headed anxiety monster grew another.

This one makes me afraid of being in crowds.


This is a problem. Basically, it makes it difficult to be anywhere other people also want to be, which covers most places worth going. So I rarely go to concerts, clubs or popular restaurants (especially the ones that won’t let you book but they’re always so busy that you have to queue to get a seat). And going Christmas shopping or travelling on public transport in peak hour are like personalised versions of burning in hell.

… saying ‘personalised versions of burning in hell’ makes me want to go on a picture tangent. And I will. Because it’s my blog and I can if I want to.


And now back to anxiety.

The place I have to fight the anxiety monster the most is the supermarket. Because you have to go all the time or you run out of food and toilet paper. And you need those.

When I can, I try to go to the supermarket with my partner so that I don’t have to face it alone. It’s important that I do face it, because this is the best way to teach myself that there isn’t really anything to be afraid of. But of course I am afraid. I shuffle around, looking at my feet, trying to remain calm. It only takes one extra little thing for the monster to attack. A decision.




That’s all it takes for my brain to break.

I remember when I was a kid riding my bike and the bike chain popped off. I spun the pedals, but they felt strange and loose and I couldn’t get any traction. The bike slowed down and wobbled. I tried pedalling faster and faster, but the bike didn’t respond.

It’s like that. You put some information into your brain. It spins, but nothing comes out the other side. You’ve lost a brain-cog. So you spin it faster. And faster. People are looking at you. They expect you to say something. Your silence is getting weirder and weirder. The bike is wobbling.

I always think the crash is going to go something like:



But that’s never actually happened.

And that’s feelings of impending doom. You feel like something’s broken, either in your mind or your body, and you’re about to die or go mad or experience other doom-like fates. And, sure, it may not be everyone’s vision of doom, but screaming in public and having my head explode feels pretty doom-y to me.



Mostly, I’m proud to say, I cope. I may not see many concerts, but I catch public transport and buy my friends and family gifts for Christmas. I buy food. I keep myself alive and my home in stock of toilet paper.


There are days when it’s too much and it feels like there’s no way I can avoid the doom (the one where I scream in public and my head explodes). On those days I don’t go to the supermarket. I can live off my emergency stash of two-minute noodles and resort to using tissues for a while, but usually my partner is kind enough to go shopping for me. I stay home alone.

The monster has a head for this too. I start to worry about failing, about not coping, about being worthless. All the predatory pieces of my mind come out to feed. It’s the hardest thing to fight off.

And then one day I was home alone, unable to face the supermarket and my impending doom. I started the old cycle of worry … and then I stopped. Instead, I started drawing tenuous parallels between myself and Disney characters who find it hard to function in society due to a crippling fear of people. And before I knew it …

Change 2







So maybe the moral of this story is that when life gives you lemons, sing to those lemons about how awesome and magical you are. And if it still bothers you afterwards that they’re lemons and not lemonade then at least you have an ice castle to be bothered in.

Or maybe that’s nonsense and the moral is just that anxiety is hard and it’s hard every single day, but you can still do life.

How to tell if someone is actually a soulless demon-spawn waiting for an opportunity to feed on your flesh

If you’re anything like me, you frequently wonder if the person you are talking to is just trying to lull you into a false sense of security so they can eat your flesh. I spend so much time and energy worrying about this that I have devised a clever trap for such people. Here, I will show you how to perform this test for yourself.


  • A test subject
  • A car with a music player
  • An mp3, CD or cassette with Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”

Step 1.

Find an excuse to give your test subject a lift in your car. Next, break the figurative ice of awkwardness. The results of this test will not be accurate if the test subject feels uncomfortable. Only proceed to step 2 when you are both engaged in animated, friendly conversation.

Step 2.

Play Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.”

Step 3.

Sing along with all your soul.

Step 4.

Observe reaction in test subject.

Example of a pass:


The test indicates that the subject has a soul if any of the following conditions are met:

  • They sing
  • They car-seat-dance
  • They head-bop
  • They smile
  • They take any kind of obvious pleasure in the fact that you are enjoying yourself

Note: smiling and other mild signs of approval may indicate the subject has a shy soul. This is a perfectly acceptable type of soul and should be nurtured. Maybe one day they will feel comfortable enough to sing with you. Maybe that’s just not their thing. Either way, they’re happy that you’re happy, and they have a soul.

Example of a fail:


The subject tests negative for a soul if they look at you in a judgemental way.

If the test subject fails the test, do not panic.

… Or, rather, do. Because you’re alone in a car with them and you have just established that they are soulless demon-spawn waiting for just such an opportunity to eat your flesh. Perhaps I didn’t think this through very well.

But, seriously, don’t panic. Because they don’t know that you’re onto them and there are probably other people on the road who will notice if they try to eat you at the next red light.


UPDATE TO TEST: Make this trip in peak traffic, do not let them know that you are onto them, and make sure you always have innocent bystander witnesses around. Maybe get a pre-tested friend to ride a bicycle next to your car for the entire trip.

Are we clear on the new rules? Excellent.

Now you may be wondering what to do once you’ve found out that your friendly new acquaintance wants to feed on your flesh. Never fear! I have a solution for that too.

You can protect your home with boundaries of salt. Everyone knows that demon-spawn cannot cross lines of salt, as they are closely related to the common snail or slug.


By following this precaution you should be able to maintain safe spaces. This procedure has several added benefits. It will cause no harm to the person if the test result was a false negative and they actually do have a soul. Also, it will protect your home and garden from bands of marauding snails.

Stay safe. Protect yourself from soulless demon-spawn.

P. S.:

On a totally unrelated note, don’t be snarky and judgey to people who are just being happy and aren’t causing anyone else any harm. I mean, would it kill you to sing along to “Tiny Dancer?” Or just to smile and be happy for someone else’s happiness? People will stop inviting you in their cars if you keep judging them.


Meeting new people is hard. It’s bad enough when you have to get to know someone because they’re a friend of a friend, they’re suddenly your co-worker, or you’re at a party and have no one else to talk to. Under those circumstances there tends to be enough context to allow a conversation to grow. And if the conversation remains stunted despite all reasonable efforts then you can just escape by pretending you need to go to the bathroom.



But there is a type of introduction that is worse than all the others. I call this type of introduction institutionalised self-introductions, and I’m certain they were invented by the devil to increase earth’s levels of general awkwardness. Institutional self-introductions occur when a group of people meet in a formal setting. They are more common if one person is in a position of power and able to say, “Right, let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves, shall we?” without having things thrown at them. The process of an institutional self-introduction is to tell the group your name and some other ‘interesting’ facts about yourself. The category of these facts may be pre-determined by the person in power.

Institutional self-introductions tend to happen in university classes at the beginning of semester. They are usually dull, awkward or both.

In my undergraduate degree this was annoying, but it was bearable because we were not asked why we chose the degree or what our career plans were. No one poses tricky questions about LIFE PLANNING and CAREERS in a Bachelor of Arts. Everyone knows that a Bachelor of Arts is not about those things, and besides, no one wants to hear twenty versions of, “because I hate having money,” or, “it’s just to put off my inevitable career in fast food service.”

Instead we had to play mind games to get to know one another. In the most popular game you have to tell another person three things about yourself. Two of these things are true and one is a lie, and they have to guess which one is the lie.

I hate this game. It’s always awkward.





Unbelievable right? That alien hates chocolate.

But now that I’m doing a real degree I get asked real questions, and “what made you choose this career pathway?” is the favourite. The problem? I don’t have a good reason.

See, when it came to deciding upon a career I imagined myself doing the job and then assessed how I would feel about myself and life at the end of a year. The hypothetical year usually ended with me stapling things to my forehead.


Teacher was an exception. I would not staple things to my forehead after a year of moulding young minds. I would staple things to the foreheads of my students.

I did not include a picture of this because I thought it might cross a line. Stapling things to your own forehead = valid comedy. Stapling things to children = ILLEGAL AND BAD. I would probably get put on lists and be banned from playgrounds for the rest of my life. And I like playgrounds.

But I did manage to come up with some jobs that I thought would make me happy.


I couldn’t find any job listings for these professions, and I was eventually forced to concede that books, games and television had been lying to me for years about the levels of awesomeness I could expect from life.

There was, however, one last dream profession. And it had job listings.


So with that reasoning under my belt, I began a postgraduate degree in library and information management and a new hell of institutionalised self-introductions began. And they always ask the dreaded question …

“What made you choose this degree?”

I do have answers: because I would like to learn how to navigate L-space, because I would like to be able to play the piano with my feet and because I think that all the other available professions will destroy my soul. But I felt intuitively that my reasons would not be acceptable. I would probably get funny looks, especially from people unaware of Discworld (not that these people really count). So I had to think of a clever lie as a cover.

This is what I went with and how it turned out:




This happened twice before I gave up. For my next introduction I led with the little fact that I hate introductions. It got a bit of a laugh, but the lecturer’s laugh sounded forced and I had the nasty feeling that this had happened:


Another failed introduction. One day I might be capable of a decent introduction that earns the respect of my fellow peers/students/collegues/whatever. Or even just one that makes people laugh. That day is a long way off. Perhaps a more realistic goal would be to introduce myself without predisposing the lecturer/boss/whatever to dislike me.

As it is, the most successful institutionalised self-introduction I have seen occurred when someone managed to tangent their introduction facts to this:



This was genius. I bet no one screwed around with her in group assignments. I bet she didn’t end up doing all the work. I bet people listened to her ideas. That’s what I call a success.

Also, it’s the only institutionalised self-introduction I remember. I have forgotten everyone else in the time it would take a goldfish to swim from one end of its bowl to the other. No offence to those people. I’m sure they’re all interesting and awesome. They would have all forgotten my introductions too.

It’s just that institutionalised self-introductions don’t work. Not really. Everyone says bland, boring things, and everyone forgets everyone else straight away. There are more important things to remember on your first day at university, such as where the closest pub is.

Besides, you don’t gain a real understanding of a person by believing what they say about themselves. Some people are too arrogant, some people are too modest and some people just value different character traits to you.