The Bump On The Log Guest

by admin on October 25, 2012

A number of years ago I ran across a most puzzling social situation that continues to leave me baffled to this day. I had recently become friends with a gregarious woman I met at work. Although we didn’t work for the same organization, we’d run into each other around the building, and after a number of fun interactions, we struck up a fast friendship.

It may have been a bit too fast, however, because I immediately started having reservations about this lady. She was laugh-out-loud hilarious, sure, one of the many things that attracted me to her, but she was also INTENSE. The first night we went out and did something outside of the office she was already making plans for the two of us to go on holiday together. I’m a real “slow to warm” type, so I was a little taken aback by her general intensity, but got over it and chalked it up to her being just that – generally intense. Around this time she began working for another organization in another building, and the move did our burgeoning friendship good – at a bit of an arm’s length, I really enjoyed her company.

We had seen each other for a couple of coffee dates and dinners when my annual autumn party rolled around, and so I added her to the guest list. I knew from having gone to restaurants with her that she was a VERY picky eater (just the basics, no seasonings, no, um, taste) and so I planned accordingly. I had a buffet set up with a giant dish of stew, garlic mashed potatoes, salad and crusty bread, as well as a drinks bar – serving both alcoholic and non-alcoholic libations – but in the kitchen, just for my new friend, I had squirreled away some “stew without the stew” (translation: just the beef from the stew), a bowl of plain greens and whatever else I could find that was plain, plain, plain.

My friend was the first to arrive. She came in, played with the fur kids for a bit and seemed in good spirits. I gave her the rundown on the menu and told her that if she’d prefer, I also had a secret stash of goodies for her in the kitchen. She said she was good. I offered her a drink. She said she was good. Water even? Nope, she was – yup, you guessed it – good.

Not too long after that all of the other guests arrived and we got down to the serious business of eating. Everyone, that is, but my friend. Because as everyone had arrived and done the greetings thing, she had thrown herself into a chair…and that’s where she remained. As people came in and I began making introductions, she remained seated. My other guests actually had to go up to her on her throne and bow down a bit to introduce themselves. When I called everybody to the table, she remained seated. “Hey,” I gently inquired on one of my passes by the chair,”Everything okay? Would you like something to eat? How about that drink now?” She said she didn’t want anything and stayed seated. My parents, who were in attendance, kept casting puzzled glances over at this seemingly sullen woman who just refused to engage with anyone. The other guests began picking up on the weirdness, too, when the two hour mark had passed and she had not ONCE left the confines of her chair.

I tried to get her to play nice with the other kids a number of times, but I eventually gave up and decided to let her be – and ultimately, let her be forever. We’re not friends any more. But for the rest of that night, until I drove her home after the very last pleasant guest had left (a ride during which she was warmly chatty,) she remained seated in that damn chair, barely saying a peep to anybody and eschewing all offers of food or drink. It was SO WEIRD. During one of the last occasions we saw each other, I asked her about that evening – had she had a good time? “Of course!”, she chirped.  “It was so nice meeting everybody.”   Truly some of the oddest social behavior I’ve ever seen. I still have no explanation for what happened that evening. 1023-12

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Brenda October 25, 2012 at 11:41 am

I think that the friend may have been one of those people who is amazing company one on one, but not good at parties, especially at a party where she knew no one. I tend that way myself, so I tend to avoid gatherings where I don’t know anyone besides the host, but have a great time with friends at lunches and dinners where there are only two or three of us.

However, I don’t grab onto people and expect them to plan their social lives around our friendships, and if I choose to attend a gathering, I make a point of circulating a bit, not sitting and avoiding others. The friend may actually be extremely uncomfortable, but is trying to work through it, or is just not ready or able to handle the stress of parties.

The OP’s friend seems to be an introvert who has managed to develop some of the qualities of an extrovert, but it is not something she necessarily does easily or blithely. I think that if OP enjoys her friend’s company, she should stick to occasions with just the two of them, such as lunch or dinner, where they can enjoy each other’s company without them being hostess and guest.

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Ashley October 25, 2012 at 11:45 am

There could be a rational explanation for her behavior. Maybe she’s the type that does better one-on-one and gets intimidated by larger groups of people she doesn’t know. As for the food thing, maybe she had eaten beforehand or just wasn’t hungry. I also know ppl who feel self-conscious about eating in front of others. Regardless, I don’t think there was necessarily an etiquette faux pas here. It sounds like she was nice to the other guests, though reserved. And you were a gracious and accomodating host, and she said she had a good time.

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Traherne October 25, 2012 at 11:49 am

Maybe she was jealous of your other friends and unwilling to “share” you? Some people can be that needy. It rarely ends well.

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Kit October 25, 2012 at 11:56 am

There wasn’t a weird stain left on the chair afterwards, or didn’t she try to hide her backside from you in the evening, or something like that?

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Lisa October 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Oh boy. This sounds like my MIL.

MIL is LOUD and bordering on obnoxious, especially after a couple of drinks.

But put her in a room with more than 4 people and she will sit and stare at everyone, not saying a word. To the point where people have commented that her silently staring makes them uncomfortable.

In a very small group MIL is completely OTT but she can not deal with a crowd of any size.

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Jewel October 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm

How very frustrating!

I have a relative who behaves a lot like this. She’s an extreme introvert who can be warm and chatty in a one-on-one, but shuts down when it comes to interacting in a group, even if she knows some of the other guests. What’s worse is that she has a most unpleasant look on her face the whole time, too (“I hate being here, so nobody better talk to me, just leave me alone”). Her behavior just puts a total damper on the festivities and drives other people away from wanting to get to know her better.

She’s very well aware that she needs to work on her behavior/personal presentation, but it’s slooooow going.

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Cat October 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm

She may be the type of person who is very comfortable in a one-on-one situation, but doesn’t know how to handle a group of people she does not know.
She should have made the effort to come to the table, even if she had little to say. I wonder if she felt she didn’t want to be singled out by the food she would be served, and she wouldn’t or couldn’t eat what the others were having.
In any case, you did the best you could with the situation. It’s going to be one of the mysteries of your life as to why she behaved as she did .
I ran into a similar situation. I was invited to a friend’s home for a party, and I joined her friends in the living room. They all read magazines and made no effort to socialize. It was like being in a doctor’s waiting room. I should have brought a book.

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ferretrick October 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Sounds like an emotional vampire to me. My guess is this woman is extremely possessive and obsessive-she wants to be your friend, and your ONLY friend. It explains the gregariousness and the way too quick invitation to go on vacation together. When you invited her to a happy dinner party, and she was confronted with the fact that you have lots of other friends and family that are just as important, if not more important, than her, she became sullen and withdrawn.

Did she ever mention boyfriends when you were together? Because it’s actually not outside the realm of possibility that her interest could have been romantic. (Calm down. I’m not saying all lesbians are obsessive. But some obsessive people are lesbians). However, whether her interest was homo or heterosexual, my suspicion is it was not coming from a mentally healthy place.

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Mariam67 October 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Maybe she had some sort of accident, period etc. and had a visible stain on her pants she was embarrassed about. That’s the only thing I can think of.

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gramma dishes October 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Since she apparently was dependent on you for a ride home (and therefore couldn’t leave on her own), is there even the remotest possibility that she simply was not feeling well that night and simply thought it wiser not to eat or drink anything for fear she’d throw up on your other guests or something?

If that were the case, I can see how she would want to stay seated in one place and would NOT want to say anything and ruin your party for you and your other guests.

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CaffeineKatie October 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm

She said she was fine; why not take her at her word?

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Emmy October 25, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I think it is a bit extreme to end the friendship with the woman over the social awkwardness at the party, although I can see not inviting her back to another party if the OP was uncomfortable with her behavior. Maybe she was simply uncomfortable with people she didn’t know or maybe she just preferred to sit and watch people, neither which is weird or rude. It may be a little unusual not to eat food and to remain in one seat at a party, but it certainly isn’t rude. The OP doesn’t mention that the guest had an angry look on her face or she was actively ignoring those who tried to engage her in conversation. Maybe her former friend wasn’t the most interesting or charming guest to grace the OP’s party, but the OP seems to be very upset over something very minor.

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Gemma October 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Two words: Bipolar disorder

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Azleaneo October 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Honestly it sounds like social anxiety. Your guest sounded like she was very involved one on one. When she first arrived she was cheerful, even though she declined food and drink. Once the party got under way, it sounds like she was overwhelmed and she didn’t know anyone and she was perfectly content people watching despite it being odd for everyone around her to witness.

I don’t know why your friendship ended, it seems like it was for other reasons, but my guess would be she would have been a little warmer towards the group of people she had met at that party at any future gathering.

My SO did the bump on the log thing at a friend-hosted Thanksgiving last year. He declined to eat because the panic was giving him butterflies, didn’t know anyone but me so he didn’t talk to anyone beyond the “hi nice to meet you” and we ended up leaving early because I didn’t want him to continue being so unsocial. Afterwards he explained that he is fine in very small crowds, but the amount of people at this gathering (15+) with no one that he knew was too much. He has since re-met many of the people who attended that night in different situations, and he apologized to the host for his behavior that night, and even accepted an invitation to go this year.

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Lerah99 October 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm

That sounds very awkward. It seems your friend has some “social blindness” as one of my friends calls it. She’s just not very good at judging social situations and the appropriate way to respond. It’s like people who don’t pick up on the subtle hints that it is time for him or her to go home.

I think she may be one of those people who just doesn’t know how to make and maintain friendships easily. You mentioned she is “laugh-out-loud hilarious”. She may use a big boisterous funny personality as a cover for her insecurities in public. The fact she planted herself at your party and didn’t socialize, makes me think she feels very awkward in small groups where she doesn’t know everyone.

She might have actually been trying to be on her “BEST” behavior.
– She might have thought that by refusing food & drink she “wasn’t putting you out”.
– And by being quiet and remaining in one spot she “wasn’t stealing the spot light”.

I’m sorry to hear your friendship fizzled out.

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Shalamar October 25, 2012 at 1:09 pm

That IS strange. I guess she felt uncomfortable, but if that was the case, why didn’t she make an excuse and leave? I realize that you drove her, so I guess she didn’t have a car, but surely she could have gotten a taxi?

I had a similar thing happen when I threw a party a while back. I’d invited a bunch of friends from different parts of my life – work friends, neighbours, and former university friends. One of my neighbours brought some sewing with her, explaining that she had a project that she simply had to finish. That was fine – except that all she DID that night was sew. She didn’t eat or drink anything. She didn’t talk to anybody. She never raised her eyes up from the quilt (or whatever it was) on her lap. Why she didn’t just stay home, I have no idea.

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Carrie October 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm

I can see why this would leave you uncomfortable, but it’s possible she wasn’t being intentionally rude and/or strange.

I have social anxiety, and am an introvert. I’m fine in small groups, and in larger groups of people that I know very well, but put me in a room full of strangers and I freeze up. I probably wouldn’t sit in a chair apart from everyone all night (The only reason being it would draw too much attention to myself, if I could turn myself invisible, I would!), but I would quietly listen to other people and not participate much. Sometimes when I get overwhelmed I have to step outside or into a seperate room, though, because that much interaction wipes me out.

I’ve been accused of being rude, being a snob, etc., I assure you I’m not, I just don’t know what to say/do! I actually like conversations and interacting with people. Usually, after an encounter like this, I’ll kick myself afterwards, something like “Stupid, stupid, stupid! You should have talked more, should have done XYZ!” It’s gotten better since I’ve been with my husband.

I guess what I’m saying is, if she has other good qualities, and this is the only thing that seems off, why completely cut off the friendship if you enjoy her company one on one? It’s possible she was just uncomfortable the first time meeting all of your other friends.

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Bint October 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm

If this woman is unable to handle crowds, a natural introvert, or any of the other excuses proffered above, it still doesn’t excuse her. Because if you cannot go to a party and behave normally (ie talking to people) you shouldn’t turn up and make everyone else uncomfortable. What she did was indeed an etiquette faux pas, because she had every opportunity to explain to her hostess beforehand, or during the party, but didn’t. No – she sat there being ‘sullen’ as everyone noticed.

I’m tending towards agreeing with ferretrick’s interpretation: she was jealous.

Gemma: in just two words you suggest you know very little about bipolar disorder. And the assumption there is offensive on many levels.

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Ergala October 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Okay this might sound weird but I am wondering if she has an issue with eating in front of people. I am a social butterfly in very small groups, but I have a bizarre phobia of eating in front of people I don’t know. It’s hard to explain but I just can’t do it. I’ve gone to parties and there were a lot more people there than I had been told, I went 4 hours without eating or drinking a single thing. I kind of hid in a corner. My friends thought something was wrong because normally I am cracking jokes or just overall very animated. I had to explain that I just can’t do groups and I don’t eat in front of people I don’t know.

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Rebecca October 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm

It’s bizarre behaviour. I also thought of possible bipolar disorder, or perhaps simply that her boisterous personality in one-on-one settings was overcompensation for extreme social anxiety. Or she was sullen at seeing the friend she thinks of as “hers” having other friends too, and decided to show it in a PA manner. Either way, I’d have difficulty remaining friends after that too, as it’s apparent that with her, all is not what it seems and I’d wonder what other weirdness she was going to display.

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AS October 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Sounds like she doesn’t like crowds. Or maybe she had some sudden health trouble (a head ache, stomach upset; or maybe her monthly cycle decided to pay a surprise visit)

And please don’t interpret “conditions” like bipolar, or being insecure. Not liking crowds is not a “condition”. We don’t know much about this woman to make a personality judgement.
My husband doesn’t like crowds , and can be quite reserved in big gatherings (unless he knows most of them already, or is a convention related to his work). He is no way near being insecure, neither is he bipolar, or anything else. It is just that he is better off carrying on a conversation in one-on-one basis. Though not many people would notice because we usually go to parties together, and I can mingle with people and he just joins the conversation once I start it.

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AS October 25, 2012 at 2:04 pm

PS… if she is that way always, then we could interpret something. But it seems that this was the first party she was at OP’s house. So, I don’t think we should interpret anything without knowing what happened. There are a number of things that could have gone wrong, and she was embarassed to tell OP but had to wait around because OP was her ride.

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Lee October 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm

This is not what I think happened in this situation (although it’s not out of the realm of possibility depending on how the invitation was worded), but this reminds me of a time a friend of mine invited me over to dinner, and I was bringing something minor. I ended up running 10 minutes late, and I came in to her place profusely apologizing and saying things like, “I’m so sorry I’m late. It’s so good to see you! I’m very sorry. I was at the grocery store, and . . . ” Suddenly, a group of strangers jumped out from behind the walls and yelled, “Surprise!”

What I thought was just a dinner with a friend and possibly her roommate was actually a dinner party where I was late with a key ingredient. (The “surprise” shout was nothing more than a fun warm-hearted greeting to me as a fellow guest – Although I do admit to panicking for a second and trying to remember when my birthday was.)

Yes, the manners fail was totally on my part – not clarifying the invitation (possibly not listening well enough) and being late. It ended up being a very fun meal with lovely people, but I remember being temporarily stunned when people jumped out from behind walls. I’m happy to say that none of them found out I was expecting differently though, unless they read this blog that is . . .

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Beth F October 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm

@Ergala, someone else who has a hard time eating in front of others! I thought I was the only one. I’ve managed to “train” myself to eat finger food type things, or simple foods like boneless cuts of meat. I went to a conference last month where half a chicken was served, I ate the sides and picked at the chicken. (My friend, the good lad that he is, just picked up the chicken and went to town.)

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Angel October 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm

That’s a little strange, but she could just be extremely introverted. I get that way sometimes (although not nearly to that extreme!). I have gone to parties where I don’t know that many people and my coping strategy is usually to bring my camera (I got an DSLR camera about a year ago) and snap photos. Sometimes people thinks it’s strange but mostly every one loves a photographer, it breaks the ice and people appreciate it afterwards. I email an album to the host/hostess and she can distribute the pics as she sees fit. Went to an ugly xmas sweater party last year where my DH and I knew not that many people. But the camera was a great icebreaker because everyone wanted to show off their fashions!

I don’t think I have ever sat in a chair the whole time and not spoken to anybody though. I tend to think that she was just really, really nervous, did not have a coping strategy except to stay in one spot. It happens. If it was just the one time I would have given her the benefit of the doubt.

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MichelleP October 25, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Had to say OP You have an AWESOME sense of humor. I’m sorry you dealt with that, but I was giggling through your whole post!

She seems a little possessive/weird, whatever the cause, I have to agree to drop her. I respectfully disagree with other posters that she wasn’t rude. She was. I am the same type of personality that other posters have suggested: funny with one on one, but don’t deal with a group well, and I still wouldn’t do what she did.

As for maybe she had an accident, there are discreet ways to ask for help in that situation without acting antisocial.

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Enna October 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I agree with posters who said maybe she was caught short with her period? That happens to most women at some point in their lives. She wasn’t rude to guests, she didn’t do anything anti socail like play video games and that is a redeeming feature. Maybe she is soically akward and can’t cope with crowds? I wouldn’t write her off.

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Angela October 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm

In bipolar disorder, there is mood fluctuation but the mood usually lasts for days or weeks. Moment-to-moment fluctuation might suggest another disorder, but under these circumstances no mental disorder really suggests itself. It sounds more that she was overwhelmed in some way by the other people, and that’s not in itself a disorder.

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Enna October 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm

P.S there are far worse people out there – I think with some guidence from you OP you could have a very benefitail firendship and you never know she might come out of her shell.

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egl October 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm

It’s possible she wasn’t feeling well but didn’t want to cancel on you for some reason. Other than that, the suggestions that she just doesn’t do well in groups/groups of strangers seems most likely. (I’ve never retreated that fully, but I’m not that comfortable in those kinds of situations myself.)

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hanna October 25, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Hmmm, seems there is a lot more to this story than OP says. I can think of dozens of reasons why an otherwise gregorious woman would be planted in a chair all night –from being exhausted from her day, to feeling ill, to feeling overwhelmed by possibly dozens of people she did not know. Certainl fustrating, and not in very good taste, but I know I’ve planted myself a time or two in a chair for different reasons (extreme morning sickness, anxiety over a family member, money issues, etc.) that I hope I haven’t been just given up on and de-friended by someone over it.

May I ask a question? I’m not understanding all the background about the friend’s eating habits, and squirreling away special food, or letting us even know about the buffet and drinks. How does that factor into this story?

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WeatherGirl October 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I have cerebral palsy which affects my speech, so I don’t like talking to people I don’t know well. OP didn’t mention her friend having any kind of disability, so I doubt such was the case here, but there are all sorts of reasons why people don’t want to mingle with folks they don’t know.

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Cashie October 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Ever watch “Big Bang Theory?” Raj has selective mutism and goes silent whenever a girl walks in the room. Your scenario reminds me of someone with a social anxiety disorder. It’s too bad you let the friendship go over this one instance. She sounds like a fun person to go shopping with, out to movies, hiking, dinner…

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Cat Whisperer October 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm

It sounds like this woman was just socially a bit of a weird bird. I don’t think any other explanation is needed. I think OP did the best she could in an unexpectedly difficult situation.

FWIW, there are plenty of people whose behavior when they’re one-on-one with someone they’re comfortable with is VERY different from their behavior when they’re around strangers or in large groups of people. That’s one reason why it’s a good idea to take your time getting to know people as you form friendships.

Bint, I have to disagree with you that this woman should have put OP on notice about her issues (whatever they are) with get-togethers with groups of people she doesn’t know. You’re making an assumption: that this woman knows her behavior is abnormal and that it makes other people uncomfortable. From what the OP said about the woman’s response after the gathering ended, i.e. that she’d had a good time and enjoyed meeting people, it seems pretty clear to me that the woman has no idea that her behavior was a problem for the other people; and she actually may have had an enjoyable time.

It may be hard for some people to understand how someone can be so clueless, but I actually have some family members who are like that: they are so eccentric in their perception of the world, and their place in it, that they are completely unaware of how they come across to other people. One of my relatives is a lot like the woman in the story: when he’s in social situations with groups of people who aren’t family members or long-time friends, he’ll plunk himself down on a chair in a corner somewhere and systematically read every magazine he can get his hands on, if magazines are available. If magazines aren’t available, he’ll sit there on the edge of things and just kind of vegetate, for lack of a better word, not participating in the conversation or activities. If you try to draw him in, he’ll politely decline and tell you he’s “fine.” (Unlike the woman in the story, though, if you offer him food he’ll eat it– gobble it down as fast as he can so he can leave the table and go back to his corner.)

These people have a kind of “social blindness,” if you will. They don’t see that they have a problem, to them the situation is very normal. And it really isn’t fair to fault them for failing to warn people about their foibles: as far as they’re concerned, they don’t have foibles, they may not be like other people but they don’t see their behavior as creating a problem for anyone.

With someone like this, you pretty much have to take them or leave them as they are. They can be interesting company and companionable within the limitations of who they are, as long as you don’t try to push them out of their comfort zone or re-make them into someone you’re more comfortable with. My relative can be very funny, very personable, and an interesting conversationalist if you take the time to know him one-on-one. And if you invite him to gatherings and accept that he’s perfectly happy in his corner reading your magazines and let him be, he’ll genuinely enjoy the occasion and assure you, in complete sincerety and with absolute truthfulness, that he had a very good time. As far as warning people about his idiosyncracies, it would never occur to him: in his view of the world, he doesn’t have idiosyncracies that he needs to warn people about. He copes very nicely with social situations by withdrawing and not bothering people, and the thought that some people would view that as a problem just wouldn’t even cross his mind. It would be a concept as foreign to him as color would be to someone who was born blind.

It’s a funny thing: I’ve found that people are more likely to be accepting of, and forgiving of, someone who goes to social gatherings and becomes loud and boisterous than someone who goes to social gatherings and quietly withdraws by themselves. It’s kind of sad, really, in a way.

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Clare October 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm

I, like Carrie at #17, am also an introvert with social anxiety, and completely agree with what she said.

While I totally understand Bint’s point of view, I selfishly hope other don’t adopt it – the only thing that has helped me over time to behave more “normally” at parties and gatherings is the practice I get going to parties and gatherings. It can be so hard if it’s a group I don’t know very well but really want to: part of me says I shouldn’t inflict myself on them, but I do want to get to know them, to feel connected to others just as much as everyone else, and to get better at interacting with people, and not going basically ensures I never will. It’s not voluntary – I don’t WANT to be awkward or make others uncomfortable, and I mind that I’m doing that – I just honestly don’t yet have the skills other have. (I’m 28, by the way, so it can’t be ascribed simply to youth. I’ve been working on this all my life.)

I do try to explain to people I know, however, that I don’t mean to inconvenience them and am trying my hardest. It’s a tough conversation; honestly some people don’t believe me and do accuse me of being “sullen,” or think I’m being melodramatic.

Is OP’s former friend a bastion of etiquette? No. But she also wasn’t harmful to anyone (people were puzzled but not inconvenienced, it seems), so maybe a little leeway could be given here.

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RMM0278 October 25, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Bint hit the nail on the head. Even if you have some sort of anxiety (in any form) that doesn’t give you the right to go to a social event and make everyone uncomfortable because you’re being anti-social. If you really can’t function in those situations, then just don’t go. But you can’t be so rude! Your problem isn’t the party goers’ fault.

My ex would do this. But here’s the thing. He would act “normal” if it was his friends (regardless of the group size), his event idea, or his suggestion. ANYTIME I’d suggest doing something, he’d act like this LW’s weird friend. What makes it worse is that he could act “normal” if he wanted to around my people, he just chose not to.

Only after bringing this up to him and tell him that he was being rude did he then pull off being “normal” at my friend’s party. But the only once. If he ever did it again, it was because I had to beg him not to be anti-social. Eventually, I just gave up — probably his goal all along. But it was so heartbreaking to see him be the life of the party, jokester, and commander of the room with his friends but mine…he became an entirely different person. What’s worse is that he knew he was being rude and didn’t care.

Like this LW’s friend. No excuses for her behavior at all.

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Kel October 25, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Seems like classic social anxiety. It is extremely difficult being an introvert in an extrovert’s world, as evidenced by the intolerant comments above. What everyone views as sullen behaviour is actually fear. But of course it’s much easier to point and laugh. Best that the friendship ended, for both parties.

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Drawberry October 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I have a bad case of social anxiety and when I am in good spirits I can be very friendly and open to many people, but when things are tough with the anxiety I often withdraw into my little peaceful bubble and prefer the company of few. Some people might think I am having a bad time if I am at a party sitting to myself and joining in with a conversation sporadically, but I am just being comfortable. Not everyone needs to be right up next to each-other and boisterous to have a good time.

That said, when I do agree to a get together I prepare myself the best I can for being around a lot of people, some I may not know well or may not be close with. I may keep to myself more, but I try not to be particularly off-putting. Most people just assume I am shy and don’t get any ‘negative’ kind of vibes from me.

If I am 1-1 with someone I can be talkative and funny and we can have a good ol’ time. But I cannot really do that with big groups, especially if there are people I don’t know in them.

I am also a big introvert, and as such even when my anxiety is under control I still enjoy my peace and quiet and space alone. It doesn’t mean an introvert isn’t having a good time just because they’re not right up in the action with everyone else, they just have a good time in different ways.

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LadyStormwing October 25, 2012 at 5:25 pm

The lady said she was fine, and if this was the only strange occurance of its type, I see no reason to worry about it. It could be that she does clam up in situations where she doesn’t know anyone other than the host(ess), or perhaps she wasn’t feeling well afterall and didn’t want to eat for fear of making herself sick, but didn’t want to worry the OP.

Gemma and Rebecca, please refrain from armchair psychology and trying to diagnose a severe mental illness that may or may not exist. Bipolar disorder, OCD, and severe social phobias are not terms to be thrown around lightly, and you should not toss them around any more than you would a cancer or congestive heart failure. Thank you.

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missminute October 25, 2012 at 7:28 pm

I think she had a tantrum – I admit I have done this when I was younger. When the issue of the food came up is when she started feeling out of place. When I find myself feeling intimidated in a social environment it was once hard not to shut down and sit in a corner sulking. But I have grown out of it!

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Anonymous October 25, 2012 at 8:32 pm

It might have been social anxiety, but what I don’t understand is, why didn’t this woman just RSVP “no” to the party? She wouldn’t have even had to tell the whole truth; she could have just said she had other plans. As for Carrie’s post (#17), I could have written that, minus the husband part, and the self-flagellation part. I’m a friendly person, but I don’t do well with large crowds of strange people, especially when alcohol is involved. So, if I was invited to something like that, I probably would have RSVP’ed no, and told the truth about why. That way, I wouldn’t have to invent a “previous engagement” for EVERY party, and have people ask about it later.

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KitKat October 25, 2012 at 9:33 pm

@ Anonymous
For all we know, she could have been trying to work on being more social. I admit to being an extreme introvert during non work related times. For me, large groups just AREN’T comfortable but I make an effort (and try to know at least 2 people there in case things go south). I’m completely fine and more extroverted in small groups (no more than 5 people). And working on being social is HARD especially when your previous actions/personality suggest the opposite of what you really feel.

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Politrix October 25, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Guest was probably ok until she saw OP’s copy of “50 Shades of Grey” lying in full view on the coffee table. ;)

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Rebecca October 25, 2012 at 11:49 pm

“Gemma and Rebecca, please refrain from armchair psychology and trying to diagnose a severe mental illness that may or may not exist”

I didn’t. If you go back and re-read, you’ll notice I said, ” I also thought of possible bipolar disorder…” and then listed a few other possible explanations for her behaviour besides that one. How is that an attempt at diagnosis? I stated a fact: that I had THOUGHT of bipolar disorder. And it is *possible*, is it not? As are the many other possibilities suggested by others in this thread. Many things are possible here; I don’t see how that can be interpreted as an attempt to diagnose?

If someone said they were having chest pains radiating to the left shoulder, sweating, pale, and weak, I might suggest that it was POSSIBLE they were having a heart attack but it would be the doctors in the hospital who would do the diagnosing.

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Kate October 26, 2012 at 12:46 am

My fiance has social anxiety, and he can behave like this, but he probably would have just said ‘no’ to the party. He usually comes with me to social occasions but he knows enough about his own anxiety to not go to a party full of complete strangers. There are a range of explanations – OP’s friend might have been feeling ill, she could have anxiety, she could have just been having a bad day.

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Kate October 26, 2012 at 12:47 am

Honestly, I agree with Bint and RMM0278. I am an introvert with extreme social anxiety that I am seeing a therapist for, and even at my worst, at a huge party full of strangers after a long day, I still manage normal, polite, human social interaction. Which means standing if others are standing, smiling and nodding, etc. Also, friendship is not supposed to be one way therapy. Friends give and take. If someone wants therapy for their social anxiety issues or whatever they have, they should pay a therapist! I am not a therapist, and I don’t expect my friends to be mine. Listening when a friend has a bad day, yes, taking a sick friend food, yes, playing therapist to a friend and arranging my social life around her and her condition, no.

Friend was rude to OP in two ways, I think. The first was that she agreed to come to the party when she couldn’t manage basic social interactions. She didn’t have to be the life of the party, but if she couldn’t manage the basics, she shouldn’t have gone and should have let the OP know why, or made up an excuse. Yes, the only way to get better at going to parties is to go to them, but if the friend did have social anxiety, she should have worked her way up to it, not used OP’s party as a training ground, especially without telling her first. On the second level was the way she acted at the party, which I already wrote about.

I hear excuses for being rude a lot, on this and other forums. As I wrote elsewhere, “I wish people would stop excusing rudeness. Some of the excuses I’ve heard: being a child, being pregnant, being sick, being elderly, being a teenager, etc. So I guess the only people we can expect to be polite are those who are 20 to 49 years old, not pregnant, and in perfect health?”

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Martin October 26, 2012 at 4:05 am

“Because if you cannot go to a party and behave normally (ie talking to people) you shouldn’t turn up and make everyone else uncomfortable”.

“Even if you have some sort of anxiety (in any form) that doesn’t give you the right to go to a social event and make everyone uncomfortable because you’re being anti-social. If you really can’t function in those situations, then just don’t go”.

The problem with this view is how are you going to learn to be any different?
You may say to yourself, ‘I’m really shy around people and I hate it, so I’m going to make an effort to go to a party and learn to cure this’, but when you get there you find that you can’t manage it.
By the argument in the quotes, anyone who is uncomfortable in these situations should just stay home and therefore never learn to function in these situations and therefore always be uncomfortable in these situations, and so it goes around in circles.

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Lo October 26, 2012 at 8:16 am

sufferer of social anxiety here (I take meds so I’m awesome now)

I don’t know if that’s what this woman’s got going on, but I will say this. The drive to immediately “seal the deal” on your friendship by trying to plan a holiday together speaks volumes about her behavior in one on one relationships. I would take this as a sign that she has a rather obsessive personality (I can own up to this one too), has little patience to wait for friendships to develop over time because she gets overexcited once she’s found someone she can be herself with. There is something going on with her that either makes it hard to keep friends, or hard to be around people and feel comfortable as herself.

I don’t see the harm in asking her after the party what was going on with her. I agree with others that she may have had no idea how she was coming off. I very recently went to a huge family gathering on my husbands side and because I hadn’t taken anything to calm the nerves beforehand the shock of walking into a group of people I’d last seen at my wedding and having them all turn to me as we entered froze me up like a deer in the headlights. My husband claims I literally hid behind him like a child as he made his way back to the kitchen. I was unaware of my body language but apparently giving off an intensive vibe that I was terrified and didn’t want to be there. I was just trying to be polite and stay out of the way. I popped a pill and was soon pleasant company.

Sometimes it’s hard to look objectively at our own behavior.

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Erin October 26, 2012 at 8:18 am

Instead of judging this woman so harshly, as Bint and others have done, I think the explanation of social anxiety makes a lot more sense. I feel bad for her.

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RMM0278 October 26, 2012 at 9:32 am

@ Martin, you’re assuming that she wants to be different. We don’t know that. But let’s give this guest the benefit of the doubt and say that she is. I completely agree with Kate. You find helpful suggestions and alternatives to incorporate yourself and your comfort level into social situations. I highly doubt planting yourself on a chair, refusing to talk to anyone, and being generally weird are any one of those suggestions.

Everyone has problems, but you cannot let YOUR problem affect complete strangers. That’s when it becomes an etiquette violation.

I disagree with a previous poster who said this guest’s behavior was no big deal to everyone else. When my ex would act the way he did, my friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, etc. all thought the same thing: he hated them. As a result, they thought they had done something wrong or offended him. He would swear up and down this wasn’t the case, but I reminded him that when someone doesn’t make eye contact, only gives one word answers to basic questions, and wanders off in the middle of the discussion, that’s rude behavior.

Same with the LW’s guest. I’d be willing to be all of her other guests thought something similar.

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