The club is so smoky I can hardly breath. I'm on my way to the bathroom and dripping in sweat from dancing hard. For some reason I stop abruptly. Maybe I'm thinking about changing my course and heading over to get a pop. Turning around I see a guy following me, practically on top of me. He has to screech to a halt so he doesn't run into me. "I think you are really cute so I decided to follow you." Not sure how to reply I mutter, "Uh, that's nice. How are you?" He asks me who I am and I respond by telling him that I met him at a different bar a few nights ago. He tells me how drunk he is and asks my name. "Daryl" I say, "and your Michael right?" Amazed that I actually remember his name. I can't say that I would pick him out of a crowd to sleep with, but I think he's cute nonetheless.
I know that I've caught his eye, but have no idea what to say next. He starts some small talk about the music and in my head I ask him if he wants to go make out since it would be easier than talking. I take a big sip of my pop and we stand inches apart. Unfortunately I hardly say a thing to him, nod and smile in response to his banter. I tell him I'm there by myself and he invites me to hang out with him and his friends. I sense he's a bit nervous too and he turns to talk to one of his friends. Quietly I drift away suspecting that he doesn't even notice I'm gone. I am used to slipping away from situations where I feel nervous.
Later we cross paths again and he asks were I went. I quickly tell him I went to dance thinking he wouldn't know the difference given that he was on the other side of the room. Seconds later he says he'll stop pestering me and that we'll talk later. "We'll talk later," may as well be the kiss of death. It means I've lost my chance. I want to tell him to stay, that he wasn't pestering, that I'd like to talk, but none of it comes out. Instead I grab my jacket and leave. Alone.
On my ride home I think about how many times this happens to me, how many of my conversations play out this way with the words swirling about my insides daring me to let them out. I wonder why I panic when people show any interest in me. I feel like I'm in grade eight all over again and realize I have no idea how to date, how to talk to people, how to show I'm interested in other people. In grade eight some of my classmates started dating, but it seemed like a foreign world to me. At our graduation party I saw some of my classmates holding hands and knew I wasn't in the same world as them. I don't think I even had a concept of what sexual desire was or why anyone would want to date.
I feel like I've always fallen into my relationships. Like I could be friends with practically anyone if we were in the same area for long enough time. The people I have always hung out with have mostly just been in the same place at the same time I was. Sure there have been exceptions, but by and large I have only ever had a handful of friends. I often try to convince myself that I can pass off mutual space sharing as friendship, but it leaves me unfulfilled. I say that I've fallen into relationships because I haven't ever really made much effort to make them happen. I just wind up going along for the ride if I can relate to people who show interest in me. Well, it's not that passive, but it's something close. This is not to mention my fantastic ability to get a crush on just about anyone willing to pay attention to me.
The truth is I don't really know how to relate to people, how to interact with people. I keep trying to figure out where this all came from, where I learned to sublimate my desires, how I learned that asking for what I want is bad. The closest I can come to an answer is through my relationship to my parents. As a child I was rambunctious and loud, never afraid of saying anything. It didn't take long for me to realize my parents, more specifically my mom, didn't appreciate this. "If you've got something to say, say it and it's done," my mom would repeat to me as though it were a mantra. I was told to shut up so many times I've gotten to believe I really don't have anything to say. This seems a bit simplistic though. While the relationship with my mom has certainly contributed to my shyness the reality is likely much more complex.
More than any place else this suppression plays itself out in my desired sexual relationships. Essentially everyone I have had a sexual relationship with has taken the initiative to start things. I've learned to wait for people to say that they like me, that they are interested in me, waiting and waiting. Friends often recount how they are hit on or always make out with people at certain events. On the other hand, I can go to the same things and not even talk to anyone, feeling like I have secret invisibility powers. I look at, and watch, the people I am interested in psychically inviting them over to talk to me. Maybe it's all that after school special brainwashing or something, but I seem to believe that the best way to show people you are interested in them is by ignoring them, or so my actions would say.
I guess it's possible that all the people I am interested in are thinking the same things, sending out psychic messages to have people come and talk to them, but the odds seem against it. I never learned how to date. I never learned how to ask people to do things with me, to even hang out. I have a feeling that most people take this as snobbery or disinterest on my part. People don't know how to interpret shyness and I can say this from experience. Rather than shy people bringing me out, just the opposite occurs. I become even more shy and panicked trying to figure out what to say and my mind goes blank. I start looking for any way out of the conversation, hoping there can be a distraction, anything really, that will let me off.
I feel that all of this is only compounded by the digital revolution or whatever you want to call it. I'm becoming more afraid of the phone and look for reasons to email people instead. I'm beginning to feel the same nervousness about calling people that I do when I meet someone new. I often have to psyche myself up to call people, putting it off, feeling my heart race as I dial the numbers. It makes me sad to know there are so many shy people in the world. To know that we won't get what we want because we aren't willing to ask for it to speak out, to make a ripple. Being crippled by shyness can be extremely isolating and frustrating. It stops me from talking to people I would like to know better, it stops me from meeting new people, it stops me from being able to express my anger, it stops me from being able to express my attractions.
If nothing, I have these words. I can tell you what I'm thinking about through writing. When I write I don't have to think or worry about the pauses. I can stop and look up words, I can work on things until they fall together saying what I want them to, hiding behind the fact that you don't see my face when I write.
I guess all of us get comfortable with certain things in our lives, acting in ways we are familiar with, acting in ways that don't surprise our friends, only changing in small amounts so we can still be recognized, so people can still make sense of us. My shyness has become habit. I'm mostly used to not saying things, to having things not turn out how I imagine, or want, them to. I feel that this has happened to such a degree that I actually wonder if the people I want to meet, that the people I feel like I need in my life aren't more hypothetical than anything. Like I'm searching for ideals and not really actually people.
As an example, my life in Toronto is mostly very boy-centric and something that I'd like to move beyond. In Regina I was often the only boy in my circle of friends while in Toronto somehow most of my friends are boys. I'm not really sure how this happened, but I have a theory that people in big cities like to keep to themselves more. More specifically, the queer people hang out with the other queer people and dissecting that further the boys hang out with the boys and the girls hang out with the girls. The tragic thing is that I don't really believe in all these divisions. I think part of this comes from letting people think I'm gay. I have definitely said it in the past, but I can't really say I believe that anymore. I identify as queer, but to most people that just means gay anyway. Add to this the fact that I am dating a boy and people make assumptions.
I'd like to say that gender doesn't matter in my life, and largely I think it doesn't, but that doesn't explain my desire to date have more women in my life. However, going back to the whole shyness thing, my attraction to women winds up looking more theoretical than anything. Not really knowing how to approach people basically does nothing to denounce the whole "Daryl = gay" thing. I know there are other people like me who have similar ideas on gender and sexuality that I do, but hiding in the corner doesn't help me meet them. It only makes me think I'm making people up in my head, hoping for their existence as some kind of comfort. It's something I think about a lot, hoping and wishing to overcome my shyness, hoping to meet queer women who are interested in me. Hoping to make sense of things.
Talk to me.