Saturday, July 15, 2006

My Social Life Would Be So Much Easier in a Post-Apocalyptic Conformist Dystopia

Every time I head to one of those New Jersey Young Professionals mixers, I'm struck with the same dilemma: what the hell do I wear? You see, I feel like my personal ratio of "young" to "professional" is exceedingly high and my chances of not making a total jackass first impression increase considerably if I at least try to look the part. The club calls itself a Soho-South Beach blend, and tonight's dress code was "casual chic," and I can't even begin to comprehend what that means. Like, I understand "black tie formal" and "no shoes, no shirt, no service," but everything in between is more or less a mystery to me. (Even the "no shoes, no shirt, no service" thing is a little ambiguous: Like, what if I'm wearing shoes and a shirt, but no pants? I can just see some stupid white guy down south somewhere in his underwear arguing with the manager, "But that sign there don't say you can't be wearin' no pants!") I know that I'm a special, individual snowflake and all that stuff, but I'd really just like to fit in — to make my entrance into the club and have everyone say, "Hey, looks like someone's exactly like me — we should be buddies. We could even meld our minds!" This will all be so much easier in the future, when we're all wearing the same Federation-issued silver jumpsuits and eugenically paired off and mated.

Last night's event was a "glow party," which the hyperzealous website childproofer at my local coffeeshop thinks is some of sort of cult activity. It's a five dollar cover, which pays for a glowstick, or a glow-bracelet, whose color depends on your Friendster "I am here looking for..." status. Yellow for friendship, red for romance, green for networking. They don't have a color for "trying to conquer my personal demons." So it's exactly like those ecstasy and glitter-fueled raves I never went to as a teenager. I took a yellow bracelet, choosing to aim low, but I still missed the mark. Not that I didn't meet a few people — and how come I'm pretty much always meeting dudes at these things? Man, I wish I could just choose to be gay! — but I gave up pretty easily as it was clear the whole night would be a futile shouting match with the mega-zillion watt amplifier winning. There came to a point in the evening where I realized I was just being a goddamn phony, smiling and nodding at people's lip movements instead of snarking on the event, the cheap quarter-size glow stick, the terpsichorean slut's busting out her third-grade ballet skills on the hip-hop dance floor: maybe not completely personable but at least not rushing away from my comfort zone and towards a non-descript but well-dressed presence.

So I spent the last hour at the club more or less standing in various corners and watching people make hookups or, better yet, standing in other various corners and not make hookups. And that was all working out reasonably well with my "expect the awkward" philosophy, with two exceptions: perfectly friendly yet imperfectly amiable guys named Steve and John. I'm not one of those people who sends you a ton of sales catalog emails until you choose to opt-out, so I don't get this mindset: I'm going to interrupt your brooding to point it out. And I realize these guys are totally trying to be personable, but the whole small talk reeks of pity friendship, and it's unavoidable. There's nothing I can say, like, "Oh, I'm not by myself. Let me introduce you to my imaginary friends. They're all uninhibited members of the Swedish bikini team."

Okay, I'm aware that I don't meet people easily and I know it's pretty obvious to everyone around me. I'm not thrilled about it but I've come to terms with it, so you can dispense with the pity, thanks. Either way, next time I'll be more prepared, with inane small-talk questions ("Have you seen any of the poorly-reviewed summer movies?" — someone asked me this last night and I totally froze up, because I wasn't sure if I'd get wedgied saying that I saw Wordplay and An Inconvenient Truth.) and filler statements that make it seem like I'm interested in the other person ("Wow, that's fascinating." — but smiling and nodding, so it doesn't seem derisive.)