This weekend, Frank and I were invited to spend the fourth at friend’s family’s house in Vermont. We’d gone for the holiday last year, too, and knew that it was going to be awesome—the property is huge and beautiful and wooded, the house is old and charming, there’s tons of stuff to do and games to play and the couple who host always procure plenty of delicious food and booze.
So in short, we knew going in that we were going to have a good time. Last year, the group that went up was fairly small and made up of disparate parts: us, the hosts, a couple of friends from Neal (the male host)’s law school and a couple of ladies from Caroline (the female host)’s business school. Yes, by the way, all my friends are accomplished except for me.
The group meshed fairly well, because nobody really knew each other. This year, it was a much bigger group of people and split in half: my friends from college and their significant others—Neal and Caroline and I all went to college together—and Caroline’s friends from high school and their significant others.
Though it was a friendly split, there was definitely far less meshing. Anyway, so the reason that I’m bringing this up is because it was a really interesting opportunity to notice how social ability and pairing interact. Frank and I are both fairly shy people, and I’ve been feeling weirdly anti-social lately.
Not in the “I don’t want to see anybody” sense, but in the “I can’t seem to figure out anything to say to people I don’t know that doesn’t sound weird” sense. I mostly hung out with people from school, and Frank either read by himself or hung out with us. So I would say that we are both socially unable, but more insular together than apart.
Adam and Apryl—a college friend and his wife—are the opposite. Both are extremely funny and outgoing individually, but together are almost a machine of sociability. They have a really funny patter between them and are really good at including other people in that, and so are socially more than the sum of their parts.
My friend Ben had brought his new girlfriend with him, and perhaps because they hadn’t been dating very long, they were pretty much the same together or apart: mellow, but outgoing.
So okay even though I used to get really annoyed when people would talk about socializing in terms of couples instead of people, as if you couldn’t hang out with just one person who is dating another person, or also as though people who are single are somehow less as people, now that most of my friends happen to be with someone, I have definitely noticed that being with a partner changes a person’s public persona.
Some folks transform into a social powerhouse, some people hang back and let the more socially able partner take the lead (occasionally me and Frank trade off being these people, when one of us is feeling particularly outgoing), some get less able when together, and some people are unchanged entirely.
I don’t think any one style is indicative of a healthier relationship or anything. Some people are just naturally better at interacting with strangers, I suppose. I do worry that Frank and I come off as uninterested or standoffish to people that we meet for the first time, but you know, thinking back, I’ve always been the kind of person that someone has to meet a couple of times before they like me.
Ah well. I guess the important thing is that I had a nice time. Right? Ugh. Why couldn’t I have ended up with someone who knew how to talk to strangers? If I’m the more socially capable half of a couple, that is a couple that nobody is going to want to get stuck playing Scattergories with, I don’t care how many gin and tonics were consumed. Sorry, Vermont friends. Sorry, wider humanity.