I'm terrible at dealing with you guys. Yeah. All of you. Each and every one of you. You fill me with anxiety and fear and terror. I'm just lousy with people – especially new people. I can't handle too many of you at once. I'm sure that well over 50% of the people reading this right now are people I've never spoken to; an even greater amount I've never met. I have this intense fear that soon – very soon – each and every one of you will realize that I'm a fraud. A terrible writer, a lousy editor (I'm a pretty lousy editor, that's why Meg is on board.), an overall hack. This fear, above everything other than my fear of snakes, dominates my psyche each time I'm outside of my house. Nobody likes me. That's why I never meet new people. That's why I hate parties. That's why I stayed at a shitty job for two years longer than I probably should have – I can't handle meeting new people.
This summer, I accidentally met a lot of people. Believe me, I didn't want to. It started when I was followed on Twitter by an American Idol contestant. I was friends with her brother in high school, and I spent a lot of time at her house. Her family is like my second, more loved family. Since I was the only non-famous person she followed, her fans started looking for me. It started out flattering, turning to absurd, turning to even more absurd, turning to awful. A thread on the Idol Forums was devoted to figuring out who I was – why their preferred Idol cared about “some nobody.” Those of you who are asking to post anonymously, I understand completely. I really, really do. Idol fans from around the world read my reviews of horrifying pornography and sex toys. (Taken outside of the context of my own life, that's a really, really funny idea.)
A few weeks later, I accidentally (on purpose? Probably.) decided to meet one of the Idol fans. We talked a couple times online, she seemed like a fine, upstanding adult human being. She was running errands in my neighborhood, I had the day off from work. I hadn't had an anxiety attack for a while and figured I was due. We made plans to meet at a cafe, have a cup of coffee, maybe get a bite to eat. I gave myself a million outs. I'll leave after coffee. I have errands to run. Meeting my wife for dinner. I even set an alarm on my phone using the same sound as my ringtone, in case I needed to manufacture an emergency phone call. Turns out that, hey, guess what. I had fun. Like, with a person. Totally unnecessary. We've hung out a few more times, even.
Around the same time as the Idol business, I was (found? discovered? unearthed?) by actual adults on the internet. Led by Tina Rowley, the Twitter Cabal gave me an opportunity to be social and meet people in short, manageable bursts. Turns out, Twitter has served an actual purpose. I really only signed up so I could read a bunch of Michael Vick jokes posted by Matt Besser. Anyhow, what with all these nice new adult people paying attention to me, I realized I needed to start being interesting and funny. Failing that, I figured I could at least get a cool group project together. I organized a mix CD exchange via Twitter. Strangers nationwide, exposing other strangers to their musical tastes. If I was going to be made uncomfortable by dealing with strangers, then Goddamnit, I'll make other people uncomfortable, too. About a dozen people participated, with nearly all of them getting a CD. A massive success, I feel.
Each passing day I felt better and better about my fantastic group of terrifying strangers. They still haven't figured out that I'm actually a dope. They'll never catch on. I'm on top of the world! They even think I'm a good writer. They're all writers, even. They like me. Great! I know, I'll start a blog, with the intent of compiling everyone's writing. Oh shit, they're all really, really good. Better than me. Way, way better. The stark contrast of their good writing and my bad writing is going to shine through. Well, it was a nice run. Three weeks in, they'll figure me out. I'll hand this project over to somebody talented. Ugh.
How much of that last paragraph do I actually believe? I don't know. Half, maybe? Three quarters? I never really know how low my self-esteem is anymore. You know when you meet a really pretty girl who always complains about how ugly they feel?
“No, you're really quite pretty!”
“No, just look at me. I'm wretched!”
“No, look, you've got great [eyes/bone structure/hair/whatever].”
“I was so gawky-looking growing up, I can't see what you're seeing.”
That's how I feel about being liked by strangers. Growing up I was pretty awful. Unlikeable. I was loud, boorish, unappealing. There's a weird dynamic in groups of teenagers, where somebody is the smartest, somebody is the funniest, somebody is the best looking. I was never any of those things. The problem is, I figured since I wasn't the best at anything, I couldn't be that thing at all. Not the funniest? Not funny. Not the smartest? Not smart. I took that insecurity, applied it to the rest of my life. It crept through my brain, dominating my life. Every social interaction feels like an episode of The Chris Farley Show. I make a dumb statement, I get the answer, and then punch myself in the head. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It's an awful, self-perpetuating cycle. I'm bad at meeting people, so I hate meeting people, so I avoid meeting people, so I don't get better at meeting people and I'm still bad at it so I hate doing it so I avoid it and I don't get any better at it so I can do more coke so I can work longer so I can earn more so I can do more coke.
It's tough, now that I'm an adult and people like me, to believe it.
Josh Grimmer lives in Hollywood with his wife and cat. He kinda sorta runs this blog, and has another one at http://mousebed.blogspot.com. Twitter him up at http://twitter.com/JoshGrimmer