It has never been important to me to follow social conventions. I don’t need to answer the phone by saying hello. I don’t need to say goodbye to people when leaving a party. If you’ve told me a story, I’ll let you know. If my eyes are better used elsewhere, I won’t give you constant eye contact. And I don’t feel bad about any of these things, but I do think I’ve gotten progressively worse over time. And while my social incongruities may have been quirky before, they may well be just annoying now.
It could be argued that I lack social intelligence, but I don’t think this is really the case. I’m almost always aware of my lapses, so it’s not that I’m oblivious or incapable of being more polite. But I have started to do things unintentionally. Someone introduced themselves to me the other day and only later did I realize that I never told them my name. I hadn’t done it because I didn’t care if they knew my name, but even for me that was a bit much. I can bother to tell people my name. It doesn’t mean I have to go to their kid’s bat mitzvah.
But it’s not a simple matter of turning a switch. It’s one of those horrible situations where I don’t actually want to change. I want to want to change. That’s a much bigger hurdle. Every few years I make an effort to smile more often, and it never lasts. Because I don’t want to smile more often. I want to want to smile more often. All the while a little voice shouts, in monotone, NOT SMILING IS YOUR THING. DON’T LOSE YOUR THING.
But I can smile a little more often. I can tell people my name. I can actually try to meet new people. I don’t think I’ve tried to meet new people for about a year. I’ll up my small talk a smidgen. But I’m still going to leave the party when I feel like it, so if you’re not between me and the door you’re out of luck.