Monday 27 April 2015

Social butterflies

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mum

If I could bestow a single gift upon my children, it would be social confidence. Already I can see that my eldest is struggling to make her mark on the world, preferring to hide away in the corner rather than attract undue attention to herself. When I picked her up from dance club after school the other day, she was standing on her own while the rest of the girls chatted away to each other. "I just don't fit in!" Quiet One snapped at me when I committed the error of asking if she had made any new friends. 

A row of multicoloured Chinese lanterns at a party
Parties: back in seek-a-snog mode
I was similar at her age, or certainly during those precarious teenage years when you would rather die than cause a fuss or go out on a limb. My best friend at school was much more gregarious than me and at parties I used to drift along in her slipstream. She would launch into a group of people like the Titanic on her maiden voyage, holding forth on any subject, while I threw in the odd laconic comment. Fortunately parties in those days were simple affairs. A little flirtatious chat and a lot of cider were just a prelude to a snog in some dark corner of the room.

"It might have been easier if I had donned a rosette saying, 'Single and available - vote for me!' 

I seem to have travelled a connubial bell-curve since those awkward days and now (following my divorce) find myself back in dating hell. At the weekend, I attended a 40th birthday party and was back in seek-a-snog mode. Only this time the odds were dramatically reduced. How do you spot a single guy in amongst a throng of happily (and not-so-happily) married types? It might have been easier if I had donned a rosette saying, "Single and available - vote for me!"

The one bright spot in all this is an uptick in my social confidence. Experience, expedience and continued alcoholic intake have enabled me to emerge from the chrysalis of teenage angst. Despite slim pickings, social gatherings remain exciting because they still hold out the promise of a romantic attachment. Any day now, I might just stumble across that man I have been waiting for all my life...

Is there a lesson in there for Quiet One? How do I teach her to shed her inhibitions and bounce out into the world? She says she doesn't fit in, but I think it is partly not feeling equipped to fit in. In a social situation, she doesn't have the easy patter to hand, or feel the initiative to make small talk. She also isn't incentivised enough to put herself 'out there' at the risk of being put down. 

I try so hard to pass on my own life lessons, but I suspect that this is a road Quiet One has to travel alone. Confidence is not something you can put on like a new set of clothes, but a seed that grows within as you plod through life and figure out your own self-worth. The best I can do is provide the conditions to help her flourish, while trusting that she will find her own way in the end.

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