For decades, every interaction I have with another human is just another opportunity for me to feel weighed down by guilt, anxiety, and self-loathing. I walk away from every conversation, pull out my mental highlighter, and work my way down all the points discussed. I mark off every time I may have offended, freaked out, or worried the other person. Within minutes, my mind's stenographer's notes are riddled in yellow; they're basically urine soaked with regret.
"Did I say that "yes" too enthusiastically?" I wonder. "Was that the wrong time to mention that my family calls our skin tone "moons over my hammy" due to our purple/pink skin shade? Now, are they only going to see purple veins when they look at me?
For awhile, I was able to mitigate my intense social anxiety by surrounding myself with people who were more forgiving of my idiosyncracies and, almost always, shared the same traits as me. (I'm not going to say that we're all equally weird because calling oneself "weird" seems too self-congratulatory and, if I am anything, I tend more towards self-flatulation.). My friends and I could speak to each other without fear of social repercussions because we were basically the same person whose linear thinking was full of second guessing and doubt.
Becoming a parent has shattered that protective, public bubble and exposed me to interactions with people far outside of my comfort zone. I'm now in a pool of people who come from much more normal, sane backgrounds and probably won't understand what it's like to grow up in a house where reenactments of the crucifixion was as normal as a game of Scrabble in other households. (We never played Scrabble. It was too "thinky"). They are the people who have very clean kitchens with organized spice racks and craft boxes with paints that didn't expire three years ago.
As a result, I assume everyone dislikes me, which is a feeling I am all too familiar with. (I spent most of my high school career asking everyone if they hated me. In fact, that's exclusively what I said. I rarely ever said anything other than that. I have no idea why I even had friends as a teenager). On the walk to Darla's school, if a parent doesn't smile or say "Hi," I immediately wonder what I have done wrong. I get so nervous on these walks that I flub up my words and often say "Good Morning" when I am picking up Darla in the afternoon. This mistake echoes in my head well into the evening.
There are a handful of parents, in particular, who seem to harbor animus towards me. These are the ones who only seem to scowl when I cross their paths. At first, I thought this was all in my head. I know better, now. I have seen each parent who has frowned at me immediately give an enthusiastic "hello" to the person a few feet behind me.
I have had no interaction with any of these parents and am baffled why they could already not like me. (Give me a chance to creep you out, at least!) Maybe it's because my damaged hair is on point every day or my dress with the hem that's completely ripped with the strings that trail behind me on the sidewalk is causing them to feel envious. I guess I could understand that.
In reality, I think I have resting asshole face, which is probably brought on by my complete avoidance of all eye contact for fear that I am going to make myself look like a real piece of shit if I open my mouth. Recently, at a grocery store, I shopped alongside a mom of one of the kids in Darla's class without looking at her once. I want to think that we both avoided each other, but it seems more likely that she would've gladly said hello if I didn't avert my eyes and become engrossed in the expiration date of the chicken in my cart every time she walked passed.
Sometimes, I can bring myself to look at the other parents and those eye-contact relationships have a solid foundation. With these scowling parents, however, there's less of a chance this will happen now that we've established animosity. Given that I am an extrovert with social anxiety, the likelihood I will bridge that gap is slim. On the other hand, the chances of me beating up myself over it is incredibly high. I will just continue to imagine the conversations I would have with them, though, if I could just stop being so awkward. At least I can edit out all the embarrassing things i would say in those interactions. Maybe when Darla's ready to graduate from middle school I can muster up the courage to wave to them.