I’m not the most social creature on this planet. If I know you well, I’m bubbly and talkative and energetic. I think I often come off as snobby when people meet me. Shark told me once that I was “aloof” in high school. The truth is, I’m desperately shy. I want to say something to a person but my brain freezes in the process. I’m also not inherently trusting of people I don’t know well. Some people just talk about their lives with no abandon regardless of who you are – my coworker this week was telling me really personal things about herself, and I just could not reciprocate.
I try to be Social Jenny every so often, because it’s good to meet new people and get yourself out of your comfort zone. My friend Tap wants me to become more social. “I’M SO PROUD OF MY LITTLE JENNAH,” he told me once when I said I was actively trying to be more social (he’s the only person in the world who calls me “Jennah.”) I know he would disapprove of how I handled a social situation yesterday.
Yesterday, I was eating a late lunch outside of one of my favorite food stands. I was tired and annoyed and upset over various things, and really just wanted a peaceful lunch to myself. I opened up my Thai food container and started eating my Pad Thai. The weather was warm and sunny, and I was sitting in the shade. It was going to be a good day. I started to decompress a little.
There was a guy who had seated himself at my table when I’d gone to collect my food. When I returned, I thought, Why is he sitting here? Does he want to talk to me? I told myself this was not the reason, and continued eating my lunch.
A moment later, the man’s mother plopped herself down at the table. “Do you mind if we share the shade with you?” she asked. I said no. What am I supposed to say? “NO, I WANT TO BE BY MYSELF, SIT IN THE SUNSHINE.” Now. I understand it would be totally selfish of me to expect to keep the entire table to myself just because I want peace and quiet. I’m not selfish. However, it goes both ways. I get annoyed when a group of people want to hijack a table that one singular person is eating at and doesn’t respect that person’s personal space (sitting next to them closely, talking loudly, etc). That has happened to me more than once. And it was about to happen again.
The woman commented on how good my Pad Thai looked, and I confirmed that it was with my Polite Jenny voice. I continued eating when the woman’s husband and daughter joined the table too. The woman scooted over to let her husband in, which meant she was sitting uncomfortably close to me. I must have visibly reacted, because the daughter said, in a slightly snooty and loud voice, “Don’t worry, we’re not going to invade your personal space.” TOO LATE, BITCH, I thought to myself. I looked around at the other side of the table longingly, which was sunny but empty. I opened up my Sketches notebook to have something to focus on while the family rambled on, but I couldn’t focus. And I had to keep my notebook on my lap since the woman was sitting closely enough to read it.
The family was talking loudly. I understand that they needed some place to sit, but couldn’t they have respected that I was sitting there by myself and maybe have given me a little more space? I was seated so closely to them that any passersby would have assumed I was part of their family. All I had wanted was a quiet lunch to myself to decompress, and here I was forced to listen to the annoying girl talk about her trip to Georgetown University and how they had the BEST CUPCAKES EVARRRR. I know that if Tap were in my situation, he would have started talking to the family (Pat and I joke all the time about Tap and his love of talking). And he wouldn’t have done what I did, which is scurry away after the mother and daughter had gotten up to take a picture of something. I found a quiet spot on the steps to finish my meal, but felt like something had been stolen from me as I did.
Again, I’m not saying that I expected to keep that table to myself, because that would be totally selfish. But if any of you are ever in the situation where you need to sit at a table that a singular person is occupying, just show some respect when you sit there. That person may just be tired of people at the moment and maybe just wants, more than anything in the world, a little peace and quiet at that moment.