Author's Note: I'm writing this personal narrative for class, and we have to read them aloud next week in front of an audience. I would appreciate any reviews you could give me :)
I, like many introverts, despise large parties with a passion. And if most of the people there are strangers, you’d have to drag me from the car by my feet.
A year ago (or maybe it was a couple of years, I forget) my family and I went to my step-great uncle’s birthday party. He rented a large venue, complete with buffet and dance floor. Now, I only knew, like, ten people, so I stuck to my father’s side. The party went as most parties go: eating, dancing, milling around, and talking.
They thought it was fun.
I thought it was hell.
I was a fish out of water. My heart felt as heavy as a block of concrete as I ate my food. Like a lot of parties, there was an unspoken expectation to walk around and socialize. Easier said than done, right?
My step-uncle was seventy years old. A majority of the guests were around the same age and younger. At least 90% were above the age of twenty. The rest -not including myself- were ten and below.
I was just as shy around my age group, so they expect me to go up to a stranger who was two decades older than I was and make small talk? No thanks.
One of the events for the night was playing games. My step-uncle chose me to be a participant, and although I needed pushing, I had fun. I enjoyed playing those games. The energy rubbed off me, and other people were playing too. Everyone had fun. Right after, my step-cousin started dancing on the dance floor. My dad nudged me.
“Go join her,” he told me. I fought with myself to keep my expression neutral.
“I don’t feel like it,” I said. But, I looked at my step-cousin having fun, and boldness urged me to join her. The lights glowed a little brighter.
“You know what? I think I will,” I said, feeling confident for the first time that night. My step-cousin looked delighted to see me dance next to her. And I smiled back at her, dancing to my heart’s content...
...For five minutes.
I’m not a good dancer. I’m not confident. Add those two together, you get a shy, insecure teen who thinks everyone is staring at her. For one thing, I was in the very front; one of the tables was six feet in front of me. For all I knew, the people were probably staring at me, giggling at how stupid I looked.
My spurt of confidence fell short, and I looked helplessly over at my table. My grandma, recording me on her phone, gave me a thumbs up. I hid my grimace behind a grin. Nonchalantly, I stopped dancing and went back to my table and sat down, feeling very embarrassed.
“What happened?” my grandma asked me.
“I didn’t feel like dancing,” I said.
Ten minutes later, my step-uncle came by with another woman, and we all stood up to introduce ourselves. The grownups started talking about the party, and I stood behind them, listening and smiling when appropriate. Then, my step-uncle directed his attention to me.
“Are you enjoying the party, Salma?” he asked.
“Oh, yes, I’m having a lot of fun,” I said.
“Have you talked to anyone?”
Here was the dreaded question. I had not.
How could I, anyway, I thought, trying to assure myself. Our age difference is so vast. I could stretch the truth a little. Yes, yes. I danced a little victory in my head.
“A little,” I said. It wasn’t a downright lie. I mean, I had talked to my family and my cousins. Just no one I didn’t know.
He didn’t look convinced. He said, “Well, why don’t you walk around and talk to some people?”
I really didn’t want to do that. What would I talk about? What would I say? I would melt into a puddle. What if they didn’t want to talk to me?
“Well, I-I, uh, I don’t…” I stammered. I shook my head, smiled weakly, tried to articulate with my hands why I didn’t want to talk to strangers.
“You’re going to talk to other people!” he yelled at me, his face twisted.
There it was. The worst part of the evening. Everyone went silent, and the woman behind him widened her eyes and formed an “O” with her mouth. Tears prickled the back of my eyes, and it took everything in me not to cry.
He and the woman walked away, and as we sat back down, hot anger flashed through me. He-he had yelled at me... in front of my family. I couldn’t believe it.
I spent the rest of the night stewing in silent anger, keeping the tears at bay. I don’t remember saying goodbye to him. I think we just left.
Looking back on this event, I realize that he didn’t know how difficult it was for me to walk up and strike a conversation with someone I didn’t know. I still don’t think he should’ve yelled at me, but I need to be more confident in myself. I start slow when I’m at a large gathering, just a hello and mini introductions. Confidence takes time.