On being socially clueless

I am socially clueless.

The first time I became aware of this was in 8th grade when a (girl) friend of mine had to explain to me-in great detail-why other girls were offended when you walk up to them and (as a greeting) say “Hey Buttface”*

Thus began my knowledge, that there were “rules” that I just didn’t get.

It’s hard for me to explain what being socially clueless is like, because I don’t know what it’s like to be socially clued in. But I can tell you what it feels like. **

It feels like you’re in a foreign country where everyone else knows what it’s like to do something (like go to prom), and you just stare at them, hoping someone will explain it.

Because you don’t understand.

That, to me, is the most frustrating—I’m not trying to be rude or cold: I literally have no idea why someone is upset about something I did or said, because I don’t pick up on the social cue/have no idea why what I said would be inappropriate. And people think that you’re being deliberately callous—I’m not.

I’m actually a warm, caring, generous big ball of sarcastic fluff. And once I get to know you, I can usually pick up when you’re upset—I just don’t get the “applies to everyone” cues.

Now, I generally don’t know WHY you’re upset, but I do know that you’re upset.

And being socially clueless doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings. I feel deeply. But I don’t always know the “right” way to show it, so I don’t. Or I don’t understand that someone is mocking me, and then, when I find out later that they were, I feel like an idiot.

And being socially clueless doesn’t mean I look, act, or resemble Sheldon from a Big Bang Theory. I’m about the farthest thing from a science nerd that you’ll find, I’m a REALLY big fan of sparkles and sappy movies are some of my favorites. (Seriously, I liked the Lake House).

Being socially clueless means I have to pick my friends very carefully, and have LOTS of discussions with my husband*** about agreed upon cues regarding feelings. It means that I end up with some awesome friends who appreciate my bluntness (one of my housemate’s favorite things about me she said is “I never have to wonder if you’re upset—you’ll tell me if you’re upset”—because the only way I understand emotion is clear, direct statements, so I try and give those statements to others). It means I spent years working on appropriate social interactions and I have a cache of them (stories, expressions) stored up to use. It means making friends is really really hard. It’s who I am.

I want people to believe that if someone says they don’t “get it”—they truly don’t. Explain it to them. Believe that they don’t understand why you’re upset or why what they said isn’t appropriate. They’ll probably say “Thank you”.

*Look, I don’t think it was THAT bad, but the point is that I would walk up to a girl, call her a name and totally not understand why all the girls hated me. That, and I didn’t understand why none of them roughhoused while playing basketball. There was actually a rule in my PE class that I wasn’t allowed to play basketball with girls. True story. (You draw blood one time…)

** (Oddly, I’m usually ok in work situations—likely because being professional comes with its own set of social cues, which are typically easier for me to understand.)

***True story—early in our marriage, he once left the room, and I shouted “What? What’d I say?”