Saturday, February 5, 2011

Being sociable

Last Tuesday I went to lunch at a diner near my house. At a cluster of tables nearby, 15 older women - in their 70s mostly - ate lunch together. They looked dressed up. One of them wore a hat with sequins. Several wore hose. They reminded me of how we used to dress up for church when I was a kid. I tried to hear what they were saying, but their voices didn't carry. I asked Voula, the proprietor, who these women were. My guess was that they were from a church organization. She said no, they were neighbors. They get together at someone's house once a month for lunch, and this time they decided to try a restaurant.

On Wednesday night I went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant a couple of miles from my house. At a large round table nearby, nine young women ate dinner together. They were dressed casually and a few of them had their hair tied up in informal pony tails. They talked fast and colloquially and it was easy to hear them as they discussed bosses, husbands and babies. I didn't find out how they all knew each other.

The older ladies from the diner are could be the grandmothers of the young women at the Chinese place. The attire is different now and so are the volume and style of speech. But they're the same in an important way; they still gather as groups of women to talk and eat.

In my last post I talked about how I'm making social contacts now. I knew I'd have to do that to replace the social interactions I had during the day at work. I'm a low-end extrovert - I can spend hours on the computer or with a good book, but I do need conversation with other people.

The responses to that post remind me that we don't all need the same kind of social contact. Some of us are quite content to spend much of our time alone. Some wish they had more interactions with others. Some are content with the present balance they have.

When I was younger I thought I ought to be more sociable. That was probably a message I got from my mother, who could work a room with the best of them. I like getting together one on one with friends, or one on several - if I know everyone. Still, even after a couple of hours I'm ready to go home. My sister Alyx loves being around people and inherited my mother's talent for schmoozing. When I visit her, I sometimes have to retire to my room to get a break from the social activity going on at her house.

I know I need a social network. Usually, most of my friends don't know each other. If I were to have a gathering of a dozen friends, the only thing most of them would have in common is me. I suspect that's not unusual.

The odds are reasonable that a woman will outlive her spouse. If that happens to me, I want to have a lively community around me. It's not the main reason I'm actively seeking social connections now that I'm not working, but I have to admit it is a factor.

Thank goodness for blogging. We who read and comment on each other's thoughts recognize commonality and value it. This particular topic might not ever come up in other kinds of conversations at all.


13 comments:

Olga said...

I would tend to avoid big, noisey gatherings--maybe I am a low end introvert, if that means very introverted--but it is sometimes interesting to watch others in action. People that can just strike up conversations with any random person they run into amaze me in the way anyone with a great talent does.

Teresa Evangeline said...

Quilting bees, koffee klatches and such, were once commonplace ways for women to gather and visit, sharing their stories and feelings. I think it provided an important aspect to their lives, something we could still benefit from greatly. This is making me think about my own choices and how I can enlarge my circle. Thank You, Linda!

#1Nana said...

I understand what you're saying and I agree that everyone needs a social network, but I'm just not willing to put the effort into it that it needs to be successful. I must need to write about this topic to discover how I really feel about it...

DJan said...

I have 79 blogs I currently follow. That's a lot to keep up with, and I comment often to let people know how much I appreciate their thoughts. It's my cyber klatch, I guess, but I also have a healthy physical connection with others here in Bellingham. Just this morning I went on my Saturday morning walk with twenty or so women, some of whom I know quite well now, as we hike together on Thursdays too. It's amazing to me how quickly I get caught up in the lives of others.

But then again, I'm pretty much of an extreme extrovert.

Muffy's Marks said...

I am like you. A few good friends is all I need. I don't do well in large groups. One on one, my friends meet me for lunch, coffee, or just chatting. Some know each other, others don't. I like it that way.

Linda said...

Life started over for us when we moved to Oregon.

No more neighborhood stuff. Our old neighborhood was friendly, too friendly. At first I missed it but now I have no desire for it.

I force myself to volunteer one afternoon a week because I know I need to make contact with people in skin.

I can go for days without leaving the house. I really have no desire to commit to anything. You have to invest in friendships.

It's hard for me to believe this is me now, as people think I'm an extrovert, and for years I could not stand being alone.

Linda Reeder said...

I have a small social network. I'm pretty much an introvert. When I do got to gatherings I get antsy after a while unless the conversation is really interesting.
And yet I do think about where I would be if I lost Tom and I was all alone. I would need a larger circle of friends. What to do?

Arkansas Patti said...

When I moved to this town, I knew no one. So I joined clubs. Not just any club but those that interested me. A garden club, a writers group and a support group for cancer survivors.
Out of that I formed a network of friends with like interests and I met some really dandy people.

Ruth D~ said...

I found this interesting, Linda. Especially your description of yourself as a low-end extrovert. Nicely put. I'm finding that cyber friends are as important as physical ones, but I want and need both.

Retired English Teacher said...

I've thought about this topic a lot since you posted it. I, like #1 Nana, will have to write about it to sort it all out for myself. I appreciate you honesty in writing about this.

marciamayo said...

I'm a bit of an introvert myself and I'm afraid, once I retire, I'll won't get out and see people. I love work friendships because they are defined and usually don't leak over to my off time. I guess what I'm saying is that I need a balance with both people and no people.

maggie's garden said...

Introvert myself...but still need to get with people from time to time. It is hard for women especially to understand that. You either have to be totally committed or thought of as a fickle friend. I'm this way with blogging as well I suppose. Just ask my blog buddies that i abandon from time to time. It is nice though when they still come back after long disappearances. Just wish this worked as well in person.

MerCyn said...

Same personality type here. Last year moved to new community, and a lot of old ties are not as strong. I find that friends I have had for decades, though scattered around the country, are the best, even if contact is by email, phone, and only occasionally in person. Slowly adapting to new community, but it is not easy. Thank you cyberfriends!