April 29, 2007

When I'm in London, I tend to be more social then when I'm in New York. I'll venture out on my own to a dinner party on the other side of town with a bunch of people I barely know. A few months ago I even went to meet friends at a restaurant at 10pm. Crazy! Nobody in London can say I'm not audacious.

But in New York it's another story. The most social part of my day will often be lingering in the lobby, catching up with the doormen. If I leave the premises and talk to another human being for more than five minutes, I consider it an achievement.

There are a variety of reasons I don't enjoy going out in New York, but in an effort to expand my social circle beyond the realm of my apartment building, I decided to accept any invitations I got. Very quickly I realised that wasn't a good plan. I don't get invitations. So I alerted my friends that I was available for parties or events. A little bit like a clown for hire. Only they wouldn't have to pay me. And I wouldn't entertain them.

The first invite to come in was from my friend Joanna. There was a festival of Scottish writing - part of Tartan Week - and I went with her to a poetry reading. There were three poets, none of them wore kilts and the first woman sounded English. As she began reading her poem about wilting marigolds, I let my mind wander. It was meditative, and for the first time in ages I felt hopeful I could conquer my insomnia. Two Scottish poets followed, and I found myself appreciating the stillness of the setting - no mobile phones, no talking, no movement. Then again, sitting silently isn't exactly the social situation I was looking for.

The second invite came from Liza. She was going to a party that her single Jewish friend was throwing and I tried to be open-minded. That lasted about five minutes. There were so many people there we couldn't even squeeze through the door. My first thought was: the Upper West Side must be totally empty right now.

Not being able to move was a relief because it allowed me to stay closer to the exit. When a man approached and asked if I wanted something to drink, I said: "No, thanks." When he asked why, I told him that I don't drink. "You don't drink?" He looked stunned. "That's right," I said. "I'm no fun." That's a conversation-stopper.

I looked around. There was nobody I wanted to talk to, and when Liza approached I told her I was going home. She said she understood but she was going to "stick it out" for a bit longer. She's got a high pain threshold.

As we were chatting about this, a few men on their way out paused to look us up and down. This happened a couple of times before it hit me: we were the tipping point. Maybe they wanted to go home but they weren't sure. One look at us, and they knew deciding to leave was the right move.

My third invite was to a party for a literary magazine. Once again it was from Joanna. Because not only do I not have a lot of invitations, I don't have a lot of friends either.
But at this party, I met someone I enjoyed talking to. The conversation wasn't dull and he was charming and funny. Of course, he was British. And he lives in London.