I am an introvert by nature and so is Ruby. And although not all introverts are socially awkward, we are card-carrying members of the socially awkward ‘sometimes it’s hard to leave the house’ club.
This isn’t breaking news. Long time readers already know about our struggles to be normal. But in case you are just joining us, here’s some background info. Ruby and I are normal most of the time, until we are not. I am a nice person and generally friendly, but I don’t think anyone would ever describe me as chatty. Ruby is a nice dog, she’s just kind of awkward around other dogs. It’s like she doesn’t know how to be a normal dog (in the same way I don’t always know how to carry on normal conversation).
Maybe we could be more social. Maybe I should try harder to socialize Ruby around other dogs. But truthfully, it seems unfair to ask her to do something I don’t really want to do either. And bonus points: having a dog that is socially awkward or even selectively reactive, gives you a built-in excuse to wave and keep walking without the judgment or guilt from extraverted friends and neighbors. “Sorry, my dog is having a bad day. Can we chat another time? Maybe next year?”
Social Skills and Party Tips for Socially Awkward Peeps and Pups
This is all well and fine, but sometimes we must leave the house without our dogs: stores, parties, school and work functions, trips to the DMV. All anxiety-producing places where dogs are typically not allowed (dang it). Of course, if you have an emotional support dog, then you are good to go. But I’m not even sure socially awkward dogs are allowed to be emotional support dogs because if it is unclear who is receiving and who is giving support, things get confusing. Boundaries are hard.
The first step (deep breath) is leaving the house without your dog. They say the first step is always the hardest, but actually all the steps are hard when you are socially awkward and must leave your dog at home. There will be sad eyes, maybe some shaking, and lots of guilt. Socially awkward pups have perfected the ‘if you leave I might die” look that makes us run back in for one more hug – and then curl up on the couch and give up.
When you are at a holiday party and the one person you know disappears (and by disappear, I mean talks to other people).
You try to act normal, but your hands are shaking so you miss your mouth and potato salad ends up in your lap. And you think, “where is my socially awkward dog when I need her, she would have this potato salad cleaned up so dang fast”. So you don’t eat for fear of it happening again or drink because low blood sugar equals fall risk.
Helpful Party Hint #1: Find the pets first. And keep in mind, if you don’t find the host’s pets early in the night, some other socially awkward person will find them first. Most normal people only have one or maybe two pets so there may be competition. Do not pass go, do not get a drink. Always find the pets first.
Helpful Party Hint #2: Don’t forget the fish. If the cat or dog is taken, fish watching is a great way to avoid eye contact and the forced small talk that will surely follow. If anyone does try to talk to you simply say, “Wow, I never realized how fascinating gold fish are. Just look at how they float in one place” This is what I call a conversation starter and closer all in one. You are welcome.
Helpful Party Hint #3: Here’s how parties should go (and if I ever actually host a party, I will make this a priority): you arrive at a party or social function where you don’t know anyone and are immediately offered a drink and a quivering lap dog with whom you can retreat to a corner and occasionally wave to your more social friends, coworkers and acquaintances. “I’ll take a Yorkie and a chardonnay, please.”
When you force yourself to go to back-to-school night because you don’t want to embarrass your kid by being the parent who doesn’t show up and/or or talk to anyone.
The other parents are all super charming and social and you are not. Everyone sits in a circle and answers some random icebreaker question (I would rather actually break ice than answer ice breaker questions). Only when it is your turn, you can’t remember the question so you answer some other random question. It’s super awkward – and if only your socially awkward dog was with you (eating a desk or knocking over a trashcan) so you could politely excuse yourself and leave the room.
Helpful Hint #1: Now in principle I don’t believe in classroom pets. But if there happens to be one at back-to-school night, I make an exception. Simply position yourself in front of the turtle habitat and start analyzing his behavior “I don’t think he is happy we are all here.” At this point, much like the fish example above, most parents will smile and move on. But if anyone pauses and says “You are right. We should probably all leave,’” you know you have found a friend for life.
Helpful Hint #2: No classroom pet, no problem. Find the children’s artwork and then spend all evening staring at drawings of stick people with big heads and smiling purple cats. If other parents wander over, make interesting comments like “that’s one happy cat.” Parents are usually so enamored by their kid’s giant pink frog with green polka dots that they won’t notice or care what you are saying.
Parties and school functions are two of my personal social menaces. There are many others, but hopefully some of these tips can be applied to a variety of uncomfortable social situations. Staff meetings and other work related events used to be a big ‘no dogs allowed’ social challenge for me, but I now work from home so problem solved.
The Very, Very Best Part
No matter what happens in the outside, super chatty, stressful world you eventually get to go home to your socially awkward dog who will surely act as though you have been gone for months, maybe even years. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back and your dog on the head for being so brave and almost normal.
Dogs (and cats and even fish) don’t care if you leave your house, answer your phone, make a fool of yourself, fall down and go boom. They love and accept you, social anxiety and all. As long as you have each other and a socially awkward friend or two, you are good to go – or stay home, depending on your personal preference.
Feel free to share your own ‘no dogs allowed’ social challenges in the comments below. Stay up-to-date on our journey to be normal (as well as a whole bunch of cuteness and feel-good, inspiring rescue and adoption stories) by subscribing to our email list.