I very rarely feel socially awkward, but tonight was one of those nights. All I could think of was how long until I could run away without looking like a complete moron. Or, better put, more of a complete moron.
Tonight, one of Harvard's professors (and the one I am trying to solicit to be my thesis adviser) was honored with an old and prestigious endowed chair. After her brief lecture, there was a reception. The three students I knew at this thing left immediately after the lecture, but I stuck around, because I wanted to 1) congratulate the professor, and 2) remind her that I exist so she will agree to be my adviser. But of course, my professor was immediately flanked on all sides by colleagues, and I didn't want to interrupt their animated conversations with my paltry greetings. So I was left to roam for a bit. A bit that lasted 15 minutes. I didn't know anyone else in the room except for other professors I had had throughout my tenure here, and I didn't feel particularly inclined to wander up and play the fun game of "remember me? What are you working on these days?" One professor did catch my eye and wave, so I walked over and began to speak to her, but no sooner than we exchanged pleasantries did another professor come up and begin to speak to her. They were talking about the Brookline neighborhood and their families, and I know nothing about the Brookline neighborhood or their families. I stood on the fringes, awkwardly, until both professors started talking about heading out, since they were going the same way.
I knew how I looked and I hated it. I was hovering, clumsily, not able to contribute to the current conversation and not feeling able to steer it back to a topic to which I could contribute. I didn't know one of the women, and the other I had only the most cursory of relationships with. She must of wondered why I continued to stand there for so long, when the conversation obviously no longer included me.
Finally, I spotted an opening in the honored professor's circle, and I stepped up and congratulated her. To my delight, she remembered me. No mention of my pending request for her to be my adviser, however. I plan to schedule a meeting with her via her secretary later this week, so all is not lost. As soon as she had greeted me she was congratulated by another colleague, and turned her attention to him. I quietly slipped away again and hit the door.
Ugh. I am thankful that I am able to act gracefully and confidently in almost all social situations. This one, however, completely got away from me, and I felt miserable. It was probably a good exercise, however, since so many people suffer from the complete fear of a cocktail party, and it's good to remember that they aren't just being sissies. Sometimes, wandering into a group of strangers who are not your peers and trying to blend in is, plain and simply, horrible.
Delicious crabcakes, however.