A year ago I was at the top of my social game. I could strike up a conversation with anyone anywhere. I could walk up to a girl, say hi, and spend the next twenty minutes in fascinating conversation.
They all got confused when I wouldn't ask for their number. But I had my fun.
52 straight weeks in bars. Sometimes more than once a week. I wasn't getting drunk, I went there to hang out and have fun talking to random people.
For an introverted nerd who spent years afraid of talking to girls and fudging about for hours before picking up the phone to call someone this was huge.
My quest to getting epic social skills started a few years earlier when I had to learn "this networking thing". One of my favourite moments was inviting the internet for tea when I first came to Silicon Valley. Many responded and I ended up having pleasant conversations over tea with about ten of them. Fun.
For a while I even went partying once a week religiously. Much expense, many hangovers, and plenty nights being That Wird Guy Who Is Alone At A Club I learned how to get any girl talking to me.
The trick is you shouldn't care. One of the more interesting conversations started with "Hey, you have nice boobs." in response to which I learned that she was from Australia and it must be a European thing to say things like that.
It's not a European thing.
But last autumn life got busy. I started writing books. My freelancing started picking up. Suddenly was spending my days cooped up in my room. Working. Writing. Sleeping.
Despite having enough money to actually afford going out a lot, I never did. Eventually I stopped even going out for groceries. Family brought them anyway.
The only thing that got me out of the house on a regular basis was boxing practice.
I even started making friends at the gym, which is something I'd never done before. Sports are a place I go to be away from people. Making friends at the gym was a bad sign indeed. Something was up.
Three weeks ago I came back to the Valley. My social circle is confined to the same house and roughly the same people I was with in June. Sure I have all my old friends on IRC, but it's not the same.
When I go outside everyone is a stranger. I don't walk up to them to say hi. I don't do anything to break the stranger barrier. I barely even talk to service people, it feels weird.
Going out is no better.
There was a cute girl at the bar last week. A luscious redhead. After 20 minutes of gathering courage I walked up to her friend and said "Hi, have you seen how shiny my boots are?"
"No I haven't", she turned away.
I tried to engage her again, to no avail. Somewhere along the line I had lost my ability to talk to girls. And that wasn't even a bad opener! A year ago I could've gotten a long conversation out of that one.
It gets worse.
On Saturday I met a bunch of new people in SF and because everyone was really into trying out their social game, I had five conversations in half an hour. My head spun and in the middle of talking to someone I ran to the bathroom and vomited.
It might have been the dehydration coupled with drinking too much liquid all at once, but it wasn't a good reaction to have regardless.
My social skills have gone off. Left in the fridge for too long they went bad like week old Indian food.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Considering I have the discipline to work out a good hour a day, I should be able to spend at least some time a week working on my social skills.
With that in mind, it's time to start visiting coffee shops and bars again. I don't yet know how I'm going to make sure I have interesting conversations when writing from a coffee shop, but damn it I'm going to think of something.
Even if it takes sticking a note saying "New to the area. Come say hi" to the back of my laptop.
Wish me luck.
I write articles with real insight into the career and skills of a modern software engineer. "Raw and honest from the heart!" as one reader described them. Fueled by lessons learned over 20 years of building production code for side-projects, small businesses, and hyper growth startups. Both successful and not.
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