I hate answering the door.
When the doorbell rings, I either pretend I didn’t hear it or scurry up to my office where I peer out the window hoping it’s just the UPS guy so I can pick up my box after he drives away.
Occasionally, I am forced to actually appear in the doorway; either because I was expecting someone or I was clearly seen inside the house, and can think of no excuse airtight enough to explain my rude refusal to heed the call of the doorbell.
I dread these moments, lingering on the threshold of indoors and outdoors, on the precipice between alone and not-alone. Should I invite my visitor in? How long will they stay? I break into a sweat as I try to decide whether to offer them food or frantically clean up the mess which seems to have magically appeared the moment they stepped foot in my house.
My head spins: have I remembered to brush my teeth today? Does the house smell like garlic? After I pretend to be friendly, will my dogs race downstairs and try to maul my guest? (This is not an imaginary fear, it happens quite frequently, spurred, no doubt, by my own paranoia and discomfort.)
Equally stressful; answering the phone, talking on the phone, going to parties, bumping into people in the grocery store, driving in a car with someone I don’t know extremely well or haven’t seen in a long time, hosting anything, hugging people except my immediate family and speaking to the person next to me on the plane.
Weirdly, chatting with cashiers, teaching a yoga class, or being out at a restaurant with anyone and everyone doesn’t phase me at all.
I would hate to think that I’m so neurotic that unless my surroundings are prearranged in such a way that I perceive I have a cloak of invulnerability, I am unable to be candid or relaxed.
On the other hand, maybe it’s not neurosis—maybe it’s just the way I was made.
I love being alone.
This is ironic considering the enormous family I married into complete with five children, to which I added one, two sister’s in law and their huge families who live within spitting distance of my home, as well as a mother-in-law who resides directly behind my house.
I also have lots of dear, dear friends far and wide.
But if I can’t write for a few hours in solitude a day, if I can’t ride my bike, walk my dogs in the woods or practice yoga alone every day, if I can’t read, take a nap and fool around on my computer alone every single day, I feel as if my brain expands like a bicycle tire pumped beyond it’s capacity which explodes at the slightest pressure against the pavement.
At such times you’ll see me either fake smiling my way through the pain, laughing way too loud and insisting that I am fine. Fine!! Or slumping around giving everyone the silent treatment and acting like there is some kind of conspiracy against me.
I’m fairly certain it isn’t normal to need to be alone so much, so I force myself to make (most of) the phone calls, go to the parties and do all the other things expected of a fully functional adult human being. And generally, I end up enjoying myself doing these things.
But when the next time rolls around for me to volunteer at my kid’s school or carpool into the city with a bunch of girlfriends, I spend days panicking, trying to figure out how to get out of it, and wondering why I’m such a freak.
I may never know where this ism of mine is rooted, and at this point I’d say it’s a fair assumption that it’s here to stay—so if you happen to swing by my place, knock on the door and see a shadow mysteriously slip across the window while the dogs bark madly from somewhere in a distant room, please don’t take it personally.
I’ll just be hiding under my desk in a cold sweat with the lights turned out hoping I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum/Bryonie Wise