800 Words On: My Insufferable Shyness

Where Rob Explores His Social Anxiety

Peanut Butter on Hot Dogs, and Being in a Cottage with, Gasp, Girls!

When I was perhaps 15 or 16, I had begun to hang out with new friends of my best friend, Paul. He acquired these new friends when he started going to a different junior high school than me. He went to Stonepark (and then Charlottetown Rural) while I went to Birchwood (and then Colonel Gray).

One of his new friends was a guy named Dean. Or Darren. I can’t quite remember now. I wasn’t crazy about him. He was a bit of a dick, but pretty harmless and we all hung out some over the summer. One of the perks of  Darrean, apart from the fact he had his own van, was that his family had a North Shore cottage and I got invited to spend a weekend with him and Paul and maybe another guy I can’t really remember. But no parents.

Other than boy scout outings, it was probably my first time away from home. I wasn’t nervous or anything. We arrived and had a pretty good Friday night, not too eventful.  None of us were drinkers (yet), so there was none of that. Saturday morning we woke up late and barbecued some hot dogs. Being in an adventurous mood, and looking through the bare cupboards, I decided to put some peanut butter on my hot dog in a bun, instead of the usual fixings. Well, it turned out to be a hit, everyone had to have peanut butter on their dogs. I had discovered a real delicacy and I was sitting on top of the world.

After an afternoon of lawn bowling at Dalvay By The Sea, tennis and swimming, we returned back to the cottage and gladly gobbled up more PB&HDs. We were all very much excited about how great they tasted.

It was after this that Dearran made his proclamation.

“I’ve invited some people over for a party tonight.”

What party? What kind of people?

I try to ask it casually.

“Just a few guys, and some girls from school.”

What school? The Rural?!? And girls? What? I don’t know these girls. I don’t know how to talk to these girls. I can barely talk to any girls! There’s a dirth of girls in my neighbourhood, you know! Didn’t Paul explain this to you?

I didn’t say this, of course, but it became all I could think about. Whereas a moment ago, I was The Guy Who Invented Peanut Butter On Hot Dogs, Cock of the Walk, suddenly I became instantly withdrawn, inwardly panicked. How would I ever get through this night? Girls.

Honestly, I don’t remember many specifics of the night. Just a few snapshots.

I remember not knowing any of the new people who arrived, and being very uncomfortable about that. I learned that night that when I get uncomfortable like that, I go very quiet and do not interact. It’s the first episode of panic-attack that I remember that was a direct result of being in a gathering that included girls.

I remember a couple of the girls – I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me – but they could tell I was very shy and uncomfortable, and good for them, they did try, in a nice way, to get me to open up and relax. But they had no idea – I had no idea – how powerful this social anxiety had grabbed a hold  of me.  I was basically a lump on the cottage couch. A tall, thin tree next to the refrigerator. All night long.

I remember one short moment – the tiniest sliver of being comfortable enough to engage in a conversation, one on one, with a girl. I am positive, as she approached me, she was merely being kind rather than having any interest in the sack of nerves that I presented. Impossibly, an easy conversation got underway. I told her about lawn bowling that afternoon, and she actually appeared to be genuinely interested.

Then I told her about putting peanut butter on hot dogs, and how awesome it was.

Now, she may have successfully feigned interest in discussions of lawn bowling, but talk of peanut butter on hot dogs – this she could not abide. She reacted strongly. The news spread around the cottage faster than the blood of embarrassment rushed to all visible parts of my skin. 

“This guy puts peanut butter on hot dogs! Gross!”

And there it was. It was over and I was done. No amount of back up from Paul and Darren and the possibly potential other guy I don’t remember could salvage this night.

It was me. I was the weird shy guy who puts peanut butter on hot dogs.

What do you expect from a Colonel Grayer.

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