I have been invited to lunch. With a roomful of strangers. I am *UTTERLY* terrified.
I know it's fashionable these days to pretend to be sociopathic/aspergic/dysfunctional, but it's only when the invite turned up and I thought "how brilliant!" and then realised "I've not sat in a room full of complete strangers for... for..."
My brain rattles. I mean, clearly discounting evenings out on the gay, the answer is A Long Time. I have vague memories of being sent to a training day about networking in 1999 and sullenly standing in a corner.
Oddly, at some point in my 30s, I've become hermitised (there is a pun here about "hermitically sealed" but...). I don't even go out on the gay that much any more. I wonder if Brain has gone: "I have enough friends, and they're all brilliant. If they introduce me to their friends, then that's marvellous, but other than that, I don't have to pretend to like people any more."
I walked into a bar this week and a good-looking stranger started speaking to me. I was taken aback, until I suddenly realised he was too drunk to breathe. It was a curious feeling, "Ooh, surprise social interaction" vs "Nah, leave it." So I did.
Last night, some friends took me out to The Yard. I've pretty much always hated it as a gay bar. I don't understand why Londoners voluntarily choose to hang out in places that replicate the ambience of the Northern Line at rush hour. Yes yes yes, it's full of pretty people, but how do they meet each other? Do they just bump into each other, or jostle their elbows in a provocative way? What, exactly, is the fun in standing on a narrow parapet, being shoved quietly by strangers further out into the drizzle while you try and hold a freezing drink on one hand and a damp cigarette in the other?
So, after a while, we went round the corner to my club and sat down in front of a fire and drank pricey drinks and talked about mortgages and people we can't stand. That seemed much nicer.
On the way home, I cycled past the gays off for a night clubbing and then past the giant hole in the grouned where GAY used to be. And I remembered sadly that somehow the idea of standing in a vast disco barn full of balloons and strangers seemed marvellous. And I wondered if growing up is really that brilliant after all.