Saturday, March 05, 2005

social phobia

I suffer from social phobia. This prevents me from doing things I should do, and even that I want to do, and I am sure it is harmful to my career. For example, the other night I was invited to a party for my friend and neighbor Elizabeth Gaffney's new novel, METROPOLIS, which has gotten some excellent reviews. Elizabeth and I went to college together, though she is a few years behind me, and we have many mutual acquaintances and friends who undoubtedly were going to be there. I was sent an invitation weeks ago, and upon receiving it I RSVP'd with enthusiasm. But as the party grew near, I realized I was not going to go. I couldn't face the thought of negotiating my way through a cocktail party. Elizabeth was an editor at the PARIS REVIEW and has gone to Yaddo and MacDowell numerous times (as I have) and it would have been a good networking opportunity. Yet I was frozen, unable to go despite my desire to do it. While my social phobia is better than it once was (thanks to modern medicine) it still is crippling. Obviously this is an odd affliction for a musician, one who performs before audiences large and small. But on a stage I am not afraid. But don't ask me to go mill about in the audience afterwards. I am ok with one-on-one or small groups, but a large event is more than I can handle.

I have been reading an article in a recent NEW YORKER about the late writer E.B. White, written by his stepson, Roger Angell. White suffered from such acute social phobia that he avoided even family weddings, birthday parties and such. I am glad to read of others who have this problem. It makes me feel understood.


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