The Solitude of the "Social" Set
Everyone's a little awkward sometimes.
I have written before about how Instagram is a tiny window into a much larger life. Never is that more true than during a time like New York Fashion Week, where the primary form of remittance is clout. We crack our windows just enough to let others peer in at what looks like the height of access: fashion shows, fancy dinners, parties where the glitterati pose and posture, and even the food comes in a camera-ready presentation.
At a party last week, I saw a tray of such food come out in tidily branded little boxes. The server offered it up to our group, surely all hungry from a packed day, and every single one of us lifted our phones and took a photo of the food instead of eating it. This, I thought, is exactly the problem. The concern with illusion is so palpable that we’re forgetting to feed ourselves with what actually matters. Our bellies growl, longing for more, and we go home feeling empty.
I am not an extrovert. I love my bed, my dogs, a hot bath, a warm cup of tea. I make no secret of this. I’m able to be social and bubbly, but my social battery drains quickly, and I need alone time to recharge before facing the outside world again.
I have a large interior life that I don’t put online. One that concerns my partner, my family, and the things that matter most to me. I do best when I'm socializing one-on-one, or running in a safe, small pack of women. In a big room of people where I don’t know anyone, you will probably find me pretending to be busy on my phone.
This isn’t a unique personality trait among my peers. Writers, Content Creators, and the like are largely solitary creatures. We work alone, perhaps with the help of one or two people. We spend a lot of time consuming information and sitting with it so that our minds have the space to spin it into creative output. We work very often from home or in an intimate space with others like ourselves. The “culture” of our workplace exists digitally. We occupy an online persona we can control and curate to the point of near-sterilization if we so choose.
With this work, you may not get out a lot. So, during times like Fashion Week, I find very often the bigger the party, the lonelier the crowd. A room full of influencers can wield a collective audience of millions, but be riddled with social anxiety to chat with just one of their peers. These are the moments when I think we’re all just out here naked, doing our little dance, hoping to make a real friend or two that truly gets us.
I moved to New York to be challenged again. I was complacent in Atlanta, treading the same water year after year. I wanted to be inspired and pushed and uncomfortable. I still do, and the city is certainly doing those things. I’ve been lucky to begin to make some real friends here. But what I am most stricken by is how lonely people are. People complain a lot about encounters with affectation and elitism, but to me, that is probably just someone who is short-circuiting a little and needs a friendly face.
Are some people actually scary and mean and out to get you? Yeah. Absolutely. But most people aren’t. I don’t mean to sound preachy, but small talk is difficult, and everyone hates it. So don’t judge someone if they didn’t dazzle you at a party. For all you know, they had to pee really bad. Like me, below. I went to this party, and I had to pee really bad the whole time.
I’ll be back with some runway coverage later this week, but it’s important to me that you know that none of this is engineered to make you feel like shit. I don’t think you need to be a certain size to love and talk about clothes, nor do I think you need to live in New York or whatever. I’m a dork who still wonders how I get invited to things sometimes — and I also know very well I wouldn’t if I decided to stop writing this newsletter tomorrow. I’m not that important or special, and when you read The Love List, I hope it makes you feel on the inside of things with your slightly withdrawn friend (me), and not out.
I’m going to start a thread in the Subscriber chat about kindness. I know. I KNOW. I can be a Pollyanna. And I am being SUCH a Pisces with my big feelings here. But most of the time, I find the best antidote to snobbery is simply being kind. Because most people aren’t actually snobs. They’re just feeling a little awkward.