The Pains of Being a (Cambridge) Wallflower

Who needs social skills anyway?

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Uni life is the promised land for social butterflies to spread their wings and fly.

But if you’d rather stay in your pupa like me, contemplating your hatred of humanity, that social journey is more like venturing into the nine layers of hell.

Being an arts student, I don’t even have the excuse that Mathmos have that algebra or equations are my first language. But since I suffer from some chronic social impairment, university life was never going to be a breeze.

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BNOC? More like being nobody on campus

Upon that glorious results day morning when budding new Cantabs found out that they had somehow miraculously got into the best university in the country, my first thought was ‘shit, I have to make new friends’. Then comes the Facebook stalking of all the freshers’ pages, hoping that someone there will seem nice and normal and not the stereotypical nerd. Or even worse, a toff.

Fresher’s week, let’s admit it, is a bit of a farce. For those who hate talking to new people the thought of strained smiles and forced conversations is torturous. You ask people about their name and course, probably immediately forget and then have to resort to the grid of faces (is this just a Jesus thing?) to find out who they are.

Small talk in general is just a social contraption engineered to make humans seem like they actually like other humans. Nobody talks to each other out of the pure joy of social bonding. There is always an ulterior motive, be it making contacts to climb the greasy pole or finding a Fresher friend so that you don’t look like a social pariah who has to eat on their own.

And then there’s those really eager freshers that are desperate to make a good first impression. Every college seems to have a fancy dress bop to force all of the freshers to interact with each other. Even that obscure NatSci who you’ll never see again for the rest of your time at Cambridge will turn up. Those who are keen would have actually bothered to have come up with a proper costume or are so eager to have a good time that they end up being sick on the first night.

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When the spectre of FOMO looms larger than your first essay deadline…

Inevitably group chats will start to form and for the socially dysfunctional among us, like me, this is new landmine territory. Agonising minutes are spent on perfecting that message to sound casual and offhand but still interested. And then comes the time to sit back and feel the growing panic of ostracism and self-loathing that is directly proportional to the number of icons at the bottom of the message.

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The effects of having to socialise…

Now alcohol, I believe, is the universal panacea to cure all social awkwardness. Alcohol is the social saviour that makes everything enjoyable, even sweaty nights out at Life. There are two types of people in this world: those who are happy drunks and the rest who become sad, confused, depressed or sleepy. Cambridge life led me to the joyous discovery that I belong in the latter category, when having less than 2 glasses of wine necessitated a power nap before going out.

For the socially reclusive, going out is a baptism of fire into real human contact and interaction. You either resort to option A, of drinking so much that you actually forget you hate socialising, or B, just dancing awkwardly on the outskirts of your circle of friends. You can probably deduce which category the socially inept author of this article belongs in.

Really what marks the pinnacle of my lack of social skills is actually writing about it in The Tab. After all, who needs friends when you can write a social diatribe instead?