It is characterized by at least four of the following: Every single one of the above applies to me. I dread social settings. Being part of a group activity makes me go cold inside and my stomach tighten.
I am at my best on a one-on-one basis. Even a third person being present makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. I try not to make eye contact, so when I do I always easily see several people looking at me. As a teenager I put it down to my gangly awkwardness, as an adult I ascribe it to my height, build and dark hair. I know that many women like tall and dark men, but the attention makes me feel uncomfortable.
I prefer to be in the background, orchestrating events and suggesting ideas. I never maintain eye contact with anyone, am sometimes thumbing away at my phone, thus looking downward, but my favourite escape that calms me is to be listening to music via an earpiece. My working life has been the biggest challenge, pain and disappointment of my life. My coping mechanism has been to put my head down and work like a Trojan. This has had the unintended consequence of me being perceived as a good worker by my bosses.
I am now so accustomed to it that I prefer things that way, not because I like it, but because I know how to deal with it. Better the devil you know is not my preferred way of doing things, but whenever I can I orchestrate things so that I work alone, preferably physically so.
I find it much easier to do my own thing than ask permission or seek forgiveness. I am not afraid to be unpopular in a workplace, because that just makes it easier to move on when the opportunity presents itself. Permanent employment has felt like a prison sentence to me, working on a freelance basis has proved more emotionally acceptable because I know exactly when it will be over. This lack of fearing unpopularity has been a mixed blessing.
Because I feel it almost inevitable in certain settings with people I do not know, it has lead to me being ruthless at times. I have had no compunction in resorting to bloody violence to get my way. Men really are like dogs in that we adhere to a pack mentality…and there can only be one top dog: Sadly, the few times my ex-wife and ex-girlfriend saw my vicious streak when I was provoked led to them losing some respect for me and having it replaced by a little fear.
As I have got older these feelings of social inadequacy have grown and become more prominent in my daily existence. Why am I like this? All my life I have felt like the outsider in any group setting. It all started when I was little. My parents were badly married. My father was a raging alcoholic and often out of work. My mother was always at work during the day. They fought every dinner-time and all weekend.
I was an only child, so when the fighting started I used to run away and hide in my own little world. My mother was overly protective towards me; overbearing and controlling in fact. She had me when she was almost 41 and I was her way of dealing with her shit life.
I was the one thing she cherished…and could control. When both my parents had jobs when I was under six years old, a maid would come take care of me and the apartment. She was under strict instructions to never let me outdoors.
For years I would sit at the window watching the other kids play. A couple of times I sneaked out to play with them, but the maid caught me and took me back inside, fearful of losing her job. Then one day my mother said to me that one of the kids had invited me to their birthday party.
I was so excited. On the day of the party, I woke up early, relishing the chance to finally get to play with the other kids. My mother had bought a navy-blue trousers with harlequin waistcoat, white shirt and sky-blue bow-tie.
Yep, my mother dressed me funny. By lunchtime I was tired and asked my mother if it was okay for me to nap for a little while and that she must wake me for the party. I missed the party and I was upset. I convinced myself that now, for sure, the other kids would never want to play with me ever again. I resumed watching them from a distance, in my prison, overseen by the maid. The city where we lived was a compromise choice for my parents because they had married across the cultural divide.
In Apartheid-era South Africa, although both were white, my father was an Afrikaner and my mother of English descent, this was a socially inappropriate union. Their families shunned them and they moved to a city where nobody knew them, thus neither had friends or family in this neutral city.
I have no recollection of us ever having visitors in the first 10 years of my life. Sadly I also have no recollection of ever being hugged or shown any kind of affection by either of my parents; they were too busy with their private war.
I can count on my one hand and have fingers left over the number of times I interacted with other children before I had to go to school at the age of six. I want you to get the highest marks for every subject. All the other kids in my class were different to me. They also all knew each other. From day one I felt like the outsider, but it was in effect, just a continuation of what was the norm for me.
Not the typical geek, because I was bigger than the other kids, so nobody picked on me. I just felt that collectively I was being shunned. Because of my intellect, physique and forceful nature courtesy of being a badly-socialised only child I was the captain of every team in my school career. It was easier to lead and browbeat kids into line, than to learn how to compromise and fit in. My mother then decided that I should go to a different high-school than what my few primary school chums went to.
So I arrived at a new school, at the age of thirteen, knowing nobody. Again they all knew each other, having been to the same primary school for the previous eight years. Again I was the outsider trying to break in. Teenagers can be nasty and very cliquey.
My first year of high school was awful; nobody wanted to be friends with me. I remember a couple of break times taking myself off to the toilets and sitting in a cubicle, sometimes crying.
Eventually a couple of boys warmed to me. My father dropped dead from a heart attack a week before my fourteenth birthday. That was 1st September ; it was a Sunday. On the Monday morning my mother went to the bank to tell them that my father had died.
The bank manager instantly froze all the bank accounts and my mother had no cash. There were no friends or family to borrow money off of. There was no food in the house, as bad luck would have it.
By the Wednesday night my dinner was a cereal with hot water. We were literally left penniless. I stayed off school for a few weeks and when I returned all the kids ignored me. Nobody wanted to speak to me, they were all so uncomfortable around me, not knowing what to say. The last few months of my first year of high school passed in splendid isolation.
My mother decided to move to another city, where her family was, who had promised to help out. So at the age of fourteen I went off to another high-school. Yep, as usual, I was the outsider looking in. However, money was a massive problem for me and my mother. Her nephew my cousin owned a scrap metal yard and he gave my mother a full-time job as his book-keeper. I worked for him on weekends occasional Sundays too and all my school holidays. I skipped being a teenager and got thrown into the adult world.
This made it harder to relate to kids my own age, teachers even; they were all so immature. I had very few friends in high-school. I felt like no girl would be interested in me because I was so poor. My stand-out moment in high school was the prom. This public grilling went on for ages. I would say that my teenage years were characterized by a feeling of never fitting in anywhere.
Whenever I tried to join a group I was rejected, so I learned to reject groups. As a teenager I aspired to normality, decency and respectability. Respect is something important to me. The law of the land said that I therefore had to do national service.