Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Secret Origin of Cap'n Neurotic pt.6 - On-stage and Off at the BSU

Before moving on to my Sophomore year, I'd like to take a quick detour to cover a few of the other things going on in my life during those first two semesters. First up: my involvement with the OSU Baptist Student Union.

Coming to OSU fresh off of my mini-breakthrough with my Youth Group, I thought that the BSU would prove to be my main source of friends and activities.

I was sorely mistaken.

In an earlier post I mentioned in passing the distinction between looking like a fool on purpose and on accident. I have no problem getting up in front of large groups of people and giving a speech, or acting, or singing and dancing and generally being a total goofball; doesn’t faze me at all. But get me off the stage, and force me to strike up a conversation with a total stranger, or fit into a group of people who already know each other well: instant deer-in-headlights. This on-stage/off-stage dichotomy would pretty much define my time at the BSU.

I think my social paralysis is one of those rare neurotic tendencies that actually has a bit of validation behind it: many’s the time my attempts at small talk or ice-breaking humor have been met with blank, uncomprehending stares. There was a former co-worker who never was able to tell when I was joking; I would make a sarcastic comment, and she would respond in a tired, world-weary tone “No, Todd,” and then proceed to patiently explain just why the comment I had just made could never happen. And lest you (quite justifiably) think this is just my paranoia, I have Book Monkey witnesses to back me up on this one. Anyhow, this sort of reaction caused me to keep my sense of humor under wraps until I was sure it would get a reaction other than stupefied glances or condescension.

How did I ever manage to overcome this neurotic behavior to make friends? Well, in Parker I was around my dorm-mates almost constantly, and so was able to gradually suss out what parts of my personality would and wouldn't fly; at the BSU, where the socialization time was much more limited, I floundered a bit. Of course, it also helped that the odds of someone in Parker recognizing a reference to Monty Python, Robert Jordan, or the X-Men were much higher than at the BSU. One Sunday, I was invited to lunch after church by a couple of upperclassmen. It was a nice gesture on their part, but I have rarely had meals as uncomfortable as that one. Outside of church, I was unable to find anything in common with them; the closest I came was noticing that there was a book on the making of Jurassic Park on their coffee table. I tried to use that as a springboard for conversation, but the idea died quickly when I mentioned I had read the book, and they both acted like that was one of craziest things they'd ever heard; almost as if the task of reading a Michael Crichton novel was tantamount to having read Moby Dick for fun. Needless to say, I was not invited back.

Now, the BSU did set all of the Freshman up in "family groups," with two upperclassmen acting as our "mom and dad"; the groups would meet for Bible study and fellowship an hour before the Thursday night service, which in theory would have been a good tool for socialization, right? Well, my fellow family group freshman consisted of two Stillwater residents who had known Ma and Pa for years thanks to attending the same church; P.A.L., another Parker resident who was at least as big an introvert in those settings as I was; and two or three random folks who only showed up once in a blue moon. So, the family group, not that big of a help; outside of bonding with P.A.L. over the uncomfortable situation of seeing Ma, Pa, and our two Stillwater sister get along like gangbusters, I didn’t gain much from the group. Of course, that was still a function of my neurosis; I remember one week when Wrath decided to come to the BSU with me and sat in on the family group, he was more comfortable and chatty with my group after 5 minutes than I had been after a full semester.

The one aspect of the BSU where I felt comfortable was the Drama Team. Basically, the DT would do skits at various churches in the state, sometimes for Youth groups, sometimes for a church service. When I was practicing, traveling, and performing with them, I felt comfortable; when I wasn't, I had a hard time translating that camaraderie into a wider range of friendships. I attended most of the BSU services and functions, but the pull between hanging out at Parker where people seemed to finally get me and attending the BSU where I was slipping back into full-on Outsider mode started to wear me down, and it would only get worse as the Golden Year began to run down.


2 comments:

Zinger said...

Anytime you mention the BSU, it reminds me of the day that OSU beat UMass to go to the Final Four in '95... :)

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Y'know I was actually planning on talking about that in a new running feature, "Embarrassing Moments in the Life of Cap'n Neurotic." And yes, G'ovich, the runaway dog at the park will be covered as well.