A few months back, I met a friend on a personals website. He was an elderly man (well, middle-aged by my standards) from Mumbai who was in a long-term relationship with his boyfriend. He seemed genuine in his correspondence to me and tried to keep in touch with me regularly. I got to know from his communications that his boyfriend was much older to him—the boyfriend had undergone cardiac surgery and was recuperating from it.
The good thing about my friend is that he seemed to be interested in me as a friend and didn’t seem to have an ulterior dark side like my other older former friend. In the few months that we had known each other over messages and SMSes, he must have invited me at least three or four times to drop by his apartment, which is quite close to KEM, and visit him and his partner. Once, I had even considered visiting him during my visit to help May out with her apartment hunt.
This Monday, I received an SMS from him. He was inviting me over to his place for dinner. My knee-jerk social-phobic response was in action and I replied almost immediately—“Thanks for the invite, but I’m sorry. I don’t think I’m going to make it to the dinner. I have social phobia and I will definitely feel out of place there.” He replied saying it was alright and that he understood. I was relieved on one hand and was worried on the other hand whether my friend had misunderstood me.
On Tuesday, something happened to me. Something inspired me to break out of my social shackles that I had imposed on myself after traumatic social episodes like this. I sent my friend a message saying that I had reconsidered his invitation and had decided to attend his party. He expressed happiness at my change of mind and offered to host me earlier in an effort to decrease my discomfort levels being with strangers at his party. I agreed and things were all set for my first social adventure in months.
During the week, I learnt that I already knew most of the people that he had invited over to his party. One of them was a guy who I had a huge crush on a year or so back. For a change, things were looking bright. I decided to take a half-day off on Saturday to reach his apartment early and to get to know the couple well before the guests arrived.
My friend greeted me at the gate of this palatial residential complex a stone’s throw away from KEM hospital and ushered me through the sprawling complex into his apartment. On our way up to the sixth floor, I got to know that he was a flight person and had met his partner decades ago in a flight and then went out on a date during which, they would that they were neighbors. Soon they moved in together and have been partners ever since!
In the apartment, I met his wonderful partner—who I had mistakenly assumed for a firangi because of his first name was distinctly anglicized—and together we spent about an hour catching up and knowing each other. There were a few uncomfortable moments of silence here and there, mainly because I was struggling to get my rusted social skills to work in unison.
Eventually, as the guests started trickling in, I came to know more about the wonderful couple. They were freed to converse in the mode that they liked—the guests helped cull wonderful moments from their past and brought out a certain liveliness in the conversation. The older partner, who’s a ballet dancer, was a very jovial person with a unique narratorial style, especially when he described anecdotes.
Over whiskey, vodka, wine, salami, and salmon, we had a good time—at least, I did. Surprisingly enough, one of the guests was a person who I had a weird online acquaintance with. To add to the confusion, we failed to recognize each other initially because we were confused by the distorted images that Yahoo Messenger had provided us with. All in all, it was a fruitful experience—something that has reinvigorated my belief in controlled social partying and my search for a long-term relationship.