Difficulty relaxing at house parties, but no problem in bars

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Aspie1
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25 Dec 2014, 1:35 pm

Over the last year or so, I think I developed a new problem. I get uncomfortable at get-togethers in friends' homes, especially if with a lot of people I know. I just become tense and hyper-vigilant, and everything starts to irritate me, from the music playing to the feel of the couch cushion under my butt. Any conversation beyond a friendly greeting is a lesson in frustration. Any spontaneous ideas people may have, such as going to another party or even ordering pizza, take boatloads of effort to keep myself from going into rage, panicking, or shutting down. Drinking alcohol has little or no calming effect, and more often than not, makes things worse. Basically, my social skills regress to my high school level, or maybe my early college level. Something about a house party atmosphere makes me uncomfortable, which wasn't the case a year ago.

Ironically, none of it is true when hanging out with the same people in a bar. In the right atmosphere, I become like an NT. This includes getting onstage to sing karaoke (knowing my singing sucks and not caring), asking single women to dance, striking up conversations with strangers, and even engaging in friendly flirting with a female bartender. I start to go with the flow very easily, and even recover pretty quickly from things like a girl rejecting me or a guy overreacting to me bumping into him. Alcohol, in the right amount, turns me into a wacky drunk; that is, someone who's a little off-the-wall and overenthusiastic, but generally fun. Many a time, I parted ways with hearty handshakes (guys) or expressive hugs (girls) after meeting new people in those bars. This positive reaction to a bar atmosphere served me wonderfully on the cruises I took.

Why would that be? I can't figure out why I feel so uncomfortable at chilled-out get-togethers at fiends' homes, where I can't bring myself to "just chill", no matter how hard I try. And yet I not only feel fine, but enjoy myself in bars, places that would send most aspies' anxiety into the stratosphere.



Aspie1
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03 Jan 2015, 1:39 pm

I guess I'm replying to my own post, but anyway...

The celebrations at the tail end of 2014 pretty much clinched my house parties/bars dichotomy. On the weekend before New Year's Eve, a friend of my friend had a house party, since he was traveling out of the country on New Year proper. Like I expected, I couldn't relax at that party, even though there was nothing flat-out wrong with it! I was hyper-vigilant the whole time, and became increasingly tense as the night wore on. I limited my drinking, under the pretext of "keeping my liver in good shape for New Year", because otherwise I could snap or something. With that said, it was a quiet party, mostly consisting of watching movies on TV or listening to music on someone's smartphone. And there were 3 guys to every girl, with most girls being not single. After I got home, I felt so wound up, I had to take a sleep aid just to relax enough to sleep.

By contrast, my New Year's Eve celebration was at a dance club downtown, right on the riverfront, with a Meetup-based bar crawl group. I only knew one person there. Somehow, after my cover was paid and my coat was checked, I relaxed completely within minutes. In the first half hour I already danced with 2 girls. At midnight, we all did a group hug, with everybody practically falling over each other, and strangers from outside the group getting in on the act, because we all must have looked so warm and welcoming. The rest of the night was a blur, no surprise. The next evening, I got a few funny but complimentary messages on the Meetup site, telling me how much fun I was having, with none of them, apparently, referring to anything embarrassing. If this is what NTs' lives are like every weekend, I'm grateful to have that once a year.

But again, what's the deal with the dichotomy? Aren't quiet house parties with long-time friends supposed to be more aspie-friendly, than chaotic nights at a club with near-strangers? Then why am I reacting like this?



ToughDiamond
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04 Jan 2015, 10:03 am

Strange, yes.

The only scary side to a house party as opposed to a bar, that I can think of, is that the host will often take my coat and hide it away somewhere so that I have to ask for it back if I want to leave, thus preventing me from making a quiet escape if things get too much for me. Maybe it's also the intimacy of it being somebody's home, which could be a small container giving less physical space.



BTDT
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04 Jan 2015, 10:58 am

A possible explanation is that in a bar, you have a rehearsed script you know will work--there won't be any surprises because those shallow relationships never go beyond a certain point.

But, at a house party, because you already know folks--there is the possibility of going into uncharted territory--that makes you anxious.



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04 Jan 2015, 12:47 pm

A bar is neutral turf and it's all the better if it's a place you've been to and are at least somewhat familiar with.
Going to someones crib you are on their own turf and that can make a big difference.


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Aspie1
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08 Jan 2015, 9:42 pm

Another reason is the sabotage factor. In a bar, if something is planned or is simply supposed to happen, it will happen, barring a natural disaster or criminal activity. For instance, if a karaoke or a trivia game is scheduled, it will take place they say it will, and if there is a delay, it will be announced with a new time. Orderly, predictable, and delivered as promised. And if something is canceled, it somehow feels less hurtful when done "from above."

Not so at house parties. Anything and everything can change on a whim of one person's statement. For instance, let's say everybody agrees to play Cards Against Humanity (a totally awesome ice-breaker game). So everyone gathers around the table. You're looking forward to it, excited to make some smart-ass comments. Then, somebody blabs: "let's watch music videos on YouTube!" And everybody jumps at the idea. In an instant, the cards are forgotten, and everybody stares at an open laptop like deer at oncoming headlights. Your night is screwed, because one person couldn't keep his mouth shut. And everybody ignores you to your face when you say: "hey, what about the cards?" One person is nice enough to say "we'll play later." Sadly, you know fully well that "later" is NT speak for "not tonight."

It's the reason why I like to go on cruises by myself. With the money those things cost, I want to do everything I got planned, come hell or high water. Even after I made friends on the ship, if one person had their own activity planned, they'd break away from the group to do it, and rejoin afterwards, and there were no hard feelings.



SadButRad
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09 Jan 2015, 4:48 pm

Because you are stuck there and at a bar you can just slip away and leave. Because it's someone's home.



aradesh
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09 Jan 2015, 5:18 pm

I'm not sure what it is but I'm also not keen on house parties, but I tend to like pubs. However I have made the mistake in the past of trying to go to pubs on my own to make friends, failing, and repeating this procedure over and over :)

I find that in pubs I am in more control and things are more orderly. Like there are chairs around tables, familiar beverages, and people act in relatively predictable ways in pubs, and bar staff act in predictable ways, and they'll always talk to you if no one else will, even if it's just to sell you a drink :P

I always find that people act different at house parties. Parties I've attended in the past tended to be studenty ones, and you'd get all these (college) kids standing around in circles acting (to me) awkwardly and I'll go and sit on the couch on my own and thinking "Chill out guys you're all standing around and acting weird". Usually as the evening progresses people sit down more and start talking to me and things go a bit better. It's the start of house parties I seem to not like, meeting people I don't know inside someones house.