How to be at peace with being a wallflower
April 24, 2012 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Help me get in a good frame of mind for a night out this weekend.

This weekend is the bachelorette party for a dear friend of mine. Thankfully, we're not talking penis tiaras and tacky male strippers or anything; what we are talking about is a pre-party at another friend's house, followed by a night out clubbing. And here is where my anxieties kick in.

I am not a clubber by any stretch of the imagination. I do not dance because I am overweight, and feel utterly ridiculous and horrifically self-conscious on the dancefloor. The concept of hitting the town and going to some fabulous club makes me squeamish, because clubs, especially the ones downtown, are populated mostly by the super-hot and super-young and super-thin singles, and I am none of those. FWIW, I'm also happily married for over 15 years, so the singles meat-market aspect of it is the least troubling aspect. Thank god I'm not looking for a hook-up.

Anyway, I'm going because I love my friend and I want to celebrate her impending nuptials, and so I'm trying to figure out how to get my mind in a decent spot so I'll have a good time.

I had a similar experience a few months ago, where some business associates and I hit an ultra swanky club in Chicago, and while I enjoyed it just from an observational point of view, I had to repeatedly refuse my friends and colleagues who were wanting me to get up and dance, because this was the kind of place where it felt like if I did, one of the Marcellus Wallace bouncers would come up to me, take me by the elbow and hide me away so I don't embarrass all the beautiful people. I mean, one of the sales guys had payed several hundred dollars for us to have this exclusive booth, and yet I was worried about not being hot enough to be there.

Anyway, I feel like it's going to be the same situation this weekend. I will be (mostly) fine just sitting on the sidelines, nursing a drink and checking Twitter while my friends dance their asses off, but I have zero interest in being on the dancefloor because I am mortified by the thought of dancing. I would bet a million dollars that I'm going to have to stave off the same kind of cajoling from these friends as well. And then the bride will stress out that I'm not having a good time, or that I'll be seen like I'm some kind of drag or whatever, and I don't want that, either.

So basically, I'm looking for some perspective. Advice. Whatever. I've toyed with the idea of shooting a quick e-mail to my friend, telling her that I'm really excited about going out this weekend and celebrating her, but also that I don't want her to worry about it if I don't dance. I don't know.

As I said: perspective would be very much appreciated here, most especially from people who have body image issues. If you've been thin all your life, you can tell me that people don't really care about how other people look on the dance floor, but, to be brutally honest, I don't know how much I can believe you when you haven't been on this side of the scale.
posted by shiu mai baby to Human Relations (35 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Why don't you get drunk and have fun?
posted by blue t-shirt at 7:56 AM on April 24, 2012

Remember that most people are too busy worrying what others think of them to even have time to think about what you or they may perceive as wrong with you.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 7:56 AM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think this is kind of like the gym - from my (never overweight) perspective, I truly, truly never care what other people look like on the dance floor.

In fact, being in a big circle of dancing women would likely draw less attention to you than being on the sidelines with periodic nagging from your friends and your declining to join them.
posted by Pax at 8:02 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't send anyone an email in advance; there's always the chance they'd not have noticed in the first place.

I'd just go and kick back with a drink and watch and strike up conversations with people, and if anyone asks you about dancing just smile sweetly and say that you're fine, you're not much of a dancer. If pressed, make some crack about how you're waiting for them to play [something improbable]. If the bride looks worried, just tell her that you are having a good time, you're just not much of a dancer, but chilling with a drink is great too.

That is exactly how I got through three of my theater company club night benefits, myself. ("I'm waiting for them to play some Motown" was how I fended off "why aren't you dancing" questions.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:03 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I also rarely dance for much the same reasons you don't. I tend to tell people in a super happy tone of voice "Nah, I've got a five drink minimum for dancing, but sadly, I fall asleep after the fourth drink!" It's funny. It's true -- I will dance if I'm drunk, assuming I'm still awake. It gets people off my back.

But seriously, don't sit in the booth checking twitter, because that will make you look totally checked out. Sit in the booth snapping pictures of your friends, chatting with the people who are taking a break and generally woo-wooing with all the other people. Look enthusiastic to be there.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:04 AM on April 24, 2012 [10 favorites]

You could always go with the old "twisted my ankle a bit last week, so want to avoid dancing, but thanks anyway, I'm having a blast!" Then just enjoy the people watching and the drinks!
posted by Grither at 8:04 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can assure you that people in the club are worrying about themselves, their own issues, their imagined issues, their chafing thighs, their pinching toes, the hot guy that isn't talking to them although they've been trying to flirt, the over cologned dude who grinds up on them when they're trying to dance, what drink to have next, how they're going to get home, their drunk friend who's vomiting in the bathroom sink, whether the chick they've bought drinks for is actually interested, etc etc etc, and could not care a whit about strangers, chubby or otherwise, dancing or otherwise, who are minding their own business.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:05 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm on your side of the scale....I had the same anxieties, and missed out on a lot of fun for many years. But then, (as I approached 35), I realized that the only one who cared about how I looked was me!! I'm also happily married, not looking for a date, so why couldn't I have fun? Well, I started, and never looked back. Now that I'm passed 40, I REVEL in not caring when others may think about me in a negative way Have a drink (if you consume), get in with your girlfriends and have a great time!! Everybody else, even the young, 'hot' ones are going to be so interested in how THEY look and who is checking THEM out, they won't see anything but a confident, awesome woman who loves herself and having a good time with her girls. Probably a lesson some of those young 'uns need to see!!! Have fun!!
posted by pearlybob at 8:05 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

(Oh, and seconding the avoiding twitter, that'll make you look like you're not enjoying yourself/your surroundings)
posted by Grither at 8:06 AM on April 24, 2012

Those super-thin singles and super-buff bouncers probably have body images issues as well (my boobs are too small, my quads aren't ripped enough, my feet are too big, my legs are too skinny, etc). Very few people are happy with their body and how it looks.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:08 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

How long do you really have to stay, especially if there's a pre-party at someone's house? The bride-to-be and everyone else will be doing their own thing; if you stay for an hour/hour and a half and beg off with an excuse of an early morning activity, I think that you've done your duty by your friend. If there's going to be some structured activity at the club, like a toast or something, stay till then if you can hack it.

While you're there, sit back and watch the show on the dance floor; it truly could be amusing. Pretend you're Mr. Spock.

Also, what pearlybob said, but if you don't want to get out there, you'll probably have quite a bit of company.
posted by Currer Belfry at 8:09 AM on April 24, 2012

But seriously, don't sit in the booth checking twitter, because that will make you look totally checked out.

No kidding. If you want to be on Twitter all night, stay home! Having someone so obviously miserable like that at a party brings everybody down; that's why they want you to get up and have fun. So try and do it! You don't have to let sweaty strangers bend you over to the floor, just stand on the dance floor and bob back and forth.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:12 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: People talk about confidence a lot and honestly I think sometimes its power is over-estimated. But this is really one of those situations where confidence is everything. This is really a thing where you can be the insecure overweight girl on the sidelines who everyone feels compelled to "help out" by getting you to dance, or you can be the been there, done that, I'm married already so I don't need this nonsense, super cool woman who prefers sipping her drink in peace while watching the dancing from her perch of composure at the table.

Not a clubbing example, but I'm quiet, and people make fun of that a lot, and find it inappropriate in a lot of situations, or they think they're helping me by telling me how quiet I am and how I should do X, Y, or Z because they assume not talking = timid and clueless. But I always think of this girl I used to know who was even quieter than me, I mean really almost silent most of the time, but everyone was totally fine with it because she completely exuded confidence. We behaved the same, she just had total confidence in her right to behave that way, while I was nervous someone would call me out on behaving "wrong" - and so they did.

People will totally accept your not dancing if you accept that it's the right way for you to act. Or pretend that you do.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:12 AM on April 24, 2012 [18 favorites]

Offer to watch their purses/coats/drinks while they hit the dance floor. Then you're not just sitting at the table, you're helping them have a good time.
posted by kyla at 8:15 AM on April 24, 2012

oh and let me clear - I am sympathetic, I'm chubby too and inhibited and a bad dancer. But I dance anyway on the very rare occasions when I get a chance, because why not? Alcohol makes it fun, and nobody is anywhere near as critical of me as I am.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:16 AM on April 24, 2012

Best answer: I'm also happily married for over 15 years

And that doesn't leave you feeling at least a little bit like you've got it made over people who're out there hustling and heaving bodies about in hopes of attracting the notice of a potential sexual partner? I mean, you're older; you get to relax about this stuff now. It's nice to be a chic 21yo but it's also nice to be a happily settled 41yo. You will feel better if you don't think that you are supposed to somehow be in a demographic you've left behind. Why not wear a prim but beautiful twinset and lovely pearls or whatever classic swish and revel in not being 21? I don't totally understand why you think you should be being 'hot' in the same way the young people are.

People do repeatedly ask non-dancers to dance because they are trying to be friendly but it is totally fine to keep saying you are enjoying [drinking, people-watching, listening to the music, whatever] and skip it. Nth do not mess with your phone unless it is for quick picture-snapping, though. You're not at peace with being a wallflower, so why not not be a wallflower? blue t-shirt's answer is simple but sometimes it's best not to overthink these things, and 'get drunk and have fun' is sound advice here.
posted by kmennie at 8:17 AM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

what we are talking about is a pre-party at another friend's house, followed by a night out clubbing.

The is easy. Come for the pre-party. Stop at one club and have a drink or two. Then head home.
posted by deanc at 8:21 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you really don't want to dance, you can always just go to the pre-party and skip out on the club - it's totally fine to say that you just don't feel like dancing but wanted to come celebrate at the pre-party anyway.

Going to a dance club and not dancing seems really odd to me - both pointless for you and distracting for your friends, who have to worry about you being bored. YMMV, if you're fine with that. It does depend on where you go - some clubs have sitting areas which would be less awkward-looking than standing along the wall looking miserable.

Still, my suggestion would be first to give dancing a try, with a few drinks if you can manage, and not worry about how you look - most people can't dance at all. And you can leave early if you're really miserable dancing! Make up an excuse if you must. Whatever makes you happy, though.

credentials: hardcore introvert, used to feel the same as you about dancing, now I like it every once in a (long) while.
posted by randomnity at 8:23 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Being with a group helps A LOT, particularly if the group is one you're comfortable with. In my experience, groups of women going to clubs together for this kind of event aren't there to pick up guys or impress people -- they want to dance in a big clump and be silly and maybe catcall some dudes good-naturedly. If you trust this group of women to be basically decent and nonjudgmental to you and to each other, then the attitudes of other people at the club should minimally impact you.

I would also suggest going into the club with a pleasant buzz, if you're a person who drinks. Just enough to take the edge off.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:25 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could bring a camera and be the designated photographer. People will be so obsessed with having their photo taken, they won't care if you're dancing or not. Plus, you'll still be participating. (Try to avoid using flash in the club, if you can.)
posted by curtains at 8:35 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a formerly morbidly obese person, I can assure you that it's all in your head and directly related to your self-esteem issues.

No one cares, go have fun.
posted by unixrat at 8:36 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think some of you are missing how profoundly boring clubs are if you don't enjoy dancing for its own sake. Literally. You can't catch up with and talk with your friends because it's extremely loud. There's no food. You can't sit and hang out in many cases because that's reserved for people getting table/bottle service, which is extremely expensive.

It's not universal-- there are some night club-type destinations that are more conducive to socializing with your friends, but anyone planning a night out "clubbing" is primarily focused on planning to "dance in a big clump and be silly and maybe catcall some dudes good-naturedly." Which might be fun for some people but others find to be a rather unenjoyable use of their time.

We would not for a single second dissuade a guy from ducking out early from a bachelor party if it involved going to lots of strip clubs and he was uncomfortable with that.
posted by deanc at 8:37 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another thing: clubs are generally dark and crowded, which means it's actually pretty difficult to see someone's body/body type. Club lights tend to flash on people's faces. If you are self-conscious but still want to go, wear black and put on bright some lipstick and sparkly eye makeup. Then smile and laugh a lot; that's honestly all people will see. This is advice for anyone nervous about going to a club.
posted by curtains at 8:40 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am also a larger woman, so I feel your anxiety about being judged but truly, your friends don't care, no one else's opinion matters (and they are all obsessing about themselves).

You are not going to get kicked out for the way you dance, or the way you look. That just doesn't happen.

Try dancing, and if you don't like it, sit & take pictures, and if you don't want to stay, leave.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:41 AM on April 24, 2012

I hate dancing. Hate hate hate it. I feel like I look ridiculous and it's not natural to me at all. But I know that when I go out with dance-y friends, they get bummed when I stand at the side not dancing. They think I'm not having fun. And in my case, that's true. I'm not sure how you feel when you stand at the sides. If you're having a great, chill time and would truly have a much worse time if you danced, then I would follow DestinationUnknown's advice smile, enjoy the night and relax confidently on a stool with a drink. But if you're having a cruddy time and are just killing hours and checking your phone and thinking oh please no more beyonce until you have to leave, that just sucks. Like randomnity said, you can bail after the pre-party and let them dance.

Or, while this might not be an okay option for you, this is what I do: dance like an idiot. Mind you, I've only done this with some particularly hilarious friends, but it started out as a joke. "Hey, look at me bopping along to the music! Ha ha, I'm not on tempo!" which then degenerates into crazy hand movements, waltzing, disco, etc. I never laugh as hard as when I do this. Mind you, I also probably look crazy. If you're really worried about people staring at you and judging you, I probably wouldn't progress to making zombie faces (which I admittedly do). But maybe you could go and joke-y dance with a few of your friends? Do you have one friend specifically that would like to just "fun dance", and be your silly dance wing-woman? It can be fun. You don't have to draw attention to yourself in sillydance either, just enough to make yourself laugh. It helps a lot if you have good pals for this, who aren't there to pick up but instead to enjoy themselves, as a group.

Anyway, that's how I cope with "dance nights with the gals". Don't do this if you're going to feel incredibly self conscious, but not taking dancing so seriously definitely made me enjoy it more.
posted by Paper rabies at 8:42 AM on April 24, 2012

Anyone can dance regardless of body type. You don't have to, but, anecdotally, a friend of mine is overweight and she's great fun to dance with. It's not a matter of skill either. Don't overthink whether you'll dance or not, celebrate with your friend and put twitter aside.
posted by ersatz at 8:52 AM on April 24, 2012

I used to hate dancing as well, because I wasn't very good at it. I'm still not good at it. At all. But now I have a lot of fun doing it. I just decided one day that anyone who was going to think less of me for the way I was dancing wasn't worth worrying about. Same deal with you. I'm not going to claim that there's nobody at the club who's going to judge you based on your weight. But seriously, fuck these people. They're the worst. Let them have their sad little opinions. Who gives a shit?

I recently watched this video of a talk about doing things even when you're scared about the possible reaction. Toward the end of the talk, the speaker reminds the audience, "they can't eat you." YMMV, but I've actually found that phrase to be enormously helpful. When I'm in a situation where I'm worrying about what other people are going to think, I repeat it to myself. "They can't eat you." They really can't.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:58 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Dude, seriously? Have you seen what some people do out there? Leave your anxieties in the coatroom and have a good time. If you get anxious when your friends are going to dance, just go with them, and try it for ten minutes. Have a wiggle. Raise the roof. Hell, imagine you have a shovel and dig a hole. Dance floors are one of the few places in life where it truly doesn't matter what you look like as long as you are having fun.
posted by nickrussell at 8:59 AM on April 24, 2012

I think the key thing here is whether or not you actually enjoy dancing. When you are doing something you dislike, it's no fun for you or anyone with you, and so if you don't like dancing I would suggest you not go.

But if you secretly really really like dancing and are just worried about looking bad, I would advise you to try to set aside your self-consciousness and just try it for a bit.

I am fat, really quite significantly so, and I love dancing but never used to do it in public. It was more like something I used to do alone in my room. I used to refuse to go out with my friends because I was worried about looking bad on the dancefloor. And then one day I gave it a shot and I realised that no one was looking and pointing and that everyone was just having a good time. Some of my best memories are of going out and dancing till 5am.

It's unlikely that anyone will look at you, really; clubs are dark, and you'll be difficult to pick out from a big group of friends. And if anyone does look at you and see a happy woman dancing around, I swear they are not going to think the worse of you for being overweight.
posted by Ziggy500 at 9:07 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Think about it this way: This night is not about you. Of course you know that, but your anxiety is making you, well, make it all about you. No one is going to pay attention to what you're doing at the club, unless you insist on sitting in a booth alone on your phone. Your friends won't judge you for dancing awkwardly - or even standing on the dance floor and just kind of shuffling around, which is what a lot of people do - but they'll probably feel guilty/get annoyed if you're checking twitter on the sidelines. If you're really not going to dance, just stay for a drink at the club and leave pretty quickly. You're going to the pre-party, and I can't imagine you'll be the only one who's not super enthused about going clubbing (i.e., expect a few others to duck out early).

Or you know, just dance. I have some overweight friends, and they are dancing machines. I'm very thin, and I'm the awkward one on the dance floor.

Don't email the bride - it's going to stress her out! If you play it cool, no one will probably notice that you're not dancing or leaving early to avoid dancing.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:29 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I go out and look on the dance floor, I see a sea of people avoiding eye contact, clutching their drinks, and swaying back and forth. No one really stands out. Fat, fit, tall and short all merge into a heaving mass of people whose features are obscured by the general confusion. It's really difficult to focus on anyone outside of your immediate circle, unless someone is making an effort to get attention. Everyone is dressed in the same cheap sparkly club wear and focused on having a good time. Most people want to have a pleasant time and to keep up their happy buzz; being nasty to or about someone would really ruin that mood. Unless your friends are going to the sorts of clubs that exclude people who don't fit their "vibe", you really don't have to worry about anyone judging you for anything you do. Do whatever you want. You paid to be there, same as everyone else. Find ways to have fun and feel comfortable. Request a song from the DJ on behalf of the bride. Take photos, get your friends to do silly poses. Hang out at a nice booth and be the designated bag/drink watcher. Good luck! I hope you have a good time.
posted by rhythm and booze at 11:55 AM on April 24, 2012

Ragged Richard: "I'm not going to claim that there's nobody at the club who's going to judge you based on your weight. But seriously, fuck these people. They're the worst. Let them have their sad little opinions"

Also, keep in mind, that the same awful people who are going to judge you about your weight would probably be judging you about something else even if you were a size 2. You've got the wrong shoes, the wrong hair, not enough tan, too much tan, etc. They are the Awful People. They are going to be awful. Don't let them run your life.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:59 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like dancing, but I haaaaaaaaate clubs. There's no way I would be comfortable in this situation. I think there's really nothing wrong with going to the pre-party and even going to the club for a little bit, buying the bride a drink, and then going home. It kind of sucks to miss out and if you go to the club and when you get there enjoy the vibe, you can always stay. But if you're really not having fun, it's totally ok to leave.
posted by Aquifer at 2:05 PM on April 24, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you so very much everyone for your thoughtful responses. I have no idea what I'll actually do on Saturday, but now that I've read all of this, I might just end up on the dancefloor after all.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:01 AM on April 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: So all of my hand-wringing was for naught. Here's what happened: Fully committed to having A Good Time, I bought inadvisably tall (but weirdly sturdy!) heels, got dolled up (fake eyelashes!), and looked pretty awesome. And then we ended up spending the whole evening at her friend's house. I had a marvelous time, of course (and my feet were endlessly grateful for having plenty of places to sit), but I was also just a smidge disappointed, especially after mentally and physically psyching myself up for the evening.

Oh well.

Anyway, a big thanks once again to everyone. I truly appreciate all the kind words.
posted by shiu mai baby at 3:04 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

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