When I was younger, I was somewhat clumsy at interacting with people not in my closest circle (and sometimes, even with them, and I suppose that the clumsiness hasn’t entirely ended). And I didn’t have confidence in interacting with the subsection of females that I was attracted to. Closer friends I could talk to for hours, and then some particular people, I couldn’t even get much in the way of words out to.
The gaping chasm of the fear of rejection was one thing to overcome, but that wasn’t the entirety of the problem.
I knew of the delicate balance that exists, ideally you’d want to get to know someone first before getting more serious, but even asking for a getting-to-know-you stage gets “I’m not looking for a relationship right now” responses. And the social situations you go to aren’t always the best conditions for socialisations: too formal, or too many people so splitting into smaller groups.
It can seem like a no-win situation, not wanting to jump the gun, so to speak (or wanting to, but believing slower to be better and trying to take that slower path), and having the slower approach be taken as a veiled attempt at jumping the gun.
Much as I was into books, computer and videogames, and movies, those aren’t easy worlds to casually bring someone into. Computer games, even multiplayer ones on the same machine, or ones you can play over a network, you can invite people over to play, but it’s more for better friends who are also into that kind of thing. Movies aren’t the best for interacting with people. Sometimes you can discuss afterwards, but that either happens or it doesn’t, and you can’t really force it if it doesn’t happen. Actually, of all those, videogames ended up being the most social, because it was quick 2-player games in situations with a lot of people, so a bunch of people stood around watching, and the players got swapped out a lot.
I think if I were to go back and live that time again, but could retain the things I know now, I would try to have more things of my own going on. Game nights. Ditch Monopoly, and games that only need the players to roll the dice and move the pieces rather than make any actual decisions, get Catan when it was really new. Think at the very least it could have made me even better friends with my friends, and made socialising in new situations down the road, a bit easier.
“Hey, I get together with some friends every Saturday night to have some food, play some games, would you like to join us sometime?” less pressure than “Hey, I’d like to get to know you”. And revisiting the question at a later time after an initial refusal, might be an easier option.
Still, I got where I am today, I’m not going to go and invent a time machine to go and print-and-play myself a Catan set before Klaus Teuber can get it to market. Just trying to visualise how a very unconfident me could bridge that interpersonal gap, rather than make it wider. Have parts of your life that it’s easy to bring people into, casually. I don’t think I had that figured out until after I got married, at which point it was less necessary. Fortunately, our relationship took a different kind of path, with a more necessary getting-to-know-you time.