by syaffolee

Just Electroshock Me Now

Another student in lab had somehow finagled me into a dinner. (“You spend too much time in lab. You deserve to get a free dinner! Ha ha! You can’t back out now, I just sent an e-mail to the coordinator to say that you were going.”) It was for a professor at the University of Michigan who is going to give a talk about getting more women into science tomorrow. There were some interesting things bandied about during the dinner (such as unconscious biases during the hiring process and the Advance Program at the NSF)–and I really wish I had the time to attend her lecture tomorrow–but there are experiments in lab that I cannot put off.

However most of the evening I spent feeling very awkward and out of my element. Maybe it’s because I spend too much time in lab and being a loner. I knew none of the grad students at the dinner (except for one person, who was more of an acquaintance) and I mostly sat bored and annoyed because I am terrible at small talk. I don’t see the point in it. Everyone else was just so chic and talkative and demonstrating how much they were like professional women. There were even freakin’ business cards being passed around.

At one point, the guest of honor even tried to engage me in conversation, but I feel that it was a complete failure on my part. For that, I’m sorry. I simply cannot compete with all the other graduate students making themselves look smart and sophisticated–and frankly, I don’t see the point in trying if everyone else is yapping. It probably fueled everyone’s bias that I was just another Dumb Asian Girl who can’t say anything else except where I’m from and what research I’m doing. It’s unfortunate that I cannot entertain people with anecdotes that will be amusing rather than making myself look silly and stupid*. But what can an antisocial introvert do, if positive impressions can only be made by the gregarious?

*One might argue that that’s the whole point of amusing anecdotes. You’re supposed to poke fun at yourself to make people like you. But I’m paranoid–I always assume that anything that I say will not be construed as a fun personality. Rather, that people will think that I’m an idiot.