With everything going on in June, I did not have as much time to be scared of my sister-in-law’s hen do as I expected. I think this is part of why I managed it as well as I did – but it was still hugely surprising to me that I actually enjoyed myself. Yes, in this (belated) edition of ‘your normal is my scary’, I went to a holiday home with a bunch of women that I didn’t know all of.
And I…had fun?
This wasn’t actually the first hen do I’d ever been to. But…
I’d been to my one before – my other sister-in-law got married last year. The hen do of hers I went to, though, was very different. That one involved going to Windsor Castle on a tour that, as it happens, ended up being really useful research for Oracle. I also knew almost everyone there.
This hen do was ten of us going away for a weekend, to a holiday house in the countryside. Of those ten people, three were family, two I’d met once, and the rest I didn’t really know at all. I should, by all logic involving my anxiety, have been absolutely terrified. I wasn’t. Granted, I went to the hen do two days after going to a funeral, so it was a strange week emotionally. I don’t blame my anxiety for being confused.
The truth is though, I was kind of excited. I’ve talked here before about being scared of women, and how the majority of my friends for a long time have all been male. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve started to develop more close friendships with women where I don’t feel like I have to compete with them.
I want to have more female friendships. I want to be part of groups that are just women, where I can unlearn all of the fear. So in a weird way, yes, I was excited about spending a weekend with a bunch of women. Helpfully, it turned out they were all wonderful (granted, I already knew my family were).
It wasn’t totally anxiety free – I did have a few blips.
In general I found myself hitting a spoon wall at the end of the day, and I really liked being able to retreat to my room and hide on my laptop for a bit. I think it would have been a very different experience if I didn’t have a room to myself, because I wouldn’t have had that safe space to go to. However, I didn’t really need to use that room during the day.
The other moment was whilst we were playing games in teams. It came round to my turn, and I just had one of those NO NO I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE GET ME OUT OF THIS SITUATION moments. If you’ve had one of these moments you’ll know why I’ve put that in all caps. I got paralysed and froze and fortunately was able to pass it onto the next person instead. That said, I did take my turn in the end, just not when I was initially meant to.
There were also quite a lot of points when we weren’t doing anything that I felt awkward just standing around. I think, even when you’re with a ton of really nice people, it’s hard not to feel a bit awkward when a lot of them have known each other for a really long time. Nothing to do with anyone being cliquey, it’s just harder to find your place in a group like that.
Also, being in a hot tub with more people than it’s meant to contain is uncomfortable.
The thing that really threw me though was that I came back feeling rejuvenated and inspired.
I have a lot of anxieties that are constant in my mind. A lot of them come from being a woman in a culture where my value is primarily focused on what I look like. Because I don’t spend a lot of time around women this gets exacerbated, and I tend to forget that everyone is going through this. So even just being in a swimming pool with people of all shapes and sizes and styles really helped.
It also reminded me that I can do socialising with people I don’t know, it’s just hard and requires the right setup. It normalised the anxiety I do feel, in a way – making me less scared of it, and less panicked by its presence. This is such an important thing to have found now, as I’m going into university in just a couple of months.
Despite all this I was incredibly, incredibly tired. It was a weird juxtaposition. In the days once I’d gotten home I veered wildly between too exhausted to do anything and doing everything I had wanted to catch up on for a month. This included some absolutely terrifying things that I’d been putting off for ages – but had talked about with my sisters-in-law and felt much more able to do for the support.
I’ve not yet found myself able to articulate why female support means so much more to me than male support does. I think this is because it’s a whole bunch of things all coming together. Either way, this challenge has reminded me that it really is something I want to foster in my life, and I’m really hoping that September’s Really Big Challenge will do that.