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This year I attended my first Dinah Shore weekend. There were thousands of lesbians in attendance and several social gatherings provided ample opportunities to meet and mingle with new faces. But for someone with severe social anxiety, this also provided ample opportunities to feel stressed out and overwhelmed. Slowly but surely I made my way through the weekend, and multiple throngs of crowded venues, and managed to have a good time.
We flew into Santa Ana and drove two hours to Palm Springs. After settling into our Airbnb, we grabbed a bite to eat and then prepared for our first party, the Meet and Greet. It was a chance to pre-establish new relationships before the actual partying began and check out the venue for the upcoming pool parties. I met this fun spirited Australian woman who saved me from a line-cutting-faux-pas and sort of adopted my partner and me for the weekend. There were less than 150 women there which made it easy for me to work my way through the crowd and feel comfortable. I felt able to achieve my goal of having fun and started the weekend on a strong note.
The second night was the official opening party that took place at a local nightclub. There were hundreds more women in attendance which made navigating the venue more difficult. Lines for drinks at the bar were never ending, there was no space to move on the dancefloor, and the smoking area was filled with a constantly rotating crowd. As soon as I grabbed my first drink, strangers were pulling me left and right asking for selfies and pictures. Luckily my modeling career prepared me for this type of attention and I was able to adapt quickly. Walking through the venue, however, was another story and I began to feel stressed out. Bumping into people with every step got irritating. But, I promised myself a fun experience, so I allowed myself to indulge in a few more drinks and ended up finding some great women to dance and talk with.
Having so much fun, and vodka, caught up with me the next day. It was my third day there and time for the official opening pool party which I was late in arriving to due to a slight hangover. I felt pressured to get there as soon as possible and start having fun. The pool area was surging with half-naked women, and I immediately felt overwhelmed. I got a crick in my neck from swiveling my head around so quickly, trying to observe everyone and everything. After circling through the venue a few times and checking out the vendors, I had to step away to the smoking area to give myself a break. Having to dance through crowds of hundreds of women was starting to stress me out. I reminded myself that I didn’t have anywhere else to be but right here which inspired me to get back in there and make some friends.
After grabbing some food and taking a short nap, I was ready for the party that night. I encouraged myself to speak to this woman I’d noticed the previous night who was having so much fun dancing. Her sense of style was amazing, she was wearing a shorts-suit with a vibrant flamingo and palm tree pattern. She ended up being a highlight of my trip, and I looked forward to bumping into her every night. I danced, took more pictures, spoke to strangers, and pushed myself out of my comfort zone.
The next morning, Saturday, brought on pool party #2. It turned out to be the busiest pool party of the entire trip. It was so crowded I felt like I was always in someone’s way no matter where I stood. Even standing in a shady area required me to create positive chemistry with the surrounding group of women just so I could squeeze in next to them. It was claustrophobic, to say the least, but I managed my anxiety well and even ran into some women I’d befriended on previous nights. The trend continued into the night, and I allowed myself to leave early without feeling guilty.
By the time Sunday rolled around, I was exhausted. The pool party that morning was much calmer which made it easy to find room to cool off in the pool. The closing party that night was stressful, and I found myself getting irritated. Five days of being stepped on, bumping through crowds, and being pushed by passing drunkards were starting to take their toll. I only stayed for about an hour, just long enough to make an appearance and then treated myself to some cheese fries at Del Taco to celebrate the successful weekend.
Going to a large social event like Dinah Shore weekend is challenging for those with social anxiety, but it doesn’t have to impossible. Here are some important things I learned throughout the weekend:
- I am not obligated to do anything that I don’t want to do or go anywhere I don’t want to go even when I tell myself that I am.
- I am stronger and more courageous that I knew, and I was able to handle every situation I put myself in.
- I had to remind myself what my ultimate goal was several times: to have fun and meet cool people.
- Every time I began to worry about what this new person thought of me, I had to remind myself that it didn’t matter because I’m awesome and if they don’t like me, that’s okay. It’s their loss!
- Every time I felt nervous or foolish while making conversation, I reminded myself that it doesn’t matter because I don’t ever have to see this person again if I don’t want to. They don’t live in my town!
- Just because I had an itinerary for the weekend didn’t mean I couldn’t deter from it.
If you, like me, feel crippled by your social anxiety pushing yourself out of your comfort zone might be the perfect solution. Even though I constantly put myself at risk of having a panic attack, being overwhelmed or socially awkward, I felt liberated. It was an opportunity for me to test myself and all the work I’ve been doing for my anxiety levels. I highly encourage you to find tests for yourself and your progress as well. After all, life is too important to not enjoy. Even though we have anxiety, we deserve to be able to have fun too!