Excitement and dread abound each time February and September roll around. These two months mark the bi-annual New York Fashion Week, described by Carrie Bradshaw as the moment when “the women of New York leave the past behind and look forward to the future.” Packing my chicest digs, trekking to NYC, and marveling in the splendor of endless runway shows is a requirement of my career as a race and fashion writer and editor. It's an exhilarating experience, but the excitement is often undermined by an incessant anxiety and discomfort.
I am an introvert, which is described by Psychology Today as one who is “drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits.” Introverts often prefer smaller and more intimate gatherings since we avoid superficial conversations and small talk. This can lead to a perception that we’re awkward, inept, and stand-offish, especially since many introverts are mellow, quiet and reserved unless we’re with our inner circle of close friends. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, claims one-third to half of all Americans identify as introverts.
Yet, introverts exist in a world built to accommodate extroverts. We’re told that it’s respectful and polite to converse whenever we enter rooms with strangers. We’re supposed to smile, even when our palms are sweating and we’re eyeing the nearest exit. New York Fashion Week is one of multiple events that repel introverts like me. It is a schmooze fest. Attendees mull around Manhattan’s Lincoln Center and other locations seeking familiar faces. Air kisses are launched across rooms. Small talk is the norm. Strutting into rooms packed with editors, bloggers, celebrities, and other fashion enthusiasts can cause intense disquiet — forced smiles overcompensate for the rapid drumming of my heart against my chest.
New York Fashion Week is one of the most paradoxical events I attend, but I’m four seasons in and I haven’t suffered an emotional or mental break. Instead of faking the funk, I opt to be strategic about how I traverse through the craziness of the grandest fashion stage.
Here are three tips for surviving fashion week when all you want to do is curl up in an antisocial ball.
1. Create a schedule that allows time for re-charging
New York Fashion Week is always hectic, which is damning for introverts who need time to recharge after intense social situations. However, it is possible to create a schedule that allots time for decompressing and relaxing. I limit myself to three or four shows per day. I also insure those shows aren’t back to back, so I have a few hours to unwind before heading into the next event. Creating a flexible NYFW schedule keeps me balanced, and also gives me time for solitude.
2. Don’t arrive at shows too early.
There’s an expectation that NYFW attendees must mingle before shows begin. These networking opportunities are invaluable, and can help emerging writers, editors, and bloggers build sustainable support systems. I arrive at shows 10 minutes before they begin. This brief window eliminates the need to mix-and-mingle with the entire room, but still offers time to converse with one to three people per event.
3. Locate familiar faces in every space.
Mingling with strangers can be intimidating for introverts, especially when entering a room with hundreds of them. I seek out a familiar face at every show and social event. This eases the automatic discomfort I experience, and also provides an abundance of opportunities to be introduced to others in the fashion and beauty world.
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