I had to think about this topic a lot before answering. Has anyone seen How to Train Your Dragon? There's a scene in which the main character (appropriately named 'Hiccup') asks an older, accepted viking of the community what exactly it is that is wrong with him. "You just gestured to all of me!" I often feel this way.
I've never had friends outside of a work, or dance context. Work has historically taken more time to develop relationships in than dance, because I have a super expressive face (my brother once told me that watching my face was better than watching cartoons- it was meant as a compliment, bless him!), and people often mistake my irritation with my slow learning process for irritation at them. Once this passes, things are ok.
Dance is wonderful. I Lindy Hop, which has fantastic, welcoming, open body language that doesn't allow the dancer to recede into his or her personal space. Not only that, but Lindy Hop actually involves more communication than any of the ballroom dances I know, which tend to be strictly lead and follow (follows still follow in Lindy, but there's much more artistic license- it allows you not only to be a listener, but an active participant in the conversation). Within dance people get a very different first impression of me.
Outside of work, or dance context, I have a very difficult time finding things to talk to people about, because I was evidently raised under a rock- I know a lot of cultural references that people my mother, or grandmother's age know, and very little that's relevant to people of my own generation- not for lack of trying, but it's taking a while to catch up.
That said, I have not made an effort to socialize outside of a work or dance context in years because it's come out so badly in the past. It feels great to have found all of this information about body language and to finally know why dance works so well! It's going to be a long road to being socially adept outside of my comfort zones, but it's definitely helping me to step out and make an effort now that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
Does anyone else have trouble with misunderstandings about overly active facial expressions? Feeling like a gorilla with arms hanging by your side and feet spread? What's helped you to feel more natural in this position?
Thanks for being an awesome online community!