I know this will come as a shock to you… but I have to confess that I struggle with intimidation. Stop it – I mean my being intimidated, not the other way around. And yes, you could say under most circumstances this is not the case. I can tell you that witnessing a friend or family member being demeaned or berated in any way would not go unaccounted for. Same with anyone hurting my kids (yes, they are still kids at 24 and 18) – there will be some serious splainin’ to do, and that may or may not take place before I find my bat. And ask my boss (who is much more trusting than me) about how patient and understanding I am (“You want I should break his legs?” Joking. Mostly.) over unpaid client bills. I’m not talking about those situations – I am referring to certain people, places or things that just put me on the edge for no good reason, and therefore provide ample opportunity for me to look like an idiot.
I’m a talker – a gabber if you will. I can strike up a conversation with the cashier, a visiting teenager (much to YK’s chagrin), even a lawyer, at the drop of a hat. I am great with strangers because – come on - they are strangers. We know nothing about each other so you can’t ask wrong questions or reflect on something they once told you – they haven’t told you anything yet! Believe it or not, the faltering is actually more likely to occur among people I have met once or twice or those I know to a point but have little personal contact with. That’s when I become a rabbit frozen in its tracks, trying to decide whether to run like the wind and find a hole to hide in or just stay still and hope nobody notices I spoke.
Part of the intimidation factor is because I have NO short-term memory. Seriously. Ask me to open a window. There – see? I forgot already. And to be forthcoming, it’s not just short-term we’re talking here. It’s any term. Unless it involves something S hopes I had forgotten about – those stay with me forever and will erupt into full-blown detail (possibly slightly augmented) when he least expects…. I take that back - when he absolutely does not want it to.
Sometimes it is just my own insecurity over not remembering things that causes me to… well, not remember… which can lead to absolute nothingness in the “save the conversation” category. This phenomenon might hit me at work, as it has when I’ve tried to memorize directions from very efficient coworkers who try to be tolerant but really do not have time for me to repeat everything they just said. Again. Because I always ask. Again. Because about 50% of the time I miss a step when I repeat it back, because I was nervous taking the direction. Even though they wrote it out and it’s in front of me. Sigh.
It might be a nail-in-the-coffin kind of thing in front of a small crowd because whoever is around just has that… you know - that way (and I know it’s all in my head, not theirs) of causing me to worry that what I’m about to say will somehow be the wrong thing – and so, naturally, that’s exactly what happens.
A perfect example: Feeling the pressure to start a conversation with the only person in a lunch setting that is not married and cannot contribute to the chatter about how kids say the darndest things:
“So are you going to New York to see your parents this weekend?”
“They don’t live in New York.”
Awkward, pin dropping silence. How could I have not kept note of this from previous (though rare) references to family somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of my mind? Wait, I know… there is nothing deep back there.
And then there is the casual conversation slash testimony to the fact that, while I was physically present when the topic came up earlier, my mental state of mind was on laundry/the dog in the house with access to the garbage/should we unplug the coffee pot before we leave on vacation/am I obligated to put real shrimp in the dip for the barbecue. So yes, I did just ask what brought you to our part of town approximately seven minutes after you saw me in the yard and stopped over to say, “Hey, my brother just moved right next door to you!”
Yep, just call me the Queen of Unsanctioned, Orally Troubling Expression. I just made that up so I could use ‘QUOTE’ as an acronym. Impressive, huh?
This weekend we will be present at a celebration with some special guests attending, several of whom are acquaintances that I may or may not know personal details about (Kids? Divorced? Lived in an ashram for the last year to get back in touch with their inner yoga instructor?). My goal is to not wear my food, remember my husband’s name when I introduce him, and avoid asking questions in case I should already know the answer.
In other words, I’m bringing a deck of cards to play in the bathroom.