I don’t know if there will ever be a day when I can just walk into a room full of new people and not be so obsessed with sounding like a normal person and not a weirdo. Someone said something about Seattle’s nice weather and I said, “Yeah, you don’t have to wear leggings!” and the person’s face deflated like I was a crazy person for twisted a comment about the weather into a reason for me to wave my weirdo flag and yell: “I LIKE MY LEGS NAKED SO IT DOESN’T HIDE MY FEELINGS!”
I want to be a nice person who says funny things and people leave with an impression that I was clever! Interesting! Wow, who was that and when can we have margaritas? But often I feel that the impression I leave is that of a full-blown weirdo who can’t have a normal conversation the way normal people do. I don’t even know what people talk about. I can’t even nail a conversation about the weather, so any topic that is more complex than what it looks like outside is out of the question for me.
I’m not good at parties. Mike has ditched me at lots of parties with poets who have been published in fancy journals whereas my name has only been in a few Golden Corral bathroom stalls, but as “MONICA WUZ HEA” because not even graffiti punks can get my name right. So I would sip wine and talk small talk about maybe grad school in the future and maybe this or maybe that because this was before I had comedy to use as party gristle. What did I say about myself then? I’m here, with Mike. No I haven’t published anything. No I didn’t read that. No I didn’t catch that on NPR. I just probably filled my mouth with cheese and wine so that when someone did ask me a question, I could politely point to my cheeks taking shapes only a common woman would know how to make. Then they would move on and leave me alone to wait for Mike to return, so I could pull at his jacket sleeve and ask when we could go home and finish the episode of LOST.
I wonder about people who can move through life with beautiful hair and flawless skin and who are not smiling at a party but still suck in all the attention the way a squirrel stares at something shiny it has burrowed away. They don’t worry about being normal or feeling out of place because that is not a concern of theirs. Their lives have never had the emotional weight of awkwardness, the area I know so well it’s been woven into my being. I have the t-shirt. There are cats on the front.
I also wonder about people who are hyper aware about their surroundings, way more than I will ever be. There was a mom at the bookstore who sat on the floor, reading a book to her child. I could hear her reading loudly to her son and saying something to a man nearby about how her kid loved this book. “Isn’t that early for his age!?” He nodded and moved on and I realized that they weren’t together, she was just looking for strangers to validate her. She continued to over enunciate every word for her son, looking up at me every so often to see if I would smile at her, or better yet, indulge her need to hear anyone say how remarkable of a child she had. I didn’t meet her glances, her stares and soon I left and was probably replaced by another person. Someone she would see who had beautiful hair and skin and would look down at this strange woman while she prodded her kid through a simple book, like every word was an cue for him to act like a prodigy, there was someone watching and mommy likes an audience.