Wednesday, October 5, 2011

All of the People, All of the Time

Recently I was at a cocktail party, because that's the kind of glamorous life I lead.  "Cocktail party" is perhaps a bit grand, so let's just say that people were standing around and drinking.  It's possible it was a sporting event.  Or maybe an intervention, I wasn't really paying attention.  The point is, we were all standing in a group talking and before I knew it, the circle had closed around me and I was standing in the middle of it with everyone waiting for me to say something funny.  Even for me, it felt a bit odd.

I think it's because I'm a people pleaser.  It's the kind of thing that makes me turn on my best Jimmy Durante when there's a lull in the conversation and before you know it, "a-cha-cha-chaaaaaa" all eyes are on me.  Not necessarily because I like people looking at me but because I like people liking at me.  In fact, I need it.  It's also what likely makes me come across as a giant egomaniac whenever people start talking about their kids.

I don't have kids.  So when people talk about theirs, I get a little panicky because we have no common ground.  And without common ground, I can't force people to like me.  In these situations, it never occurs to me to just listen to what they are telling me...No, that would involve the high levels of self-esteem that I have yet to acquire.  I do listen, but while they talk I am scanning my memory files the entire time so that I can share a similar amusing anecdote.  And since the only thing I have in common with kids is that I myself was once a kid....well, I always tell stories about myself.

And fortunately for everyone, I was there the whole time I was a kid, so I have lots of stories.

Wanna tell me about potty training your child?  You can bet I'll reciprocate by telling you all about the amusing way I used to stand in a corner and poop my pants while covering my eyes because I thought if I did that, I disappeared, therefore insuring that my pants-pooping would go undetected.

Oh, a funny family vacation story about a toddler who would only drink apple juice, but pronounced it "appogee?"  Trumped by the classic tale of how I was so difficult on a trip to Yellowstone when I was 3 (why would you drive from Houston to Montana with a toddler?  Why??) that the moment we were seated in a restaurant, without looking at a menu my Mom would quickly say "she'll-have-a-grilled-cheese-and-please-oh-God-please-bring-it-right-away."  Sometimes she'd add emphasis by grabbing the waitress's wrist and imploring "Do you have any crackers?"

Your child is reading?  Delightful!  I'll scarcely pause for breath before I tell you that when I was her age, I would take my books under the kitchen sink and pretend the cabinet was my private library.  On a side note, I still love the smell of bleach. Oh my God, look at me, I'm still talking about myself!

The thing is, I catch myself doing this and I can't seem to stop.  This manic need for acceptance and a sense of belonging in a world in which I clearly don't belong compels my mouth to just keep talking while my brain screams at me to fling myself out the nearest window.

In reality, it's exactly what I'm doing now.  Hey, look at me, look at what I'm doing!  Isn't it funny?  Isn't it cute?  Don't you just want to take me home and put me in a glass box on your mantel?

So, please.  If you find yourself at a cocktail party or some sort of drinking event and you happen to look over to find me in the center of a group of people inexplicably doing the Roger Rabbit, be kind.  Remember, I just want you to like me. 

And if I clamp my hands over my eyes and say "don't see me," do yourself a favor:  Get home to those darling kids of yours.  Some day, I'll like myself enough to let you talk about them.

Like me, only slightly less manically driven to please.


  1. OMG....being one of your BIG fans.....reading your works and I must admit a drinker myself at sporting events ( was a cheerleader in college and still don't understand football);cocktail parties; Miss America pageants;Housewives-anything and who knows maybe an Intervention or two that I was featured, yet, unaware....anyway, this I know: none of us could EVER keep up with you. We want more!!

  2. Actually! I think these parents are probably fascinated because not many people remember their childhood thoughts and feelings as well as you, so I bet you've given people insight into their own kiddos' heads!

  3. Somehow I always put you with New York--New York (why doesn't this thing have a musical note key?)as opposed to Jimmy Durante.....but , darn , he's good and says it all! He's passed on, right???? YOU must carry on. I hope you're writing instead of wiling your weekend away in the mountains or wherever you go.

  4. It's about time you move on to the wonder of Andrea instead of the "wonder what the fuck is going on" of the Andrea dating scene... :)