Top 5 Steps for Handling an Awkward Conversation

We’ve covered the fact that I’m socially-disabled.

I went into a sandwich shop for a turkey sub and the professional sandwich maker said she’d gone to high school with me. I’m terrible at remembering faces, so I asked her name. She said, “Remember? I’m so-and-so, from over by the junior high?” The name jiggled my memory slightly, but I had no recollection of ever interacting with this person.

MHS

(Graduating quality folk for several years.)

Because I suck at small talk, there followed an uncomfortable silence while she waited for me to regale her with tales of our past friendship, and I struggled to subtract 30 years from her face. The silence grew longer. I whispered, “No mayo, please,” hoping she’d drop the staring contest. She obviously wasn’t going to construct my sandwich until we’d had a meaningful reunion, so I turned to my handy-dandy list of ways to handle an awkward conversation.

Step 1: Fake recognition. “Oh, didn’t you live near the whatchamacallit by the whosamawhatsit? Right! That’s where you lived!”

Step 2: Find common ground. “What have you been doing since high school?” (The answer is, obviously, attending culinary school.) “Do you have children? Grandkids? Pets? Allergies? Aversion to strange conversations? Me too!”

Step 3: Inane smiling and head nodding. Once I got her talking, I could just smile and nod as she regaled me with everything from her recent hysterectomy to her jail time and divorce from her third husband. Not necessarily in that order. Smile. Nod. Smile. Nod. (After a while, my smile faltered and I could feel my cheeks trembling.) That’s when it’s time to move on to Step 4.

Sideshow Bob

(Once I stop smiling, your life is in danger.)

Step 4: Back away–slowly. By this time my sandwich had been assembled, paid for and was sitting on the counter waiting to be devoured. Unfortunately, she was still reliving our tenuously-existing relationship. I’m smiling and nodding like a mental patient but slowly retreating to a far corner.  We’d covered Obamacare, the price of gas, climate change and the renovation of a local school. I’m trying to be polite, but I’m also hungry and out of general topics.

Step 5: Bring in the closer. “Wow, it was great seeing you after so many years. I hope your parole hearing goes well! I sure am looking forward to eating this delicious sandwich you made for me. You are great at your job. Wow, just wow. So good to see you.”

Because I’d already made the mistake of getting my lunch to stay, I had to do a follow-up (and optional) Step 6. After finishing my lunch, I stood up, waved to (insert name here) and told her again how great it was to see her.

Mission accomplished. But now I can never return to that sandwich shop. At least not until I’ve studied my high school yearbook to relearn everyone’s name.

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Things Driving Me Crazy Today

tuesday

Dear Tuesday,

I hope you crack your shins on the coffee table of life.

Here are the things driving me crazy today:

  • Feeling like an uneducated redneck at the farmer’s market. Do vendors take classes in snobbishness?
  • Trying on swimming suits. Tip to merchants: light dressing rooms with candles–not flickering fluorescent bulbs.
  • Getting stuck in a swimming suit and standing in the horribly lit cubicle with my arms extended overhead with no way to remove the bathing suit top from my body.
  • Hockey. Thank God the season is over–at least for a few weeks.
  • Basketball. Thank God the season is over–at least for a few weeks.
  • World Cup Soccer. Well, almost.

quidditch

(When is the Quidditch World Cup?)

  • Diets that suggest you cut out EVERYTHING except whey protein, almond milk, blueberries and eggs.
  • Cutting out EVERYTHING except whey protein, almond milk, blueberries and eggs.
  • Making a(n) hilarious, witty comment, and realizing (because people are looking at you weird) that you just said one of the Top 10 stupidest things of all time.
  • Driving in the rain, and having no idea where the lines are in the road.
  • When road crews re-paint the lines in the freeway, three feet away from the original lines–so now there dashed lines everywhere and you have no idea where to drive.
  • Make-up companies messing around with mascara wands.

avon mascara

(Just waiting for Tom Sawyer to paint my eyelashes.)

  • People who break beer bottles at parks, leaving shards of glass for dogs and kids to step on. These glass litterbugs should be punched in the liver.
  • When I realize I’m humming along to my iPod at the gym.
  • Grass growing in my flower beds.
  • You think you’re alone in a public bathroom, and start talking to yourself. The lady who walks out of the far stall avoids looking directly at you as she washes her hands, and quickly leaves the restroom. Not that I did that. Nope.

Maybe next Tuesday will be great!!

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Land of The Free

freedom

America is a land of contradictions. We have some of the most brilliant scientists in the world, but on the other hand we have . . . well . . . Arkansas. The same country that brought you Cosmos and Planet Earth also presents you with Swamp People and The Bachelor. But that’s what makes America great. And extremely dysfunctional.

For example, each year we celebrate The Fourth of July to remind us that we are free from overbearing governments, excessive taxes, British humor and . . . wait a second. Okay, we really celebrate July 4 to recognize our acceptance and love for diversity in race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and . . . wait. Hmmm.

Well, we celebrate it for some reason. Probably because ‘mericans love their gunpowder and explosives. And all-you-can-eat hot dogs.

bald eagle

(Bald Eagles shouldn’t use Rogaine.)

We know America isn’t perfect. We tend to prove that on a global scale every day. But, hopefully, everyday Americans believe that “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I didn’t notice any footnotes in the Declaration of Independence.

And while a person’s right to kick ends where my crotch begins, maybe I could take a step back so they have more room to kick. Maybe we should all take a step back and remember that tolerance and acceptance are not the same thing. Because, who wants to be tolerated?

eagle

Clarence Darrow said, “True patriotism hates injustice in its own land, more than anywhere else.”

I don’t care if you’re a democrat, a republican, a Whig, a Kardashian or an iced-tea party chairperson. We love this country where you can wear Uncle Sam underwear/bra sets, purchase fireworks 24 hours a day, wave small Chinese-made American flags, sing the national anthem at the top of your lungs and push small children down to get the free taffy during 4th of July parades.

This great democratic experiment continues to evolve. Just because our government is mired in inefficiency and anger doesn’t mean America’s populace has to be just as messed up. As Mitt Romney said so eloquently, “I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.” (Actual quote.)

Ditto. I think.

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Confessions of an Introvert

For readers of my blog, it should come as no surprise that I’m an introvert. With posts  like Top 5 Reasons to Become a Hermit, Stores That Overwhelm Me,  The Holiday Party Survival Guide or Reasons to Stay in Bed Today, you really should have guessed.

But being an introvert does not mean I’m mousy, shy or a little touched in the brain. Okay, it might mean those things, but introverts are a misunderstood group of people, probably because we just don’t care enough about your opinion to set the record straight. So I’m here to set the record straight.introverts

We’ve been called “people haters” or “brooding wallflowers.” Those names are correct. Just kidding. Kind of. Here’s an explanation about what makes introverts tick (and it’s not the vest-bomb strapped to our chests).

We Hate Small Talk. I can easily teach a crowded yoga class or speak in front of dozens of people. But I’d rather eat Black Widow spiders than make small talk with a stranger. I usually end up saying something stupid, then run off to hide in the bathroom.

  • Instead–I love authentic interaction. While “networking” feels forced and disingenuous, if you get an introvert talking about something they love–you’ll never get them to shut the hell up.

We don’t hate people. As a species, I have nothing against humans. But put me in a social situation like a party, a wedding or standing in line at the grocery store, and it takes all my strength to not run out the door screaming.

  • Instead–Forgive me if I decline invitations or don’t call you back immediately. Just like your computer needs to power down, so do introverts. Give us time to recharge, and instead of wishing you dead, we’ll gladly enjoy lunch with you. Usually.

hiding

(My default position in most social situations.)

We’re not stupid. Just because we’re not the loudest voice in the room, doesn’t mean we’re mute. Sometimes you need to shut up long enough for us to voice an opinion. Rarely will we interrupt your never-ending monologue. Silence does not equal dumb.

  • InsteadWe’re quiet because we’re thinking and/or listening. (You should try it.) Introverts ponder what has been said to find the best response. We don’t often blurt out the first thing we think. If that were the case, many of our conversations would end with us saying, “If another sound comes out of your mouth, I will poison your coffee.”

Don’t single us out. Extroverts think they can “cure” introverts by putting them on the spot, or placing them on a group project. We’re not sick. We’re not “less than.” We don’t need your help to save us. We’re actually very creative thinkers that include people like Eleanor Roosevelt, J.K. Rowling, Bill Gates and Albert Einstein.

  • InsteadLet us work alone, without noisy distractions (like your voice). We’re writers, creators, artists and innovators. Let us do our thing, going quietly into the world, making big changes.

Buick - Copy

(The person who owned this car shouldn’t have put me in charge of planning the company party.)

So if you work with, are married to or have ever encountered an introvert, there is nothing to fear. Unless you don’t give us space. Then you might end up with a nice stab wound in the thigh.

 

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Much More Than a Bathroom

I read that women spend 1.5 years in the bathroom, over the course of a lifetime. That can’t be true. It has to be much longer.

For women (especially moms), a bathroom is a refuge, reading room, mini-spa, hiding place for chocolate (behind the unused bottles of dry shampoo) and crying lounge. So 18 months seems highly underestimated. Not to mention the years spent cleaning the damn room.

shower curtain

(Best. Shower. Curtain. Ever.)

Here’s a rundown of ways women utilize the most underrated room in the house:

  • It’s the weighing room, where the number on the scale determines your mood for the next 24 hours.
  • As an anti-aging cream testing lab. Once cream is applied to face, look closely in the mirror to monitor the results. If nothing changes immediately, the jar goes into the wrinkle cream graveyard under the sink.
  • The place where all the lost hair huddles around the baseboards, eventually forming an evolutionary new creature.
  • A gathering place for half-used bottles of hotel shampoos and conditioners. shampoo

(All that hotel stealing for nothing.)

  • A library where you can finally finish the last ten pages of a novel, without being continually interrupted by grubby-handed children, or husbands.
  • A studio for trying new make-up techniques found on Pinterest–usually with horrific results. There’s no such thing as an “easy” smoky eye. And don’t get me started on those intricate steps to eradicate lip lines. Pinterest lies.
  • The black hole where lip gloss, tampons, eye shadow, razors and deodorant go missing–especially if there’s a teenage daughter living in the house.
  • A place to agonize over/celebrate pregnancy tests.
  • A selfie photo studio. Obviously, way too many women spend loads of time in the bathroom with their cameras.
  • A grown-up fort where you end up yelling at your 3-year-old through the door, screeching you just need a few minutes to use the bathroom or you will strangle her Tickle Me Elmo.

bathroom

(You know they’ll find you.)

  • The location for “stress-relieving” baths that include your kids methodically kicking the door every 15-30 seconds.
  • A stop for pregnancy bathroom breaks. Every 15 minutes.
  • During summer months only: Shaving legs, waxing,  applying fake tanning cream.
  • The place to make phone calls without your child interrupting you. This only works in theory. Your child will still stand outside the door and talk to you.
  • The room for applying face masks without the risk of scaring small children and husbands.

Head Shot - Copy

(I warned you not to open the door!!)

  • A place for looking in the mirror, checking for panty lines or underarm sweat (or underarm lines and panty sweat).
  • A place for looking in the mirror checking for pimples, wrinkles, food in teeth, gray hair, lip fuzz, nose boogers, dry skin, eye boogers, errant eyebrows and pore size. Just for starters.
  • A room to ponder the path of your life, wondering how in the hell you ended up in a bathroom hiding from your family.

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Reality Pageants

Summer brings mosquito bites, melted snow-cones and beauty queens in parades. As a community reporter, I’ve sat through many beauty pageants, cringing as teenage girls offer themselves up for physical, mental and emotional critique.

judge

Unless you’re 4-years-old, or were born in Buckingham Palace, tiaras are not everyday accessories. But young women nearly kill themselves to get bikini-ready so male judges can gawk and rate them. In any other situation, adult males ogling teenage girls would get them landed in the county jail.

Organizers of these “scholarship” pageants say they are promoting education, but I don’t remember when education required walking across the stage in teeny bits of fabric and high heels. Or twirling fiery batons while singing “God Bless America.” Or having a veneered smile, and no pores whatsoever.

Girls have enough pressure to be beautiful without the pressure of pageant preparation. I’m advocating the ban of beauty pageants, unless the following guidelines are met:

Include a hot dog eating contest: This will force contestants to eat at least one meal. I talked to one pageant participant who hadn’t had a solid meal for three months. She was very thin, but about as healthy as a doorframe.

Be heard in a room full of men: This could be the talent portion of the program. Young women need to learn to have their voices heard without dealing with condescending comments like, “Isn’t that a cute idea?” or “You leave thinking to us men. You just need to look pretty.” I call bulls***.

Enough with the haters: Recently, the gorgeous Miss Thailand stepped down as Miss Universe in part because of nasty remarks made on the Internet. She was booed, jeered and even called “chubby” by the Neanderthals roaming social media pages. Get a grip you moronic heathens!

Thailand

(She even looks pretty when she cries. I didn’t think that was humanly possible.)

Be honest about fitness/diet:  Don’t tell me you eat cheeseburgers and onion rings on a regular basis–unless by “regular basis” you mean on Maytober 31. Tell people how you only eat jicama, kale and blueberries, and work your A** off every day in the gym with your personal trainer.

Detail a budget:  It’s lovely that you want world peace. But be prepared to demonstrate how you can earn 30 percent less than your male colleagues, and still afford groceries, utility bills and those weekly manicures.

Must be over 35:  Most teenage girls, and young women, can rock a bikini. But find me a woman who’s given birth to three children who still wears a swimming suit AT ALL, and suddenly the pageant is much more realistic.

No male Judges: Men, unless you’re Neil Patrick Harris, chances are you’ve never had to walk in heels, wax your eyebrows and nether regions, or look cute while answering impromptu questions about world politics. Women judges only. In fact, men shouldn’t be allowed in the building.

hedwig

 (This guy knows the pain of living in heels.)

 And don’t get me started on child beauty pageants.

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Questions that Keep Me Up at Night

Some nights I can’t sleep. After I stop counting sheep, calculating how many more hours of sleep I could get if I fell asleep immediately, and consider getting up to read (which I don’t because I’m too tired), I start pondering the important questions of life.

Not questions like, “If you weren’t scared, what would you do?” (I would ride a crocodile) or “What is the meaning of life?” (Hot fudge brownie sundaes). I mean questions like:

  • Who determined the size of a toilet-paper square? When did it become universal?
  • Why is there nothing to eat in my kitchen?
  • When did hotels stop using bedspreads, opting instead for the 2-foot wide table runner draped across the bed?

hotel bed

(Why is this a thing?)

  • Why do I get black gunk in the corner of my eyes?
  • How can I tell if anti-aging cream is working?
  • Why are there so many keys on a keyboard?
  • Is it really possible to tip a cow?
  • Who ate the last Oreo?
  • Why are the showers in hotel bathrooms placed at a height of 5 feet?
  • Why do people keep trying to make me eat guacamole?

guac

(This is about as unappetizing as you can get.)

  • Is it possible that Victoria’s Secret is that she’s afraid of being fully clothed?
  • What should I be when I grow up?
  • What would my gangsta name be?
  • Is there really nothing to eat in this house?
  • Why does hockey/basketball season last so long?

About the time my questions turn into, “Why does blue feel like a chocolate donut?” or “If I had a pet genie would it taste like chicken?”, I realize I’m finally drifting off to sleep. Pleasant dreams.

 

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