Somehow, I’ve developed a dislike of talking on the phone. I decided to write about it, thinking that perhaps my phone aversion has something to do with being a writer, but I concluded that this phone thing reflects a deeper issue. I’m afraid it’s one more sign that I may be a recluse in the making. As I pondered my dislike of the phone, I had to admit that it is because I’d rather communicate in writing. I’m better on paper than I am in person. In person, I can’t press the backspace key. When I’m writing, I get to delete and edit scenes, sentences, and words, but in person this is not possible. On paper, I can explain things. In person, I just look like an idiot. Of course, then I get to write about my experiences later, but that’s another story.
For instance, let me tell you about a party I attended over the summer that epitomizes my recluse concerns. My friend, whom I’ll call Y, is an urbane, hip, sophisticated woman I know from a former profession. She throws great parties. Somehow, I missed the information about this party being a girls-only party. I found out when I showed up at Y’s house, ready for a regular cocktails-food-and-music party with my hubby in tow. The promise of one of Y’s fabulous parties was the only reason I’d been able to pry my husband from a birthday barbeque blast, clear across town, right before they served the food. At Y’s house, the ambiance was sedate. All the women were seated around the table for dinner. For the most part, they all work together; a few years ago, I worked there, too. I was aghast that I had misunderstood the invitation. I was dressed for a night out, complete with a full face of make-up and shirt showing cleavage, and I was the only one there gussied up so flamboyantly. Aside from my attention-getting personal appearance, there was also the matter of my husband, who decided not to go back inside to hang out with the only other man present.
Scorchingly embarrassed, I was relieved when Y showed me to the kitchen for a plate of food. She rattled off the names of the dishes, including one she said was soup of some kind. When I didn’t see bowls, I thought perhaps “soup” was a figurative reference, and I went to ladle some on my dish. “That’s soup. I don’t think that’s going to work very well,” Y said, showing me bowls I hadn’t seen before, speaking slowly, looking at me as though she suspected I was drunk. I almost wished I was drunk. It would have been a better excuse than stupidity. I took my plate and bowl and returned to the table, where I felt like a gigantic spotlight was illuminating me as the only one who hadn’t gotten the memo. I made my exit as quickly as possible. As I was leaving, one of the ladies at the table passed me on the way to the restroom. Inside Y’s house, where the lighting was better and the promise of escape was relieving my crushing embarrassment, I realized she was a woman I’d worked with closely years before. I was mortified that I hadn’t recognized her; she’d been sitting at the table with the rest of us. What could I say at that point? “I’m so sorry, but I have bad eyesight, and embarrassment and low light make it worse,” or “I honest to goodness am not crazy, just nervous and slightly blind, but it’s so nice to see you again.” No, nothing could be said other than, “Oh my goodness, I didn’t recognize you,” as I hurried from Y’s home. The next day, I sent a note of apology to Y. She politely responded to that e-mail, but I haven’t heard from her in about six months now.
Obviously, had I been writing this scene, things would have gone differently. Even if I’d been torturing a fictional character, I’m not sure I could have done better. As it was, this incident only added to my fears that I ought not go out. I’d love to tell you that this type of thing is an isolated incident, a rare blunder that gives me things to write about. However, that’s not the case.
I can’t entirely blame this on being a writer, although it is a convenient excuse. I’ve spent many years following one of my dad’s favorite pieces of advice: “Engage brain before operating mouth.” Of course, then I found that I could embarrass myself without opening my mouth at all. Like I said, I’m better on paper. In person, well, that’s another story.
Photo courtesy of Brenton Nicholls at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/39096