At a party this weekend, our fantastic group of friends standing in the kitchen talked about staying in touch with friends after high school. I didn’t mention my amazing high school friends because I am still planning on writing a book about them once I figure out how to write things other than blog posts and research papers. Instead, I nodded in sympathetic understanding when one guy said, “The year after high school, I only had one friend.”
“That’s ok,” I assured him. “I made friends my first year of college by being a total bitch.”
That got his attention, but then I had to explain myself, which proved to be more difficult than I wanted it to be because I was supposed to be articulate and impressive at this particular party, with a delightfully bubbly laugh and an alluring sense of mystery. That is, of course, why I was wearing pink pants.
You see, as a child I was painfully shy and often reclusive. I say this in the past tense because I am trying to convince myself that I have not reverted back to this natural state after years of hard work being social. People who know me in real life will shake their heads in dismay that I could think of myself as shy when obviously everyone adores my presence in social situations because I look perfectly at home and wear great shoes. People who only know me because of my blog will nod because they know that painfully shy people write blogs in order to feel like they are making a contribution to the world that is not necessarily requiring of booze to ease the tension.
By the time I reached 17, I was getting to the point where I could speak in class without being spoken to first (or answering a question which no one else in the class knew the answer to, because I was an obnoxiously smart recluse and I’m kinda surprised I didn’t get shoved in a locker. Then I remember that our lockers were only half size and so no one could actually fit inside them). There are actually people who graduated with me who only know me because, at our graduation ceremony, I gave a speech. Which was interrupted by the whistle a passing train. Which I then addressed with the witty and composed line, “Oh, Hello Train.”
This is all to say that since college involved moving across the state and knowing only one person in my dorm and only having one class with my brother who is not actually my brother but is in reality my neighbor/best friend whom I have known since I was 5 and who looks like my twin so we just call each other siblings because it’s way easier that way, I had a hard time saying words out loud.
Instead of letting go of my filter, which would have resulted in conversations quite resembling this story that I’m telling, I put up a filter that I named “Overly Confident Sex Kitten Who Likes to Insult People.”
Basically, I started tuning into people’s dirty jokes, twisting them to my own devices, and then calling really hot guys stupid to their faces because that combination says the exact opposite of “I’m 19, have had one sip of pina colada, and am very internally conflicted over the state of my soul regarding the alcohol I have just consumed. I hope this apartment doesn’t get struck by a freak lightning storm so that I have time to reflect in personal prayer tonight. Also, I’m totally insecure about my weight.”
This worked pretty well in that people actually started paying attention to me because they thought I had things to say. It then pretty much backfired because in everyday life, aka from 7am Monday through 6 pm Friday, I actually didn’t, so I ended up looking like a failed split-personality patient. People promptly got bored.
So I dialed it down, maintaining the occasional ability to bust out a dirty joke (most of which I didn’t completely understand, but they kept working so I kept saying them) and resorting to some tried and true lines. Which I won’t tell you because they’ll lose the element of surprise and then they will just be tried but not true.
And that’s when I started to realize that I could still be funny. I was slow to tell anyone about it because I was an English major, and everyone knows that most English majors have 2x4s stuck up their you-know-wheres, and also that they’re supposed to smoke a lot of cigarettes.
I switched it around so that I could make jokes but avoid the cigarettes, because if the booze didn’t send me to Hell than the cigs definitely would. The other girls in my major gave me some really dirty looks when I tried to explain about how I doubt Jesus was good at stickball or whatever 1st century children played in the abandoned lot until the street lamps came on because he had to memorize all of those scriptures, and even though he was the Son of God, he was still human and there are only so many hours in the day, you know? Hand-eye coordination probably just wasn’t at the top of the to-do list.
(This statement will not send me to Hell because I am definitely not denying Jesus’ divinity. Merely commenting on the limits of the space-time continuum.)
(Jenn, who was in that class with me, reminds me that the solution was that Jesus trained a parrot to recite his scripture lines, which is how he is able to quote it all so accurately in the the New Testament. You see, we were analyzing a play in which the characters give the Holy Child an offering, which consisted of a bird, a ball, and some cherries. So that’s where the bird and the ball come into play. We still have no idea what the cherries mean. And to be clear, all of this was my idea, as the only one in the class who actually attends church, and this part of the story might send me to Hell. Especially the cherries part, because only dirty thoughts come to mind.)
My professor thought it was funny, and seeing a bearded man giggle is a highly affirming achievement.
Some time later, I decided to write a blog so that I could become famous and meet Ellen DeGeneres. I started doing really strange things like reviewing my favorite TV commericals (because TV is real life) and writing semi-emo poetry and posting it online. Luckily, I came to my senses and realized that was the stupidest thing I could do, and I started writing stuff that I thought was funny.
It wasn’t, actually, but I learned fairly quickly.
Sometimes I get jealous of other bloggers who write posts about how they basically became known on the blogosphere in about three months. Then I remind myself that they are often older than I am (not that that is any criticism; they simply are more self-assured) and have had more time to develop their personas. And then I do a little “archive cruising” on my blog– like looking through all of our Santa Claus pictures on the mantle, including the one where I’m pretty sure I haven’t showered and I’m wearing suede clogs because I thought it was a good idea in seventh grade– and I become really happy that I didn’t gain a huge following in my first three months because such a following would not be anything to brag about. (The following could start now, though, kthanksbye.)
Timing is everything, and self-discovery is a process, and I write because I love it and not for anyone else’s approval, and blah blah blah. And all those things are true.
So now, when I get comments from people like, “You totally crack me up!” or “This was hilarious!” I thank my lucky stars that I’m starting to get the hang of this thing.
Because do you remember that party I was talking about at the very beginning of this story? No? That’s because it was a really long time ago, so I don’t blame you.
I made three jokes at that party. Actually, I probably made more than three, but I purposely tried three with more than two seconds of preparation.
And they pretty much bombed. Because writing (and wearing awesome pink pants) is my strong suit, and not talking to strangers.
To be fair, the one joke that I made that was actually making fun of myself got a really good reaction from one guy, but I think it was just because he was staring at my boobs, so it was involuntary.
At least I was calling myself stupid instead of him. I think they call that “maturity.”