There comes a dreaded time in every person’s life when one must perform an act of the most infuriating and humiliating nature: Playing a get-to-know-you game.
For you hermits or crotchety old men who haven’t changed jobs in 40 years, get-to-know-you games are an American tradition forced upon completely suspecting individuals when they submit themselves to new groups of people. The most disturbing part about such games is that they never seem to happen in singual instances; if you play one get-to-know-you-game, you will subsequently play two more when you break into small groups, get introduced to new teams, combine with another large group, or go to the grocery store to buy chinese food and feed your sorrows with General Tsao. Intro games come in threes. Also, death. Comes in threes. Not necessarily caused by intro games.
Some of you may know, or have guessed due to my extreme lack of presence in the Internet sphere, that graduate school has begun. (Can one be extremely non-present at a given moment? Are there graded values of non-presentness? Does graduate school occasionally make me want to punch small woodland creatures for giving me thoughts like this?) In those weeks of what we affectionately called “boot camp” (affectionately because we all, each of us, had a bottle of wine in one hand and ready access to chips and salsa for the other), we had to introduce ourselves over and over and over again.
It was after the second time that this occurred that a colleague mentioned why she despises such artificial displays of personality: It’s basically a competition to see who can come up with the coolest fact about themselves.
I hate people who think they’re cool.
You know what’s cool? When I was a kid, we used to catch tadpoles in my friend’s creek and we’d watch them grow into frogs. That was cool because it was like the baby frogs lived in this jelly sac and then their legs started to pop out like zombies. Zombies are becoming slightly hipster-fied, but, I would argue, are still cool.
You know what else is cool? My friends Crystal and Marla can lick their elbows. I know that people say it’s impossible, but they can both do it; I’ve seen it!
You know what else is cool? One time, I petted a lion. I took a trip to South Africa my senior year of high school, and we went to a wild animal park that allows you to pet the cubs so that they become accustomed to humans. (Sorry, PETA.) I don’t tell that story during get-to-know-you games because I’m not really sure if the proper participle of “pet” is just “pet” or if I can say “petted.” “Petted” sounds better, more touchy-feely and invoking of the adorableness that is a baby wild animal that could some day eat my face off. But I judge you on your grammar and am pretty sure you’re a horrible person because you can’t spell “definitely,” so I would expect nothing less from you. “You” being the general population of the United States of America. Maybe we didn’t really learn anything from Big Bird after all…
You know what else is cool? The word “putrescence.”
Instead, I’m telling people about me and trying to make myself sound “sophisticated.” When did “sophisticated” become synonymous with “cool”? They are not even close to the same thing. Sophisticated people think they’re important simply because they think they’re important. Cool people think they’re important because their underwear that day features cartoon animals drinking alcohol.
Then, in a moment of sheer hypocricy, I made my class– the one I am teaching, the one for which I am the purveyor of truth– go around the circle and share about themselves.
You can bet they tried to be sophisticated. They told the class what sports they play. They told the class what major they thought they’d study for the next four/five/eighteen years of their lives. They told the class almost nothing of personal or educational value whatsoever.
So I gave them the big finale.
“My name is Jillian Clark. You can call me Jillian or Ms. Clark, whichever makes you most comfortable. You can even call me “Hey You,” assuming it is accompanied with proper indicative gestures. The fact about me that is most important for you all to know is that I think I’m really funny, but it’s ok if you don’t laugh at me because I laugh at my own jokes anyway.”
They didn’t laugh. Whatever. It’s cool.