The room is cram-packed with people in schmancy clothes, amazing food and wine everywhere. I am so excited to be out, wearing high heels and spanx that I don’t even see her at first and very nearly run her down.
It has been a while (a long while) since I have been out. I have been applying all of my energy to my oh-so-much-more-than full time position of new Mama. On the extremely rare occasions when I do not nap during nap, or am able to keep my eyelids open for a few minutes after dinnerdancingbathbooksbed-time, I am busily working on my public speaking business.
My sister scores an extra ticket to one of the biggest charity fundraisers in town, then the stars align so that not only do I find someone who can look after my son, I actually find an outfit in my closet that has all it’s buttons, no baby food stains and did not split at the seams when I wiggled it on… much.
She and I arrive and start to “work the room” meaning, look for cocktails and any hor’douvers containing crab meat. Being a local social butterfly, Jodi is immediately sucked into the ebb and flow of the meet-and-greet waves that swirl around us.
The thing about having a fairly public professional persona, is that no one believes I am shy. And I don’t mean ‘Oh, isn’t that cute’ shy. I’m talking hand-shaking-as-I-reach-for-the-entry-door, can’t-swallow-because-my-left-lung-is-squeezed-into-my-throat, I-think-my-hair-is-sweating kind of shy. As soon as Jodi disappears into the swells, I begin to feel the manic shouts of the small but mighty introvert that lives huddled down at the base of my spine.
I have perfected a trick to use in a room full of people I don’t know. It’s called “the Subway.” Riding the subway in NYC during rush hour is an exercise in the Absolute Elimination of Even the Smallest Vestiges of Personal Space. I have been pressed up-against and into people so firmly, that in some cultures, we would be legally forced to marry upon exiting at 81st street. I have been mere inches from bagel crumbs peppering the beard of the giant person whose arm reaches around me to grab the pole in such a way that would make tango dancers blush. And yes, on two occasions I have had certain… um… gentlemen… enthusiastically embrace the situation and take full advantage of friction and placement. UG. Aside from THOSE incidents (in which the sharpest point of my elbow was called into action) I have been able to breathe my way though the situations with a combination of calming motivational mantras and internal primal screams.
AND, by following rule number one of subway survival: NEVER make eye contact. New Yorkers are so gifted at this, that you can actually be standing next to a family member from Columbus Circle to Washington Heights and only realized it stepping over their grocery bags to exit and accidentally recognizing their shoes.
I was busily making my way around the room in my own personal Subway Reality when someone directly in front of me lunged to hug the person on my right causing me to swerve sharply to the left. Being so intent on “not noticing” anyone around me, I was shocked to now find myself eyeball-to-eyeball with her, a woman I considered one of my personal idols. It was the publisher of a local magazine. I had been reading the magazine for years, even before I moved to the area, and stalking her on the internet, reading what she wrote, looking at the fabulous parties she hosted, and virtually crawling into her “perfect” life to try to escape mine, which felt anything but.
Now, here she was. And, here was I… about to mow her down. In the brief eternal moment it takes to realize who she is, alter my course to only cause myself to stumble, and complete a wine rescue, I am able to assess the situation in my head. Naturally I do what every full grown, intelligent, professional woman would do in that situation. I grunt and slink to my seat as fast as I can to slide down in my chair in the hopes of achieving invisibility. Jodi, one eyebrow cocked “What’s up?” Two minutes after telling her and receiving THE LOOK, I am up making my way back across the room (tin foil filling my thoughts – but, that’s another story.)
I approach and cringe inwardly as I see her cringe outwardly, wondering what to expect from this clumsy and possibly dangerous person walking toward her again. I smile, square my shoulders, take a deep breath and blurt “HWiiiinnnaaahh, mmMnnNNoooo hhhaAErrhhhh” or something equally eloquent.
The happy ending? She was as kind and charming as I had imagined, and also great at understanding foreign languages like the one coming out of my mouth. She actually heard the words “professional speaker”, somehow believed me, and three months later booked me as the magazine’s Keynote Luncheon Speaker.
Go Tah-mi. Go Tah-mi. It’s yo birthday. It’s yo birthday. Un hun uh huh.
SO… Knowing great things like that can happen when I meet new people, why in the world didn’t I approach the situation with joy, instead of being pressured (thank you sis) into it? I’ll tell you why. Fear. Fear Of Being A Dork. Fear of looking like a Dork, sounding like a Dork, and knowing in my heart she was going to leave our conversation thinking “What a Dork!”
I have really good news to share with all of you. I am a Dork. Imma Dork.
And so are you!
You are. We all are. Every single person on Earth has that place inside where they feel insecure. The simple fact we are human means we have an Inner Dork, it’s part of the equipment. The most “together” people in the world have a Dork at their core. Einstein? Dork. Bono? Dork. The big O? Dorkedy-Dork-Dork.
One of my favorite gal-pals is married to a man (I hope soon that will be a necessary clarification.) This man is… Fan-Tas-Tic! When my friend bellied up to the marriage table, the dealer hit her with a royal flush. He is Kind. Handsome. Funny. Generous. Gentle. Strong. Sexy. Smart. Employed. Romantic. And he COOKS. (Telling this story at a womens conference, someone shouted “Does he have a BROTHER?”) Upon meeting him, you would think this man does not have an Inner Dork. Oh, but you would be wrong. Because, if you went out to a club with this man, you would have a front row center seat to Baaaad Daaaaancing. Picture Ross Geller doing a Sprinkler/ Chicken/ Zombie Shuffle combo with great flailing joy. Total Dork!
But, here is the coolest thing about this man. HE. DANCES. ANYWAY! And do you know what that makes him? Even better.
Oh, and remember the publisher from the story above? Turns out to be one of the biggest, most fun Dorks I know!
Embrace your Inner Dork! Give your Dork a big fat kiss and cuddle. And then get the heck OUT THERE and start putting yourself into situations you have always dreamed about! What is the worst that can happen? You look like a Dork. So? Maybe people around you will be so relieved that you asked the dorky question first, or tried the dorky thing they wanted to try, that they will celebrate you as their Dork Leader. Or maybe you will make a new friend, learn something wonderful, and possibly change the course of your life forever.
I promise it won’t be as scary as you imagine. And truly the most tragic thing that has happened to me is when I didn’t even try to put myself out there. And at the end of the day, I sat home alone wishing I had at least given it a shot, feeling like the biggest Dork of all.
Let’s stop trying to be someone we think people want us to be. Be wholly fully youly you, and I guarantee… you will be adorkable.