Welcome to my new storytelling blog. I wasn’t sure how to begin this first post, but then I remembered an unconventional social tool I discovered as an undergrad: strategically offensive introductions.
I didn’t master this technique immediately. It began with a fumble, in freshman-year communications, with Professor Mediocrity’s go-to ice breaker: Tell the class something embarrassing about yourself, he demanded.
Seriously? Why in the wide blue fark would I share my embarrassment with a room full of 19-year-old West Texans? No, thank you.
But then everyone else did it. Teenage secrets, dredged from immature psyches, boiled up and spilled out, round-robin style:
Sometimes I don’t sing in church… I once hit a cow with Dad’s truck… I didn’t register to vote.
My mind lurched in response. How would I ever fit in with these milquetoast delinquents? The butterflies in my bashful gut drove themselves into a frenzy by the time my turn came around. Panicked, I blurted out a string of semi-random words:
“I listen to Barry Manilow when I’m alone.”
Professor Mediocrity chortled and the rest of the class giggled. Farm-boy made it clear he thought humming along to “Copacabana” was way more pathetic than him killing a heifer with his daddy’s gigantic Ford F-150, but everyone else seemed satisfied. I’d measured up to the level of bland rebellion expected of a West Texas college freshman.
This same scenario played out time and again through my undergrad years. I learned to nod sympathetically with the Methodist lip-syncer and radiate dismay at the girl who still refused to vote. The silly exercise devolved from a source of terror to a tedious routine.
By senior year, I was sick of the trite question and ever-more-boring answers. So when Professor Mediocrity greeted our fourth-year comm class with the inevitable “Tell us something personal,” — my patience shattered. The mouth took over, leaving the brain behind:
“Sometimes I sneak down to the quad in the middle of the night and smear peanut butter all over the crotch of Davy Crockett’s statue.”
No one was more surprised than me. I’d never smeared peanut butter on anything, not even a sandwich, and darn-sure not on marble genitals. Half the class bristled at my blasphemy. The other half refused to make eye contact; maybe mention of Davy’s chiseled package left them flustered.
Here’s the important part: one girl burst out laughing. Loud and nasally, like a donkey. Yay! I’d found a friend. I’d also distanced myself from a bunch of tight-minded bores who never liked me, anyway. I wished I’d discovered this offensive social tool sooner.
Now well past the insecurities of youth, I’ve embraced this strategy with zeal. My humiliating “secrets” are occasionally true, often ludicrous, usually effective. Case in point: the dreaded neighborhood book club. As a fresh transplant to the area, most people in the newly-formed group were strangers not only to me, but also to each other. The officious woman in charge began with the inescapable command: Introduce yourselves — tell us something juicy!
Okay, I thought. She asked for it. I volunteered to go first:
“Sometimes, when I’m constipated, I feel like I could warp the space-time continuum with my butt.”
Shocked gasps. Darting glances. Agitated bottoms constricting in their plastic chairs. And then the strategy paid off: one lady laughed. It wasn’t a freshman donkey bray, but she did snort a little. Yay! A friend in my new neighborhood. And no need to waste time on people offended by the word “butt.” Double win.
So today I sit here, trying to write this important tone-setting introductory blog post. Should I play it safe? Avoid offending anyone? Is this, perhaps, a Manilow moment?
Or should I introduce potential readers to the real me and tell ‘em about my quantum asshole?
Okay, I’ll give you a few seconds to close your browser…
Still here? Maybe you’re the one person who laughed? If so, then Yay! I’m happy to have another friend. I hope you’ll follow my blog and read some stories. In addition to posting a sprinkling of my own work, I’ll recommend breathtaking fiction by my favorite authors. I want to explore addictive TV shows, books of all kinds, writing contests, fandom, and everything else that fits into the storytelling basket.
Please join the discussion; I’d love to get to know you. And best of all, you don’t have to share anything embarrassing unless you want to.