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 communications, with Professor Mediocrity’s go-to ice breaker: Tell the class something embarrassing about yourself.
I thought he was nuts. Why in the wide blue fark would anyone share an embarrassing trait 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 brain hiccuped at the anemic revelations. I had nothing comparable to confess. I’d never fit in with these milquetoast delinquents. Worse, I was next in line. Heart hammering, panic surging, I flailed for something — anything — to say, then I realized everyone was looking at me and maybe I blacked out for a second before a spasm of oh-shit-it’s-my-turn hysteria slammed into me and I blurted out a string of semi-random words:
“I listen to Barry Manilow when I’m alone.”
Breath held, left eye twitching with the pulse of dread, I awaited the reaction. Finally, Professor Mediocrity chortled. 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 the others were satisfied. I huffed out a sigh, relieved, and slightly dismayed that I’d measured up to the level of bland rebellion expected of a West Texas University freshman in 1984.
This same scenario repeated with each new semester. I learned to nod sympathetically with the Methodist lip-syncer and radiate dismay at the girl who still refused to cast her ballot. The silly exercise devolved from heart-thrashing terror to yawning routine.
By senior year, I was sick of the trite question and ever-more-boring answers. So when Professor Mediocrity greeted our advanced comm class with the inevitable “Tell us something personal,” — my patience fled. 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 that Davy Crockett statue.”
No one was more surprised than me. I’d never smeared peanut butter on anything in my life, not even a sandwich, and darn-sure not on a set of marble genitals. Half the class bristled at my folk-hero blasphemy. The other half avoided eye contact; maybe mention of Davy’s chiseled package left them flustered.
Here’s the important part: one girl burst out laughing. Yay! I’d found an authentic friend. I’d also distanced myself from the uptight prudes who’d never liked me, anyway.
Years later, well past the insecurities of youth, I employ this strategy with zeal. My humiliating “secrets” are occasionally true, often ludicrous, usually effective. A recent example, spawned by a newly formed neighborhood book club, began when the twinset-clad matron in charge issued 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 once again, the strategy paid off: a lady laughed. It wasn’t a polite suburbanite tee-hee, but a full-on belly laugh, punctuated with an authoritative snort. Yay! A new friend in my neighborhood. And no need to waste time on fusspots offended by the notion that they, too, have their very own sphincters. Double win.
Memories of other ridiculous, yet satisfying encounters fizzle and pop as I sit here staring at my blank computer screen. Sure, the offensive strategy has helped me navigate uncomfortable first meetings and awkward introductions for years, but is it a wise choice for this new blog? The judgmental cursor blinks at me, and I wonder: should I choose the mundane route this time? Play it safe? Is this, perhaps, a Manilow moment?
Or should I introduce 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.