I always thought I’d be a vixen in my thirties. I’d be past my wide-eyed girlish gawkiness and into the self-assured, easy sensuality of a woman who knows what she wants, what she deserves and how to get it.
(I also thought that I would be 5’7 and living in an ancient English manor, married to minor nobility. I practiced signing “Lady Casey” in fancy cursive a lot.)
Instead, I am a dynamic combination of love handles, vitriol and crippling social anxiety. I am short, cranky, drinky and fighty. Hence I don’t get a lot of exposure to the outside world (and rightfully so.)
The other day, I was looking through the historical fiction aisle of my local used book store and as always, some asshole sidled up to the very same section after I got to browse for a whole three nanoseconds. I hunched my shoulders up Gollum-style and prepared to let out a warning hiss, but — oh ho ho, what have we here? There is a cutie browsing beside me, he’s wearing a Valve t-shirt, and he smells faintly of a sparkling Norwegian spring! As curiosity overrode my irritation, I side-eyed what book he flipped through and saw it was Alaska by James Michener.
I love James Michener.
I love Valve games.
I love guys who have blonde hair and neatly-trimmed beards and smell like sparkling Norwegian springs.
I looked down at the books in my basket and decided then and there to put them up because I was obviously going to need to save up for my extravagant seaside wedding to Valve-Shirt-Blond-Beard Guy.
At that point (I had been staring blankly at him for roughly seventeen minutes by then) he looked over at me and smiled, blue eyes crinkling like people’s eyes crinkle when they smile in the movies. Nobody really looks like that when they smile, right? Wrong! BLUE EYES OH MY GOD BLUE EYES, BLOND HAIR, BEARD. I JUST FOUND MY FANTASY NERD VIKING YES THANK YOU LITTLE SWEET BABY JESUS OR KRISHNA OR JEHOVAH OR WHOEVER DID THIS.
He, of course, was praising whatever supernatural being brought us together too. (Or more likely, just staring at the bead of drool that had formed in the corner of my mouth and wondering if I had lost my handler but let me have my dream dammit)
Okay, like I said – and actually, it probably didn’t need to be said, but just in case you don’t pick up on context clues very well – I am extremely socially awkward. Especially around guys. ALWAYS around guys. It’s just that they’re so cute and scary and listen I just haven’t had a whole lot of male influence in my life so I am basically a twelve year old when it comes to men, alright? Anyway: I am Rainman-level socially awkward, but I knew this was probably the part where I was supposed to say something.
So what did I do? I didn’t say “Oh, I see you are also a fan of James Michener and his sweeping historical epics. I, being an astute and well-read woman, find his novels quite enjoyable and would like to discuss them over craft beer and/or sex with you.” I didn’t say “Brains and beauty? Sign me up, hottie!” I didn’t even say “hi.”
My inner monologue went thusly: Compliment him on his shirt compliment him on his shirt say something don’t just stare like some weirdo compliment him on his shirt you like Valve but oh god what if he’s wearing that shirt ironically and hates video games and video game culture then he’s just going to think you’re a dumbass okay so compliment him on his hair instead wait no that’s really fucking creepy just compliment him on his shirt and hope for the best and okay wait no ask him if he’s read James Michener before! Talk about how you love what great condition the books are in here! SMILE for chrissake oh god but not that wide you’re showing more gum than tooth he’s going to think you’re some sort of hill person!
“Buh,” is what finally came out. I don’t want to say that’s what I said, because saying implies that there were words, when this was really more of a guttural, cornered-animal whimper.
Now listen, I have won awards for my writing. I can pull $10 words out of the air and string them up on a page and make it look like art. You make me speak though, and I come up with real gems like buh.
Fucking buh. Really? Use your words, Casey.
“I’m sorry?” he said, smile fading a little, eyes darting around the room. Oh yeah. Totally scanning the room for my handler.
“I, um–your shirt. It’s cool,” I squeaked out, immediately becoming fascinated with the tiled floor below my feet. I had made the transformation from 32-year-old woman to 14-year-old boy almost effortlessly. I’m basically Harry Potter. Give me my god damn wand, thank you.
“Oh,” he said after a minute, looking down at his shirt. “Thanks.”
“Haha yeah, no problem! Bye!”
I didn’t even look back as I fled the scene.
So if you were accosted by a woman in a used book store this weekend, I’m sorry. I really did like your shirt and your choice of books, and I don’t really need a handler.