Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Immense Stature of an Attractive Person Making Idle Small Talk

I once hung out for an evening, in my current guise as creepy middle-aged loser, with an extremely attractive younger woman. It wasn't a date, she was the daughter of a friend, and we caught a movie together about a topic we shared interest in. Then bites and drinks. Fun!

I expected guys to be hitting on her constantly. And I expected to be sneered at for being the gross sugar daddy I wasn't. Those two bits of awkwardness were fully baked into my expectations. But I was still gobsmacked.

We hit a bar where a musician I know bartended. His singer-songwriter girlfriend, who I hadn't met, was hanging out with a clutch of friends, and conversation was struck up. Music-wise, I've played with most everyone they'd listened to as kids, plus they were all acquainted with Chowhound. These things had been mentioned by the bartender in his introductions. But I declined to dominate attention, wanting to give my young friend a chance.

She was perfectly poised and pleasant. A comfortable conversationalist! And they were absolutely fascinated by her. She was so interesting! I can't remember her saying anything particularly interesting, or funny, or smart, or kind. She didn't need to! She simply kept the ball rolling while being pretty, which struck everyone as amazing.

At one point, she went to the bathroom, and as she vanished, there was a strident cacophony of barstools being dragged and pivoted. En masse, the clutch of musician/foodies turned away from me to resume conversing amongst themselves. An Amish-level shunning straight out of a Judd Apatow film! When my friend returned, they re-shifted, and, when we finally left, they hugged her, swapped her contact info, and nodded indistinctly at me.

This is not what you think. It's not a tale of alienation; a whiny wail of "nobody gets me". I'm well past the Rodney Dangerfield point. What fascinates me is my friend's result. I can't help but wonder what life would be like if merely keeping the ball rolling were sufficient...not just to getting along, but to killing it. The notion, to me, is as alien as contemplating chromium-based life in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

I've been compensating and compensating and compensating my whole life, to the point where, like some shaggy dog joke punchline, I've wound up orders of magnitude more interesting than would remotely interest anyone. Hey, I didn't know what else to do! If the world keeps insisting you're not good enough, you keep doggedly improving, no?

At this point I must accept that there's nothing I could accomplish, no bell I could ring, to yield me any fraction of the stature of an attractive person making idle small talk. It's an unattainable pinnacle. I realize this sounds like I'm being bitterly snide and sulky, but I'm not. This is one of the few aspects of earthly life that fills me with uncomprehending awe. My friend's performance struck me like Jesus walking on water.

Two strangers at the gym once were discussing nearby food options with the telltale relish of serious hounds. I amiably offered a quick tip. Not with any weight or condescension; just another sweaty dude chiming in. The conversation froze. Jesus, do we really need to talk to this guy? Sensing their disdain, I flailed for relevance, asking them if they'd ever heard of Chowhound. They nodded affirmatively, I told them I created it, and they wordlessly stepped off their treadmills and switched to ones a few rows back.

Regard isn’t easily available to me. And flailing for it only makes it worse. And overshooting by twelve hundred light years, to my enormous surprise, turns out not to be the answer, either.

I know from experience that if I'd managed to convince them that I really was that guy, they'd be super-impressed for a few minutes (which I don't enjoy - overshooting discomfort goes both ways), and then all sorts of extra-weird stuff would happen. The only thing worse than having to cope with a chatty loser is the notoriously disagreeable experience of meeting a hero. Losers and heroes both suck. What doesn’t suck? An attractive person making small talk!

No comments:

Blog Archive