I used to be shy and very awkward.
It started when I was about ten, and came to an end, I think I can safely say, when I was thirty. Maybe thirty-five.
Every once in a while, I will be struck by the introspection bug and look back at my life, and I’m always astonished by how far I’ve come in the social aptitude department, given my disadvantaged beginnings.
The short version is, now that I’m married and have no need to do so, I can be very suave with the ladies. *
The long version is, well, the same as the short version but with sad, sad childhood stories attached to it.
If I had to guess, the root of my problems was self-confidence. Specifically, a complete and total lack thereof.
What contributed to this?
In a word: women.
Or, during my formative years: girls.
Shocking claim, eh? Can I back up such an inflammatory, sexist accusation with evidence?
There was the neighborhood girl, Margo, who teased me mercilessly when I was six or seven. She also used to chase me up and down the street, her cootie-infested finger in front of her like a lance, trying to infect me.
This did not help quell my burgeoning irrational terror of the fairer (ha!) sex.
There was the time I finally, by surrounding myself with objects of comfort and triumph, worked up the nerve to call a girl and ask her out. After a brief, muffled consultation on the other end of the line, she informed me she wasn’t allowed to go out with boys. And then switched shifts at our summer job to avoid further contact with me.
Being told by a girl I liked at another summer job that I looked like a priest.
(This was before the sex abuse scandal – I can only imagine with a shudder what that statement would have done to my then-tender psyche in the post bastard priest era.)
Now, keep in mind, I didn’t start acting all creepy and stalker-y until after these incidents, so the only reasonable interpretation of these behaviors was that I was a complete and total loser who should hide his true feelings until after extensive covert observation and research had established that the object of my affection actually knew I existed, and might, maybe, if drunk enough, admit to thinking I was an OK guy that she’d be willing to set up with an acquaintance of hers.
Naturally, being under-aged and a goody two-shoes, I didn’t have access to alcohol.
It was a long, lonely tenure in high school.
Though during this period, I developed an uncanny expertise with binocular and telescope use, long-distance photography (please don’t operate under the illusion that long hours alone in a dark room will make you more socially apt – it doesn’t), parabolic antenna deployment, wire taping, and, oddly enough, hot-wiring cars.
I suspect attending an all-male high school may have also made a contribution to my inability to interact with women, but if so, I doubt it was a significant contribution.
So what changed?
Short version: no women.
The longer version: I ended up in leadership roles in different organizations that allowed me to build confidence and social savvy, and all without the underlying, debilitating purpose of trying to be noticed by, not to mention impress, the ladies.
I was in those roles to get other things done.
Once I stopped worrying about the ladies and what they thought of me, I relaxed. I stopped second-guessing myself. I didn’t worry how people would perceive me and started being myself.
I suppose the fact that I was married at this point may have contributed to this lack of concern about how females perceived me.
How did I manage to find someone to date me, let alone marry me, in my pre-“Hey good lookin’, we’ll be back to pick you up later!” stage?
A fair question.
No, I did not order my bride from an impoverished nation full of women who spoke only broken English and were eager for American citizenship despite the horrible matrimonial cost.
I imagine that route would have been easier.
I think I have to attribute my matrimonial bliss to my wife, who in addition to being wise and beautiful, is also incredibly patient and a firm believer in communication.
And maybe has a kink for guys who can really handle a telephoto lens.
Or perhaps it was the months spent on recon, discovering how to manipulate her into hating the friends who stood against me while learning her every like and dislike, and then molding myself into her ideal mate.
On the gripping hand, it might be because love conquers all, even debilitating shyness and uber-creepy stalking.
I think that last one is funny, but since the missus sometimes reads this blog, I’ll attribute all my romantic success to that.* It is possible, though I deem it unlikely given my enhanced abilities to read them, that ‘the ladies’ might find this assertion laughable. Any giggling you might hear can only be coming from jilted lovers and other assorted foes bobbing up and down like so much flotsam in the wake of my new-found powers of social assimilation.
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