People are often surprised to hear me say that I’m an introvert. This is because I’ve great at faking it. For brief periods of time I’m capable of being amusing and socially appropriate. However, the longer I am required to be in a large public group the greater the odds that:
a) I will flee to a quiet area (bathrooms are nice for this) and have some time to myself
b) I will start laughing at something someone says and then not be able to stop until I begin my full on braying snort laugh
c) I will begin talking about whatever is in my head.
C is by far the most dangerous option. There’s a lot going on inside my head and the vast majority is not public consumption approved.
Last week I was invited to participate in a celebration of books event at the Vancouver Library. The poster declared that a panel of “prominent Vancouverites” would discuss the value of books and some of their favorites. The panel included the former mayor of Vancouver now a Senator, several award winning authors, a fellow who made a major documentary on economics, and me. I have no earthly idea what the library was thinking when they invited me. My best bet is that someone over there drinks during work hours.
Each of the panelists was invited to bring a book they really enjoyed and then the audience would “bid” on the book. This raised my first problem. I considered bringing one of my own books, but then had this image of no one bidding on it. The mere idea gave me hives. For the same reason, I didn’t want to bring a book of one of my close friends because if no one bid on that I would get all righteously angry on their behalf. In the end I decided to bring Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened because a) it’s funny, b) I wish I’d written it c) it’s a NYT bestseller d) it has a stuffed mouse on the cover wearing a Shakespearian outfit. Nothing says classy like a dead mouse dressed up in classic garb.
The other panelists spoke first. Their impressive histories were detailed. They talked about which awards the books they brought had won and the beautiful prose. I began to fidget in my seat. I was certain as soon as I would stand up the crowd would realize that I clearly did not belong in this esteemed crowd. Even the Hamlet mouse may not be enough. I wanted to flee to the bathroom, but since I was on stage this would not be possible. Then the Senator introduced me and I stumbled up to the podium. I began by sharing the story in the book about how Jenny once stumbled into a dead dear carcass and how it was like wearing a dear sweater. I realized quickly that I was butchering (ha!) a very funny story and should have read directly from the book.
I said with confidence “this book is hilarious, you can open to any page and you’ll laugh.” To prove my point I opened the book and read the following line: “And this is how I found myself with my arm up a cow vagina.” I could see the Senator next to me on the stage and I sensed this was the first time he’d been at a public reading where someone said “cow vagina” all in one sentence.
When I finished I sat down next to the famous documentary film maker and said smugly “Bet you can’t top a cow vagina.” He looked alarmed and then I was worried that he thought I was implying that he was trying to mount a dairy cow so I clarified.”Not that I think you’re into cows or anything.” This did not seem to reassure him.
And this is why I shouldn’t be invited out.