We are moving. *Whimper* Only about two miles south of where we live now, but still. Moving. Ugh.
This is my 7th move in 12 years, spanning three countries. Today, this feels like too much. In fact, now that I am counting relocations, I would like to crawl into a 18 X 18 X 24 inch cardboard box, bury myself under several rolls of packing tape and a large wad of bubble wrap, and bawl like a baby. Or drink an entire bottle of wine. Or merge onto the I-5 and unleash a whopping case of road rage. But I won’t do any of those things, not today anyway. Today, I will attempt to cheer myself up by sharing a funny story. I keep a few anecdotes in a secret inner hatch, which I open and recite at times of Red Alert. This one seems to do a solid job of turning that frown upside down.
Two decades ago, pre-husband and kids, I moved into a tiny dump in La Jolla with my cousin. This was back when moving meant picking up my backpack, stuffed with my toothbrush, some clean-ish underwear, and a framed picture of my cat, and dropping it somewhere else. *Sigh*
First, I must tell you that I have a smidge of social anxiety. Not enough to warrant medication, but enough, I have been told several times, that I often appear to be either a bitch or a weirdo at social gatherings. If you know me, I will talk your face off. But if you don’t, I may just act weird, or like I prefer my own company. So when you see me at a party, working the room, connecting, networking, shaking hands and kissing babies, I can assure you, that was not me. But it might have been my cousin, Rachel, who is the social polar opposite of me. She has social OWNERSHIP. And magnetism. She should be one of those reverends on Sunday morning TV because she can get a room full of unsuspecting people to do nearly anything. We are but pawns.
By the time we had lived together for five months, Rachel had already convinced me to go to countless places in either a wig or full costume, throw scads of parties for people I didn’t know, and move a couch made of lead five blocks on a skateboard. I had ridden the Big Dipper roller coaster more times than I care to remember. And I’m not a huge fan of coasters. Especially antique ones that make me need a back crack.
Back in 1995, Rachel and I were invited to a fancy holiday cocktail party by a friend of a friend. Rachel was invited because she is Rachel. I was invited because I was Rachel’s roommate. The invitation may have even said Rachel plus guest. (It did)
I didn’t want to go to the party. Not at all. I would know no one there and I already knew what that was going to look like. But once again, Rachel convinced me.
I strapped on a black A-line dress, pantyhose and high heels. Back in ’95, I did things like wear pantyhose. Now, I shudder at the thought! However, at the end of this story, you will understand why I say I AM SO GLAD I WAS WEARING PANTYHOSE.
I fluffed my sorry attempt at a Friends hairstyle and we were on our way.
We walked into the party. Large wooden doors opened onto a foyer with a massive staircase descending into what felt like ten thousand well-dressed, unfamiliar people who were all best friends with each other. Rachel grabbed my wrist so I wouldn’t duck and run. We walked down the stairs together, me repeating to myself DONTFALLDONTFALLDONTFALL, Rachel waving like the Queen of England. She could have leapt from the fifth step from the bottom and been caught by admiring fans. I made it to the bottom of the stairs and was so relieved, I stood there for a moment, relaxed my shoulders, and smiled. Rock Star and Strange Relative had arrived.
Rachel was immediately mobbed. “Rachel, hi, I have to tell you the funniest thing!” Rachel, oh my gosh I have to introduce you to my friend!” “Rachel, hey, why didn’t you call me back?” It was the Rachel Show. I was pushed further away from her as more and more people swarmed toward her light. I stood on the fringe of her buddy circle for a few minutes getting increasingly self-conscious. I finally spotted the bar.
I bee-lined. There was an empty stool and I skidded into it. I noticed a woman sitting next to me who looked familiar. She looked like a friend of Rachel’s.
I took a breath and thought, COURAGE. “Hi,” I said, “I’m Rachel’s cousin. I think we’ve met?”
She smiled at me, “I’m Stephanie.” We shook hands.
I immediately evaluated the exchange and thought, Did I actually just introduce myself as Rachel’s cousin? Seriously? That is so pathetic. I blurted, “Yeah, Rachel is also my cousin, so we’re both lucky, I guess.” I said that.
Stephanie raised an eyebrow and looked away. A few moments later, she excused herself. Someone else snagged her spot and turned their back to me.
“Bartender!” I raised my finger, “Uh, Coors Light, please.” Yes, in ’95, I enjoyed a cold Coors Light. I know.
I sat at the bar for a while, drinking my beer, talking to no one. Before long, I ordered another Silver Bullet. Then I realized I had to use the ladies room but did not want to surrender my prime position as loner, party of one, bellied up to the watering hole. Also, I had lost the earlier coin toss (again) and would be driving Rachel and myself home later. I stayed on my stool, pushed the beer away and ordered a water.
Rachel finally walked up. “Are you having fun?”
“Uh, no, I’m not. I don’t know anyone and I’m honestly thinking about leaving. Do you mind taking a cab home?”
Does it sound like I was pouting? Welcome to ’95, when pouting was my thing.
“What? You are not leaving! Come on! Why haven’t you met anyone?”
“I don’t know, I-“
“Look, it doesn’t matter.” Rachel glided smoothly onto a stool. She flipped her hair, quickly scoped the room, then looked at me and laughed. “Don’t you hate it when you are looking around a room, and you make eye contact with someone who has been staring at you? I mean, it is so awkward. There is a strange guy over there looking at me right now. What am I going to do, wave hello?”
“What guy?” I looked around.
“Don’t look right now, dummy!”
“Oh, sorry. I’m just, I don’t think I’ve ever caught anyone staring at me before.”
“What? You totally have. I am sure of it.”
“No, I’m pretty sure I haven’t.”
“I’ll show you what it feels like. You look slowly around the room, and when you finally get to me, I will be staring at you.”
I shrugged and slowly scanned the room. When I got back to Rachel’s face, she was smiling at me with her eyes crossed.
We cracked up.
“Okay, my turn!” I said. She casually surveyed the room and when she returned to my face, I was showcasing my widely imitated but never duplicated Monkey With Underbite expression.
“Now you! I said and did the slow turn. When I got to her, Rachel was the unsurpassable human equivalent of a Confused Fish.
At this point, we were neck and neck. It was like Venus v Serena, except in a face contest. The pressure! I knew if I didn’t serve up an amazing face right then, Rachel was going to take home the trophy and I would get the platter. I did not want another darn platter.
“My turn,” I said and took a deep breath. My plan was to fill my mouth with water and when she looked at me, I would softly smile and trickle the water out of the corner of my mouth, back into my glass. To this day I insist, if I could have pulled that off, it would have been epic. But as I sat there with my mouth full of water, waiting for her to look, I started to tremble. And then shake. And by the time she got to me, I could not keep it together. I breached, spraying an entire mouthful of water loudly out of my mouth. In the middle of a cocktail party. In ’95.
You know when you laugh so hard you don’t make a sound? Rachel and I were doubled over, convulsing, tears flowing from eyes, and silent.
And then the lower floodgate opened. I crossed my legs, but it was like flicking a grain of sand at a tsunami. THANK YOU PANTYHOSE, for keeping the situation contained as it coarsed evenly all over my legs and into my brand new Nine West pleather party pumps.
No one knew, except Rachel when I could finally tell her, and then we were in hysterics for another twenty minutes. I’m pretty sure we left as soon as we gained composure. But ’95 was a crazy year, full of wigs and roller coasters, so, who knows? Maybe we stayed for a while and ordered another round of America’s Finest Light Beer. I’m kidding! Gross! Come on. We went home.
Thanks for letting me (over)share. Now it’s your turn. Do you tell yourself a story while wrapping your (unused) wedding presents in newspaper? If yes, please share it with me. I could use another good giggle.