It's not that I'm not a great person or anything, I'm just... hard to get to know. I'm reserved. I don't exactly exude warmth and kindness. I'm pretty closed off. I'm awkward around people. Speaking to strangers terrifies me. Hell, speaking to people I know terrifies me most of the time. I know these things about myself, and I'm perfectly ok with it. I have a very few very close friends and that's exactly how I like it.
In the two plus years since I left my retail clerk job, my approachability level has bottomed out big time. It used to be impossible to snap out of my "happy bookseller" routine any time I was around people, so much so that I would occasionally find myself assisting customers in stores in which I did not work. Now when I'm out and about I look studiously at the floor, never - NEVER - make eye contact, and avoid idle chitchat at all costs, as is more fitting my general nature.
Except there's a little problem. Now that zj is getting older and having activities and such, I find myself - quite often - in close proximity with other mothers in the same situation. And I don't want to seem unfriendly, exactly, so I try to make myself a little more open to the whole random-stranger-talking-to-me business.
Then the other day at zj's Tae Kwon Do class, someone spoke to me. "You're so-and-so's mom, aren't you?" Um, no, but it just so happens that I know who so-and-so's mom actually is, because I had noticed her several times. She is the person who always, and I do mean always, looks exactly like this:
So I (awkwardly) cleared up the confusion. Then, a couple days later, someone ELSE confused me with so-and-so's mom. By the way, aside from a vague sense of brownish-reddish hair, she and I look nothing alike. Nothing at all. She's 6 inches taller than me, probably 10 years younger and she doesn't wear glasses.
But it did make me wonder. What about this woman was similar to me? Why would people keep confusing us? OHGODOHGODOHGOD do I look that pissed off and unhappy all the time?!?!?! Um, yeah, probably.
So right there I vowed to start working on my approachability a little. I came home and spent an hour in front of the mirror practicing my facial expressions, trying to find one that said "I'm friendly! (But not too friendly.) I'm approachable! (But don't actually talk to me!) I'm not a total bitch! (I'm just partially a bitch!)
Cj walked up to me while I was practicing my calm, serene, friendly, accessible, sociable, amiable expression and said "I WANNA MAKE THAT FACE TOO, MAMA!" then looked at me like this:
So yeah, I guess that still needs a little more work.
Next I decided I would try to strike up a conversation with someone. Anyone. I'm friendly! I'm approachable! I can do this! My chosen
victim target was a guy I see at zj's bus stop regularly. Usually we both stand just stand there checking our phones, awkwardly avoiding eye contact until the bus pulls up and we can each talk to our own kids, but on this particular day he had brought his dog with him, and that seemed like a great jumping off point. People love talking about their pets, right?
"Pretty dog," I said tentatively. Then I cleared my throat and spoke a little louder. "What kind is he?"
He looked up from his phone, startled. "Well, SHE is a PIT BULL. THEY GET A BAD RAP, YOU KNOW!" he shouted. "BUT SHE'S FRIENDLY! SHE'S NOT DANGEROUS! SEE? SEE HOW FRIENDLY SHE IS?!?!" he shouted, while the dog, excited by all the noise, began to jump up on him and tried to eat his nose off. "SHE'S GENTLE AS A KITTEN! SHE'S JUST A PUPPY! YOU HAVE TO GIVE HER A BREAK! SHE'S JUST LEARNING!!!" he continued to yell as he fought his gentle-as-a-kitten just-a-puppy off his face. "I HOPE YOU DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH PIT BULLS!" he practically screamed, batting the just-a-puppy down and away from the tender flesh around his eyes.
I assured him I had absolutely NO problems with pit bulls of any kind, even flesh-eating ones, then looked away, pulled out my phone and began to frantically check Facebook and Twitter and e-mail and whatever else I could think of so as to look EXTREMELY, IMPORTANTLY, RABIDLY busy so this guy would stop shouting at me about his dog.
After that, I decided that maybe this "being friendly" business isn't really all that important. It sure doesn't seem worth the effort and trouble, so I think I'm just going to be done with it. Done. All done.
If you need me, I'm going to be the one over here in the corner, alone, glaring at you.
It's my natural state, and who am I to try to fight nature?