“Come on.” Cool-guy said. “Let’s go.”
“I’m starved.” He said, tugging on my shirt. “I’m hungry enough to eat a steak.”
“Wait.” I murmured, knowing full well I resort to single syllable words the moment I near my addiction.
“Hello? A vegetarian just said he was hungry enough to eat a steak?”
“K.” I agreed, not hearing him. I turned the page in my book.
Fine.” He said, patiently. “Five more minutes. But you’ve already overstayed your allotted bookstore time.”
I nodded absently and continued reading. What a great book. Something about how to mingle at parties when you don’t know anyone.
Oh. I know. I didn’t need the tips in the book. If I can enter a room and be assured I don’t know anyone there, I become Ms. Personality. My lack of visual memory is the only thing that slows me down at parties and keeps me from enjoying myself, because I can never be sure if I’m standing next to my best friend or talking to John Travolta. I can usually figure out who people are when I hear their voice, but that can take a lot of effort at a noisy party.
I put that book down and picked up another mingling book from the stack I had collected. How many socializing books are there? Book number two suggests striking up conversations with people at a party who are dressed the same way you are.
Um. No. Who wrote this book? Bad, bad idea. How could I look forward to stimulating conversations if I only talked to my fashion doubles? No. I recently had the most delightful party conversation with an old woman who was wearing a thick pink sweater. I was wearing a black dress so according to the book, we never would have talked. Why do people write this stuff?
I tossed the book aside and chose the next from my pile.
I flipped open to an essay on the whiles of positioning oneself around the food table to find a good conversation. Oh. I totally disagree. I HATE people who monopolize the food table so all the guests have to talk about carpooling if they want to eat. I’d rather go hungry.
I prefer to fix a small plate and remove myself to a far corner of the party. Then I can ask a handsome man if he’ll refill my plate with his favorite foods. See. That way we can have a great conversation when he comes back. Yeah. I know. That doesn’t work well if he’s married or if his date happens to see him doing my bidding.
Cool-guy came back and touched my elbow gently. “Time to leave?”
I looked up at him. “Not yet?”
“I’m going to read a magazine. I’m a fast reader…. I’ll be right back.”
“Thanks.” I picked up book number four. This one suggested walking up to a group of people you don’t know and jumping into THEIR conversation. Oh. Yuck. Like. Who wants to talk about the stock market anyway? Not me. I’d rather go over to a large plant and look for bugs, or stare at the stars. Believe me. Some bored person will seek me out and start a conversation.
I dropped that book and thumbed through the next one. This author insisted that if all else fails, you might wait on line at the bathroom to meet some people. No. No. No. I mean. Sure. Meet people in the bathroom, but they will be able to tell INSTANTLY that you’re sad and lonely and searching for camaraderie and it will SCARE them. Everyone knows loneliness at a party can be catching and they won’t have a THING to do with you.
Rather I like to strike up a conversation with the hired help. If all else fails I pretend I’M the hired help. It always brings out the curiosity in people if I’ve donned an apron and started serving cheese and crackers. A friend and I once jumped into a failing party and became the Holly-appointed bar tenders. Man. That was fun. And we met tons of men. (mostly alcoholic…)
Cool-guy hugged me from behind and whispered. “I love you. I’m hungry. You’re a bore in bookstores.”
I laughed. “Would you rather BUY me this book? I only have about ten more pages to scan. Can you wait?”
“Yes.” He said, kissing my cheek.
He stood behind me while I turned pages, reading as fast as I could.
Oh. This was worth all the wasted scanning time I’d put in. The last book insisted that when you’re ready for some interesting party conversation, you should turn to the person next to you and say, “Tell me something dangerous.” EXCELLENT. Great idea. I’d never thought of that. I could even add sparkle to grocery store lines with that bit.
I turned the page, “Another way to catch the attention of someone you don’t know would be to say, ‘Do you think I’m hotter than the hostess?”
Excellent. I decided to try these lines on Cool-guy. After all. The poor man had waited for over an hour while I wandered through the mingling books.
Without turning around, I leaned in to him, and gazed up at his chin. “Tell me something dangerous.” I said in a low, seductive voice. Yes. That sounded good. I took a step forward, ran my hands down my body and spun around as I said in my sexiest voice, “Do you think I’m hotter than the hostess?”
“Uh huh.” Stranger said. He cleared his throat.
My mouth fell open. That was not Cool-guy’s voice. That was not his body. That was not his beard. That was not his face. Oh. God. Where was my boyfriend? He was standing right behind me.
Stranger was surprised by my behavior. He cleared his throat again. “You’re REALLY hot.” He stammered.
Oh. God. The books. I had scanned all these books, and not one had a suggestion for escaping humiliating situations. “Oh. Um. Yeah. No. I mean. Thanks.” I forced a smile, and mechanically handed him the book, a reflex from my assistant-manager-of-a-bookstore days. “You should read this. You’ll really like this.”
I turned and stepped away, quickly.
“Yeah. Thanks?” He mumbled after me.
I found Cool-guy in the magazine section; at least I thought it was him. Closely shaven beard. Blue shirt. It looked like him. I waited.
He looked up. “Hi honey.”
“I’ve overused my allotted book store time.” I said, pulling him by the sleeve.
“Oh. Now you’re ready to go?” He asked, dropping the magazine. “What’s the rush?”
“I was overly friendly with a man who wasn’t you.” I said, quietly.
“OHMYGOD. Where is he?”
“Can we go? Please? Now. Can we go?”
“Did you kiss him?”
“No.” I said a little too quickly. My God. I might have kissed him.
He laughed hysterically. “What did you do?”
“It’s not what I did. It’s more like what I said.” I looked over my shoulder. Was he following me?
“What did you say?” He laughed.
I bit my lip to try to turn down my blooming blush. It didn’t work. “Well. It’s not what I said. The problem was more in the way I said it.”
Cool-guy took my hand and gently pulled me back into the bookstore.
I resisted with all my strength. “Where are we going?”
“I want to meet my double.” Cool-guy laughed. “I want to see his face when he sees you again.”
I tugged and pulled, trying to get free. “I don’t remember what he looks like.”
Cool-guy was scanning the aisles. “I’m guessing he has a closely shaven beard. Right?”
“No. He’s short and fat. A midget I think. Oh. Look. No midgets here. Let’s go.”
He released my hand. “Honey. I’ve decided to extend your allotted bookstore time. I realize now I’ve been cutting you off and not letting you be the real you.”
“No. Thanks.” I said. “Time to feed the boyfriend?” Food always changes the subject. Surely this would grant us a fast exit out of there.
He handed me a book on bird watching. “Watching you mangling your mingling skills is all the food I need.” He laughed, clapping his hands. He leaned against a stack of books. “Please. Continue.”