I dread running into people I know. When I was younger I used to duck and run. Or just, well, not be that friendly. I was definitely one of those kids whose mothers was always saying, “If you would just smile!” Or: “Well she’d be friendly if you’d be friendly!” Or: “Just smile and say hi and you’d be surprised where a friend might be hiding!”
My mom won homecoming queen in high school. She claims she won because she transcended her high school insecurities and was friendly to everyone. The cool kids, the geeks, the band nerds. The freshmen.
I did not win homecoming queen in high school.
And that’s the thing– I’m already talking about being a teenager, being in high school, in relation to running into people I know. Because that’s how I feel when it happens. About thirteen years old. Maaaaaybe sixteen on a good day: at sixteen I had friends, I knew a boy liked me (some days), I had had a good hair day (at least one), and I knew I wasn’t a “cool” kid but it didn’t particularly matter. But I still wouldn’t want to say hi if you didn’t say hi first, sort of assumed that unless we were already friends, you didn’t want to talk to me.
I’m pretty sure this whole social anxiety thing when you run into someone you know is universal, because I’m snot-full of confidence otherwise, and pretty much always have been.
So! Now I live in Seattle again, and glory of glories, I haven’t run into anyone yet. This means it’ll happen tomorrow, and I’ll be a little worn out, just back from vacation, a little stressed about all the things I have to do, and it’ll be someone who makes me feel like I have spinach in my teeth. I may, in fact, actually have spinach in my teeth when it happens. And I’ll run into that girl whose hair I always envied and I once accidentally sneezed on, and she’ll be newly engaged and dangling off the arm of her fiance, who once told me in middle school that I had more hair on my upper lip than he did on his. Jackass.
It’ll be terrible. I’ll probably survive though. In the physical sense.
I dread running into Ms. Hair and Mr. Hair, though, not because they’re beautiful and happy and in love, but because I’m worried they’ll judge me. I’m worried that they think my hair looks bad, and that they think I’m still a total goody two-shoes (I am), and that they think I’m lame for not-so-secretly thinking Mallrats is a really, really good movie. Also: Varsity Blues. And I’m still sort of fascinated by the periodic table of elements. And– I could go on, but I won’t while I still have my dignity.
Snot-full of confidence, folks. And dignity.
They think I’m they think I’m they think I’m they think I’m.
I don’t dread running into people I know because I don’t want to see them— well, okay, sometimes, yes, but that’s another story. I dread running into people I know because I’m worried they’re judging me. Me me me mememe.
I’m really much happier if I ignore that aspect of it and spend my energy judging them.
I may or may not be kidding.
But I do know this: I’m at an age, and of a mind, that it is unacceptable to not be friendly when I see people I know. Friendly to people I know: a smile, a handshake, a few questions. Required. I haven’t perfected this, but I’m working on it, and I will continue to work on it. I’m pretty good with names, and I also believe in asking when I don’t know, and I’m trying to get even better. Hot tip: it’s easiest to ask (again) within the first five minutes.
And, really, the last time you ran into someone who was incredibly friendly, no matter how or when you knew them or what you thought of them then– you walked away thinking only wow she was friendly! (Right? Right?!?)
Or, you know, maybe:
And with that big smile, you could really see the spinach in her teeth!
She’s totally after my fiance! The audacity, to be standing there smiling at him like that with that sexy mustache!