“As for your conduct towards Miss Cardew, I must say that your taking in a sweet, simple, innocent girl like that is quite inexcusable.”
It was at this point I was pulled onto the stage. Probably because I fit the “sweet, simple, and innocent profile” very well; but doing my best with a still unstable knee, I dutifully followed the actor, already determined to not stand there stupidly, but at least try and go along with things. I bat my eyes and smiled and stood very still and modestly.
I was then pulled over by my favorite actor in the company, his warm hands clasping mine, one arm around my waist. ” I can see no possible defence at all for your deceiving a brilliant, clever, thoroughly experienced young lady like Miss Fairfax.” I looked up at him with quite the little grin – and there was not a tiny amount of thrill in being the one chosen out of the first row.
It’s not much of a secret that I adore being the center of attention. However briefly, the spotlight was on me as “Jack” knelt down and said “I love her” and “Algy” tugged me in the opposite direction proclaiming “I adore her” until I was stretched like a cord. Most people would be embarrassed. I was a small champion in a worn out old peasant skirt. And despite doing my best in the moment to respond to each of the cues, I realized after I was guided to my seat that I had no idea what the lines just uttered were. Not because I didn’t know “The Importance of Being Earnest” (I’d read it twice and even performed lines in high school), but in the moment it had passed me by entirely. But when my long admired actor gave me amorous looks as part of his comedic effect, I was able to blow him a kiss.
Which was all well and good. Perhaps even slightly great as strangers came up to me at the benefit party and asked if I was a member of the company and had I been prepped beforehand. I love a little ego stroking. This did not upset me. But my dad pulled me over to the director of the company, very slightly as a matter of business, but much more to introduce me and let him know I was not unfamiliar with stagecraft myself. Which is what I wanted. But I suddenly found myself surrounded by actors, and this upset me a great deal.
I hate crowds. My mother’s claustrophobic, she can’t go into large caves. For me, snuggling up in a closet with a flashlight and book is entirely cozy. But don’t, for pity’s sake, put me around people. My mouth started to do this very annoying quiver thing it does only when I am very nervous. Among the sea of other theater patrons, it was a non-issue. They were strangers. But soon mere feet away were people I actually wanted to talk to, to say “I saw you in this,” or “I admired you so much in that!” my very wanting….made me not want to.
I used to think I was very pathetic. It is still possible I am. I remember walking past people in college, maybe even having brief conversations, and wanting so very much to say something to them, who knows what. The idea of it, though, made me physically ill. I like people – I think. But I don’t like to be around them very much. I like being in the city with a million things to do, but I breathe much easier in the empty countryside.
None of this is to say I can’t be completely personable when forced to. If I must talk to a stranger or we’ve had a pre-arranged meeting, or it’s a job interview, I can become a pleasant, chatty person. But without introduction in a crowd, without damn good reason – I want to just run away and hide. I guess you could say “It may be bland, but it’s safe,” but I don’t think that’s it. I think groups of confident people who are already comfortable with each other just make me positively sick. Not from disgust or displeasure. I just….don’t like it. Perhaps it’s why I’ve always preferred hanging out with my friends individually or in very small groups. Perhaps I am just overwhelmed.
And please, don’t say “You just need to practice.” There was a desperate time in my young life when I did practice. I swallowed my illness and talked at people in the stupidest manner. I had what might amount to a normal conversation. But I didn’t like it. It wasn’t me talking, no one saw any of what makes me a likable, intelligent person. It may be that some people do just need practice. But thinking tonight, while I may be bad at talking….I actually think that that’s how I’m supposed to be. That’s what’s right for me.
No pitying faces, please. I am not in the slightest bit lonely, I actually have a great many friends. The closest are on the east coast, that may be true, but I am not lacking in the local area either, and have a rather packed social calendar. But 99% know better than to try to make me be social in ways I don’t like. It won’t work. I won’t stay and I won’t have “made new friends.” I’ll have just been depressed and disparaging of myself.
And I thought tonight maybe that’s how it is. That some people are actors that can be as comfortable on a stage as they are with real people, a cocktail in one hand and a sly quip ready in a flash. And I am the person who stares at them in wonder from the corner, writing about the way people are without acting like one myself.
And I actually thought “….I guess it’s okay that way.” And it was.