I wouldn’t say I was popular growing up. I wouldn’t necessarily say I was unpopular. I fell somewhere between the girl who smells like wet newspaper and the cousin of the prom queen who’s mom made her invite you to the cool lunch table once a month. I was always a bit awkward. Always trying to impress the untouchable elite of an eternally-frozen middle school hierarchy. Once in 7th grade, I yelled out in the middle of Social Studies final on African geography “Man! If Africa has one more country I have to remember I might have to move there and take up mapping and then go over the boarders of the countries one by one and like…write ’em down or…phew!”
That was a joke.
It took me awhile to learn the art of effortless comic timing. An art I haven’t really mastered.
I went home with Salty a while ago. (Salty’s my friend. He’s gay…What?) Salty’s mom lives in one of the ritziest, lake-side properties in all of North Carolina and was throwing a pool party when we arrived. This place was so ritzy that they had a fucking pool right next to the lake. It was like, a stretch to make it to the lake for these people. The party was fresh out of a Home and Garden Magazine, and I was…not. Within a half-hour I threw myself into the ritzy, lake-side pool and screamed out over and over again “I’m a mermaid!” while doing belly flops. I took no shame in splashing North Carolina’s financial elite and their Mint Julips with chlorinated water. There was also a 30-minute period where I swam around pressing my legs together into a makeshift fin and singing songs from “The Little Mermaid” under water. Then I would come up and ask everyone “Did you just hear that?”
I was 28 at the time.
A few weeks ago, I went to watch the England/USA World Cup game with my boss, Dallas. As I’ve said before, Dallas has become a good friend on top of being a good boss. He had a mid-town pub booth reserved with his poker buddies and was nice enough to invite me along. Now, a word about his poker buddies. His poker buddies are arguably the most important people in his life. They meet every Tuesday and have ever since I’ve know Dallas. When they all get together, it’s like walking into a testicle. It’s kind of like a gay bath house without the sex. (What?…There are gay people. Get over it.)
So, also I have to mention, sacrificing all self worth, that Dallas’ poker buddies include many B and A list celebrities. The reason I’m mentioning it here, is could you come up with a better version of the adult popluar crowd? (Also…Jesus Christ my boss is friends with B to A list celebrities! I mean, how fucking cool does that make me?) The first half-hour was me meeting everybody. They all looked at me in a strange way and silently said “You’re the…babysitter? Ok…I can go along with this.” After many awkward introductions, I couldn’t help but think that Dallas was the prom queen and I was the cousin invited to the cool table under duress. But it’s not like I was gay or anything. (Whoa, whoa, whoa!)
I handled the small talk well. People asked me how I was, and I said “Fine.” Disregarding what I really wanted to say which was “Where did soccer even come from anyway? I mean, did two guys like…were they just kicking a ball one day and…you know…there was an empty, turned over garbage can…like, a big one obviously…like, quadruple the size of a normal garbage can and one guy kicked the ball into this unbelievably large, tipped over garbage can and they were like…hey…you know?…SOCCER!”
Dallas saved me about 15-minutes to kick off and said “Do you want to smoke?” I didn’t but I said yes. Because anyone who knows anything about anything knows that the smoking kids are the cool kids. And I wanted to get in at the top. I walked outside with Dallas and met his two cool friends on the sidewalk. They seemed to politely tolerate my presence.
We all lit up and the cool dudes started up with their hilarious banter. I stood silent and looked at my phone the exact right amount of time. Two minutes in, there was a pause in the conversation I was in no way a part of. The three versions of 30-something prom kings all took a drag off their cigarettes and…this was my moment. Here’s where the men are plucked out of the boys. Here is when I would say that perfectly witty thing that would make the poker guys say at their next game “Man, that cool, funny chick is your babysitter? You should put her on a contract with health insurance.” So, I rose to the occasion. I piped up and elegantly spouted out:
“I can clap really loud.”
Silence. The cool dudes froze. Absolutely froze.
“I’m not even kidding, listen to this.” I shoved my cigarette between my teeth and started clapping. I started clapping right there on 41st street and 9th Avenue. In my defense, I can clap loud. It’s all about the cupping. One hand’s fingers placed perfectly over the other hand’s palm.
One clap. “Wait, that wasn’t a good one.” – Second clap. “You hear that?” – Third clap. “Did you guys just hear that?” – Fourth clap. “Sounds like a really loud…like…a bomb went off between my hands and…man…like a gay guy masterbating.”
That was a joke.