Sister Morgan, I was going to buy a shirt that said this, but then didn't. Thought it'd be pushing it too much. And as a side note, this post is not meant as an example of fine writing. Just musings.
Three experiences typifying the development of my social interactions.
Fall 2007. I was visiting some friends up at the Ridge. Four girls and I were seated in stiff but attractive metal chairs around a rectangular table—the chairs were thick and heavy, and didn’t slide to or from the table easily. I was sitting at the head of the table, my chair a little farther back than the rest of the company. I watched them give one cheap joke after another, with everyone laughing sharply after each line. Remember to keep smiling, I told myself. I studied their faces, trying to see what I could learn from their eyes. Nothing intellectual; intelligence would intimidate them, and they’re only looking for a cheap laugh anyway. One of them, a tall and strong highlight blonde with pig-pink skin (sorry, it’s the best color I could place it with,) offered some double entendre. Something stupid for a cheap laugh. Give them what they want. “Wait—what do you mean by that?” I said. I pulled the right side of my mouth up into a smile, and they exploded in laughter.
February 2008. My New Year’s resolution had been to be more honest and real in my dealings. I realized I had been manipulative and a bit controlling (I referred to it as “guiding” social situations at the time, perhaps to abate my conscious,) and that wouldn’t produce a good relationship. At this point, I had been dating my girlfriend for about a month, and was comfortable acting naturally around her and just “being myself.” I no longer deliberately chose each of my words, as I did in the fall, and I’d stopped constantly analyzing people, too. Let what happens happen, I thought. I was in a relationship, and I was happy, and so what could go wrong if I didn’t constantly monitor all of my actions?
At the Writing Center, I was talking with one of the other black vests. Every time I picture myself saying something stupid to a person I’m trying to impress, it’s always to Jacob, so I’ll just use him. I was leaning on the lip of the front desk, making light conversation with him—telling a story about a funny session I had, or asking about the most interesting thing he’d learned so far from observing his sessions. I was talking, but I wasn’t thinking about what I was saying. He made some statement, or asked a question, and I gave a mildly offensive reply as a joke. He smirked uncomfortably, and then went to work on his twenty-sessions essay. I don’t remember what I said; at the time, I was only trying to impress one person, and she wasn’t there.
Now, or maybe a week ago, I don’t care. Walking on the sidewalk between the Clark building and the grassy quad by the library, I was thinking about myself. Why was I in more control of my tongue when I was being controlling? A girl was sitting on the middle of the grass, her pants rolled up above her calves and her sunglasses eyes looking into some paperback novel. She’s cute. It can’t possibly be that it’s good to manipulate people, even if it’s for a decent cause, so how do I find a balance where I’m carefully choosing my words but not doing it to control? I shuffled forward, tugging up at the leg of my jeans which had slid down and caught under my heel. The day was bright, but my sunglasses made life look less colorful and more gray—the walk between the Spori and that wall behind the Kirkham wasn’t a exactly very vibrant place anyway. My mind flashed back to the times in seminar where I had hastily pushed out a response to a question I hadn’t really understood, or when I was simply talking to a co-worker and I would lose control of my words and make myself appear as a brainless idiot. It seemed like the deliberateness I once utilized had slipped out of my grasp, like my words had taken lives of their own. Talking to friends and associates I respected had become a nervous endeavor—my words seemed to be unbridled and often betrayed me. I had recognized the lack of attention I was giving my world and how dead I felt after the break up, and trying to rectify that, I made an effort to pay more attention. The dirt where the lawn would soon border the street was a rich brown—I walked to the edge of the sidewalk to be close to it and look at the pebbles and grains which speckled the soil. My mind flashed back to the fall when I met my friend Cici. In a second, I saw that her apparel and demeanor was light—jeans and a t-shirt, lighthearted ditzy jokes—but that she also had a deeper appreciation for important manners than she let on.
It would take work to get back to that point.