Next month, I will share with all of you a to-be-published essay (it already is in the Mamalode magazine - a real, paper magazine - but will be shared online as well) of mine with the words, "Take it from Angi: this life is far too short to waste it worrying about what other people think." I reference topics that make me blush, a little, and I had the courage to submit it because I am a 39-year-old woman on the verge and I no longer care if my way of showing up in the world isn't everyone's cup of coffee.
Tonight, Nick asks me to walk across the restaurant after we are done eating to talk to a teacher he knows from school. I do, but awkwardly, because I've met her through my school board work but I'm not sure she will recognize me any more than she will recognize him. It take a minute for her to make the connection and I ramble as I try to remind her of our previous interactions. After another moment of incomplete sentences, I say goodbye and abruptly turn toward the door. As Nick and I continue to the car, he asks why I went like (he moves his neck to jut his head forward and then back several times in a mild chicken dance parody) and acted weird while talking to the teacher. I am crushed. He just confirmed every bit of self doubt and insecurity I feel nearly each and every time I approach someone. His imitation proves I am gawky when I am nervous. I want to yell at him. I want to lash out and say something mean so he will feel hurt, too.
He looks up at me, breaks into the storm of hurt-fueled anger brewing in my mind, and says, "mama, I was just asking." I tell him all the time it is better to ask questions, to talk about it when he notices differences and similarities, rather than to look away and pretend the person he is observing doesn't exist. I guess I didn't realize that person might be me someday.
I try so hard to remember I believe it is better to engage with the world than to sit on the sidelines, even when I get it wrong and inadvertently hurt or offend. That I want, more than anything, to see and be seen, with my beautiful imperfections, and yours, front and center. Tomorrow, I think I will believe again. Now, I am sitting alone (if no one is around, no one can make fun of me), licking my minor wound and sending a hug to anyone out there who also did a weird chicken dance while talking to another person today. Perhaps we can form a support group where we each sit in a space separate from everyone else and don't make eye contact.
Oh, and back to the teaser: thanks in advance for reading my essay in a couple of weeks. I would plan to say thanks in person but I'll be hiding under my desk, just like I did in second grade when I didn't understand the format of the spelling test after moving from Bandon to Portland over Christmas break, hoping no one can see me.