04 December 2010

So damn polite

The last time I got a haircut was in August. Most of it was too short at the time, so I just left it to grow out. Curls tend to work their way back around so it takes a long time for it to look noticeably longer. And anyway, it's winter and I hate having a cold neck.

My bangs recently hit a shaggy stage though. They were hanging down and kind of bothering me so I gave them a flick to the left and then to the right. I really don't play with my hair much, but just then, someone said, "Are you Claire Skinner?"

My stomach did a quick jump as I anticipated...I wasn't sure what (probably all the questions I hate to hear). I looked up from my plate of jello, mandarin oranges, and an orange slice to the man who had stopped next to our table. "Yes?" I scanned his face quickly trying to place him. Nothing.

"Jeremy ------," he kindly offered before awkwardness could set in. "It's great to see you."

We'd gone to high school together. And middle school. And elementary school for that matter. We'd been friends on the bus in the early days until his family moved across town. By the time my family moved putting us on the same bus route again in 8th grade, we were hanging with different cliques. The honors track I was in had had a segregating effect although we did still see each other in band and sometimes gym.

"Hey," I said, "How's it going?"

"Really well, thanks." He gestured to the table behind me where his family sat. "I've got twin daughters, and that's my son."

I looked over my shoulder and nodded. His kids were probably between 6 and 10 which kind of threw me, but then we're not that young anymore.

He drove the point home when he said, "So it's been 19 years since we've seen each other. Crazy, huh?"

"Yeah." In the moment, all I could think was He's good with math. (It seems less impressive in retrospect. I just hadn't thought of how long I've been out of high school at all this year.)

"That is a long time," my Mom said. Right, so, while he's dining with his beautiful family (his wife was at the buffet), I was eating with my parents. "So how's your Mom doing," my Mom asked.

"She's doing well, she's in Florida now."

"Oh good," Mom said.

Jeremy's wife passed behind him with her dinner plate, so we wrapped up our conversation with "Good to see you's."

I had been thinking of getting some ice cream after my fruit and jello, but I really didn't feel like it anymore. I just wanted to finish and get out of there before some follow-up question got me completely flustered.

"Shall we take our fortune cookies to eat and play our game at home?" Mom suggested.

I replied with an emphatic, "Yes." When fortunes come with Chinese words to learn on the back, we take turns, unintentionally although assuredly, butchering their Chinese pronunciation and then guessing what they mean with what should be a simple hot/cold system. Often these games become heated because our minds do not work similarly.

I was not about to display our craziness in front of someone I hadn't seen or probably thought of in 19 years. That sounds ridiculously lame now that I write it out.

In any case, after an unusually long wait for our check, we got up to leave. Jeremy and his family were back at the buffet. I looked over but didn't want to disturb them.

As I was zipping up my jacket by the door, Jeremy came over, a plate of food in one hand, to say "It was really good to see you."

"Yeah, you too." He's taller than me, I thought to myself. Maybe 6'2".

"So are you going to have a reunion next year?" Mom interjected.

Mom, what are you doing?! As someone with no desire to go to a high school reunion, I did not want to give anyone the impression otherwise.

"Yeah, it'll be 20 years. That'll be wild," Jeremy answered.

"Yeah," I said weakly.

He held out his right hand, which I was not expecting, but I grasped it for a nice shake as he looked me in the eye and said, "It was really nice to see you."

"It was good to see you too."

He could not have been more polite and from the snippets of conversation I overheard, his family seemed lovely. Heck, they said grace before eating, or rather someone said they should say it, Jeremy agreed, and then I think they all said it to themselves.

Walking out to the car, Dad joked that Jeremy's wife was going to want to know who that woman was he was talking to.

I dismissed it, feeling pretty damn scruffy, with a simple, "No."

Mom agreed, "No, they were secure with themselves and one another. They treated each other with respect."

"That's true," Dad said. "They even had nice interactions with their kids."

All this is to say, if I still hate being recognized by people from my past, which I do, then clearly that's all me. Whatever feelings of loserdom that cropped up came from me, not him. (Did I really have to be flicking my hair just as he walked up?) He didn't even ask any of my trigger questions. Really just so damn polite.

Mom relayed our final interaction with Jeremy to Dad since he'd gone ahead to warm up the car. Then she said, "A very polite, friendly adult." Her appraisal could have referred to either Jeremy or me. After a pause, Dad said with a bit of mischief, "You mean Jeremy?"

Ha ha. I know I'm not the "friendly" one. It's not that I don't want to be friendly, I just don't have extroversion going for me (or a variety of other things). I can be awkward but polite though dammit.

Two years ago on TTaT: New Neighbors

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  1. Yeah, reunions (even the chance-encounter kind) always threaten to reduce your life to a checklist. You can't just say, "Well, on paper you might think I'm a loser, but actually I'm much more well adjusted than you." And let's just pretend, for the sake of all us adolescent losers, that Jeremy is terribly ill adjusted and has a mountain of gambling debt.

  2. Aw, I wouldn't wish that on him though I do very much appreciate the sentiment. Ooh, hey, 1 graciousness point for me! ;)

    Even when he was hanging with the drinker/smoker/stoner crowd, he was probably well adjusted. He played drums so he'd be standing at the back for concerts, and Mom always used to comment on his big, broad smile.

    Oh you people with your optimal serotonin levels..., the lives you lead are different, aren't they?