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Nobody believes I'm shy. Thirty-five years (and change) of averted eyes, awkward silence, and anxious body language-- not to mention a near-total avoidance of intimate group gatherings-- and, still, no one believes me. My claims of "being shy" have instead been trumped by years of past, contradictory behavior: class clown in high scho- ol. Disc jockey in college. Outspoken (or at least spoken-out) mo- vie reviewer. Occasionally Elvis impersonator. And so on. Nope, no one believes I, too, suffer the quickened pulse, butterfly stomach, and ever-tightening chest. Instead, I'm taken as rude. Or stuck up. Or putting on "airs," whatever the Hell those are. If I'm lucky, I'm presumed to be preoccupied. Or busy. Or distracted. But those are okay, as they're less likely to be taken personally by others. Call it "selective shyness," if you will. Sure, there are probably more high-falutin' terms for it: introvert, extroverted introvert, socially anxious, ENFU or some other personality-type indicator. All *I* know is that I feel... shy around certain people and at certain times. (And is there such a thing as *total* shyness? Do some peo- ple fear, say, talking to their parents?) For Yours Misunderstood, smaller-sized groups are most uncomfortable, sometimes among strang- ers and sometimes among known-but-not-well-known acquaintances. Not that this explanation is going to matter. Not to people. Not to the non-robotic, walking damn sacs of emotions we are. 'Cause that's an- other Cold Truth of Life(tm): people take offense at *non* action as readily as action-action. Momma told us we can't please all the people all of the time, so we *know* we're gonna piss *somebody* off. We're intellectually *aware* of this. Heck, it's played out every day on radio talk shows and letters to the editor. In person, however, all bets are off. Mad, glad, excited, sad. That big four feelings, one or more which in- variably appears when two or more people are together. Period. And no matter if one keeps mum or slaps the other on the back. So what's a shy guy like I to do, 'cept live, work, and play alone? (And which we know is utterly no fun, as our grade-school experiences confirmed so long ago.) If you're like Mike, you learn to fake it. Or avoid it. Or go with the flow, at least as best you can. How? Allow me to enlighten you all. And maybe make it a little easier for those incessant small-talkers and relentless door openers in life, who seem so puzzled when a bit of the ol' paralysis prevents the desired reac- tion from Yours Truly... STORE CLERKS - The four most-grating words in the English language: "may I help you?" Yeah, yeah, they're just do- in' their job. Yeah, yeah, we chose *their* store. Short of a sign reading "leave me the [bleep] alone," I've de- vised a multi-tiered solution: on first solicitation, smile and shake your head. On the second, say "no, thank you." On the third, answer "yes, I'm looking for some- thing that'll keep store clerks from speaking to me." Ho- stility optional. DOOR OPENERS - Chivalry notwithstanding-- and a non-is- sue, since I'm a guy-- I can't decide if people who open doors (or hold open doors) are genuinely nice *or* just looking for an excuse to curse whoever fails to thank them. Solution: Stop. Abruptly turn around. Utilize other entrance. EYE CONTACT - Sigh. Some people simply *refuse* to day- dream. Is your field of vision about to be intruded upon? Stare into distance, as if deep in thought. Be sure, tho, to keep your chin level, lest you learn later that you are shy *and* stuck-up. PEOPLE WHO SMILE AT YOU - The bastards. Just smile back. Or make a funny face. They'll laugh and you'll have had the pleasure of sticking your tongue out at them. PEOPLE WHO SAY "HI" - Choose one: "Hi" or "Hello." Then make mental note to avoid all future contact with person. PEOPLE WHO ASK "HOW ARE YOU?" - See above. Rinse and re- peat, with "fine" or "fine, thank you." WAITERS AND WAITRESSES - [ Author is unable to comment un- til after successful completion of Anger Management For Picky Eaters ] WEDDING REHEARSAL DINNERS - Sit between two people you know. Or, if alone and attending under penalty of death, sit between the two least-friendly looking people in room. Note: Can also be applied to country-style restaurants. HIBACHI-STYLE STEAKHOUSES - Two words: end seat. HANDSHAKES AND HUGS - Remain calm. Try not to be tense. And apply *twice* as much pressure as you think you should, lest the action be considered insincere. That, or run screaming from the room. PLANES, TRAINS, OR PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION - Take a nap. Fake a nap. Read a book. Read a magazine. Pretend to read a book or magazine. Stare at ceiling for duration. Stare out window for entire trip. Put on your mean face. Get mad. Act deaf. Pretend you're mute. Press your body as far as possible in opposite direction of person seated next to you. As if they have cooties. ELEVATORS, LONG HALLWAYS, AND OTHER UNAVOIDABLE POINTS OF CONTACT - See all of above. And then fantasize about what you'd *really* like to do. Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros
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Copyright 2021 by Michael J. Legeros