Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Obviously, I Keep A Cool Head in Stressful Situations, Part II

Well, someone certainly took this to heart.
           Perhaps you will remember the nice coworker with the soulful eyes, who is interested in me, whose heart I am trying not to crush. As if that last time was not enough, we have had many encounters over the months, each one more awkward and cringe-worthy than the last. But all this uncomfortable pain would end if only I could name-drop the fact that I have a boyfriend! 

           My friends and I have practiced these scenarios at length over egg rolls and fried rice. (In France, our favorite restaurant to meet up is a Chinese place. I recognize the irony.) We have come up with the following sentences, each designed to bring about my liberation from this painful situation:

          "How are you?"
          "Excited that I'll see my boyfriend soon!"


         "How was your weekend?"
         "Good! Went shopping, skyped with my boyfriend...."

          or there's always:

          [says anything]
          "It's funny you should mention that! My boyfriend was just talking about the same thing!"

          And then I'm free. Simple as that.

           Except it's not that simple at all, because every time I see him, my brain goes into panic mode, which entails locking my common sense in a panic room in my brain where it has no access to the outside world and enough food and air for 72 hours. Maybe it's because we speak in French, so I'm less adept. Or maybe it's because I'm an idiot. But either way, I always get flustered, pray for it to end, suffer acute second-hand embarrassment, and completely forget to say my boyfriend lines.

           The other day, it was especially bad. I had a cancelled class and headed to the teacher's lounge, only to find him there, alone.

          "Bonjour, Melissa!"
          "Bonjour, how are you?"

           And that was when I realized that we were the only two people who didn't have classes for that hour. Alone, with awkward guy. For an entire hour. All competent thought fled like Jodie Foster in a bad thriller movie to the vault in the useless depths of my brain.

         "Oh, I'm good," he was saying. "I graded papers over the weekend, planned some lessons..."

          Remember how I said my brain shut off? Well, I smiled, probably with a terrified gleam in my eyes, waved clumsily as my goodbye, and then spun on my heel and walked straight into the women's restroom, because it was the only place in the world I knew he could never be. I stood there, mortified, for perhaps a full minute. Then I started to think. And then I started to get bored. My purse was in the teacher's lounge. So was my phone, and my money. I couldn't go buy a coffee or even text my friends to tell them what an ass I was. ("Hiding from awkward teacher in a bathroom stall 'cause I have no life skills to deal with social problems. LOL") Desperation born of boredom compelled me to run to the computer lab, which is actually only a little room with two computers and two chairs. I start typing all this out to my boyfriend in an email, and ten minutes later, the unthinkable happens.

          Awkward guy follows me into the computer lab.

          My fingers freeze on the keys and the silence is conspicuous. My eyes are focused hard on my screen as I pretend not to notice his entrance, but I would recognize that sweater-vested slump anywhere. I stare at the computer as he takes a seat, and then finally start pretending to type, just to end the silence. Finally, I gather my remaining wits to end my email with a brief "AAAHHHH WILLITNEVEREND?!" and stand up to leave.

              "Good afternoon," he says, which stops me in my tracks. First of all, we just saw each other ten minutes ago. Second of all, it's like 11. Is that really the afternoon? Third of all, what the hell kind of opening line is that? GAH.

          "Good afternoon;" I reply, and continue to walk towards the door.
       "What were you working on?" he asks casually. This is it. This is my golden opportunity. I was writing an email to my boyfriend. That is what I was actually doing. That is the most obvious answer. This is easy.

          Or it would be. If I wasn't a panic-driven moron stuck in a cycle which will never end.

          "Nothing important," I say, LIKE A MORON.
          "Ah, ok. Well goodbye then."
          "Bye!" I say, and end up where I started, back in the teacher's lounge.

        The most awkward part of my interactions with awkward guy? It's not the strained silences, or the forced cheer in my voice, or the knowledge that, or because it's true. I call him he is constantly looking for an opening as i run around the conversation closing every possible door, window, and vent. It's the fact that he always starts each interlude with "Bonjour, Melissa!" and ends with "Au revoir, Melissa!" I don't call him Awkward Guy to protect his identity or because it's true. I call him that because after all  he inflicts on me, after how much I avoid and plan around him, he is always Awkward Guy in my mind.

             Because we've been working together for five months now, and I don't know his name. And now it's inappropriately late to ask.


1 comment:

  1. The word “Stress” actually relates to wear and tear as when the rubber meets the road on a tire or the brake pads pressing up against the rotor in the wheel. The term as it applies to living organisms was first introduced by Hans Seyle in the 1930’s who defined it as the consequence of the failure of an organism (human or animal) to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats, whether actual or imagined. Thus stress symptoms are the manifestation of a chronic state of responses to stress triggers that are actually benign. Even a thought can set off the same response mechanism that would be in play while standing in front of a hungry lion. Hence, Seyle’s definition still reaches to the heart of stress management; the idea of the response being inappropriate and engaging in a process of altering ones misperception of pending disaster or imminent danger.