I’m 33 years old, and it doesn’t matter if the dude is 21 or 41. If I find him remotely attractive, I’m a blathering, stammering mess.
So over the weekend, I’m out with friends, and a handsome server goes around the table, taking everyone’s wine orders. And I begin to swell with dread. Like a balloon filling with helium. Because he’s going to get to me eventually.
At which point, I’m going to have to talk to him.
I try all my mind games. Maybe he’s gay. He’s probably married. Maybe he’s my third cousin, once removed. Who knows?
And then he levels those baby blues onto me.
Half an hour ago, I was speaking French, and now—apparently—one glance at a cute guy, and my gear shift sticks. English? What’s that?
I order what my friend just did. Le cabernet sauvignon, aussi—
Except about halfway through, I realize I’ve forgotten my English. I panic. Like a diver who forgot to take a breath.
I cut off the “aussi” and never manage to replace it with the English “also”. So there we are, with the “au” dangling out in the breeze.
And my face flushes, and I am suddenly enamored of the wood grain on the oak table. Thankfully, he understood I meant to order–or at least, that I need some wine–and pours me a glass.
I spend the rest of the evening trying hard to answer his every question. “What are you all celebrating in the middle of the day? Oh, she’s moving? Where?” Just to prove to myself that I can. Like the overeager student in the front of the room, Oh I know! I know! Pick me!
He gives me a little smile when I leave, as if I’m an adorable puppy someone ought to adopt. So at least he didn’t think I was being rude.
That’s a problem when I’m this afraid of men.
Today at the grocery store, I’m redirected to the handsome checker with the thick eyebrows and soft, dark eyes.
At his register, he’s nibbling his nails down to the quick. And I’m so swollen with dread that one brush with a pack of bubblegum, and I’ll pop.
“I need to break a twenty,” I say, “so would it be okay if I break two—I mean, make two—purchase—?”
And again. My English sputters and dies. The plural “s”—about which I have been lecturing ESL students all afternoon—rips open a void of expectation. And the longer he waits for it, the longer I stand there staring at the keypad, praying.
Probably, I tell myself, he is standing there trying to figure out what the hell I’d just said.
Damned if I know.
So we stood there for a few seconds, and then I shoved a bottle of soap at him and handed him a twenty. And he stared at that for a few more seconds, and then we got going okay. But then—
“So for the second purchase, are you going to use cash or—?”
“Card,” I said. Wishing desperately I could remember the word “credit”, which comes to me fifteen minutes later.
“That’ll work out great.” And then he started checking and bagging. And then he froze. “Wait.” He stared down at my bag. “What am I doing?”
And we both stood there for five seconds while the five o’clock sun streamed through the windows, and we didn’t move and didn’t look at each other. And I waited for him to remember what he was doing, because I wasn’t entirely sure. And even had I been, I severely doubted my ability to articulate “You are bagging my groceries, sir.” Especially in a way that wouldn’t sound unkind.
And I wanted to say, “It can’t be easy working with the sun in your face the whole afternoon,” just to show some good old-fashioned human solidarity with the guy. I know exactly how that goes. Exactly.
But I didn’t trust myself to get that out, either. So we just waited for it to come back to him. And it did. And then we breathed. And he rang me up and said we had the same zip code, to which I responded as if I’d been handed a daffodil. “Oh, really!”
Which embarrassed him further.
Which embarrassed me further.
And then I went home and climbed my stairs to my attic room and laughed like a maniac.
With the joy of knowing I’m not alone.