“It’s a good thing you’re already married…”
This was my husband’s reply, trailing off in a fit of laughter, after I told him of my morning encounter. I went through the list of characters I’ve met in the last few days of watching the Madison-Milton Bridge Project on the Ohio River. I try my best to give a character sketch and, more entertainingly, the way I interacted with each person. His line above was in response to my encounter with a “hot guy.”
Warning: today’s post is not for the squeamish. Also, some conversations, as usual, in the hyperbole of afterthought…
I have awkward interactions on a regular basis, and when the stakes are raised, when I put even more pressure on myself to hold a conversation or start second-guessing it while in the middle, I get a considerable degree of performance anxiety. This results in gushes, blurts and, overshares. I analyze and re-analyze this dorkiness, which comes and goes, and have concluded it doesn’t really matter where or why it happens, because I don’t really want to fix it. It’s part of my flaws, and flaws are character.
I said as much to my husband last night. He chuckled his way through repeating “It’s a good thing you’re already married.” I replied, “Wait a minute. I was awkward when we met. Remember how I farted on our first date and what about the my spilling a sundae down my shirt when I met your mother, or all the other times of too-much-information, or awkward blurts?” I could see he was having to reconsider, to possibly acknowledge that this dorkiness might have its charm, until he replied “Yeah, but I really wanted laid when we first met.”
The upside to uncomfortable encounters is that I get to entertain my husband and friends with them. Take, for example, a recent interaction at Mad Mex in Shadyside. I met some friends for dinner recently when I was home to Pittsburgh, and was surprised when the waitress who greeted us looked just like Anna Silk, the star of Lost Girl (a campy SyFy show I watch). I said, “Excuse me, has anybody ever told you that you look like the star of Lost Girl?” She replied she hadn’t, and didn’t know the show. I responded, “Oh, it’s great. She’s a succubus.”
She stared at me for a moment, then smiled weakly. “Oh, wait…” I said, seeing the look of embarrassment and delight on my friends’ faces. They had seen this Marla many times. Those who know me best just ride it out and move on, maybe retelling the story to our other friends later. I tried to fix the situation, as I always do, often making it worse. “She’s a good succubus though. I mean, not that you’re a succubus. I don’t know you, but I’m sure you’re not, but you just look like one. I mean, her. You look like her, and she’s a succubus. And of course, you’re not a succubus.”
Often, the condition manifests itself in an incessant need to justify or explain my actions. A recent case of this was here in Madison. We went to a poetry signing and reading last Friday at Village Lights Bookstore. Kurt and I still hadn’t had dinner, so before the main reading, we decided to step out and go get something light to eat and mainly some water. I was incredibly thirsty after a long, hot day of junkyarding. So I said to the owners, “We’re going to go get a drink and come back.” This was certainly a normal thing to say. Then, I continued…
“I mean we’re going to get a drink-drink, not a drink. I mean, not a drink-drink, but a drink. You know, like water, or something. I’m really thirsty. I don’t mean a drink-drink. Not that we don’t drink-drink, although not that often, but we do drink-drink, mostly just wine, but I just mean we’re only getting a drink.” The owner stared at me, blinking.
If evolution were based on social interaction, I would die off from Darwinian prose. It happened as it often does, in splits of seconds. My brain decides to analyze what I said, assumes it is somehow lacking, and comes up with a poor solution to fix it. This is one of the more frequent episodes.
Occasionally, I’m tongue-tied and physically clumsy, like the incident with Rutger Hauer and the box of rice, an essay I keep promising to send to a certain editor who I think, by now has put me on the crap-list.
So, speaking of crap, let’s get to that hot guy, shall we?
Baxter and I were on a blanket watching this bridge replacement on the Ohio River, and another black lab came to greet Baxter. He was soon followed by his owner, who was, well, hot. We got to talking about our labs and about Madison, both of us imports here. I mentioned something about tv, and he said he didn’t watch tv. I thought Aha! I can talk books. But then he said he mostly read textbooks and anatomy journals. Turns out, he is a chiropractor. My mind churned for some topic a doctor would want to talk about. This is where trouble always begins.
My brain shifted into high gear. What could I say that would be interesting? I need to think of something. There are so many single friends I want to introduce this guy to. Maybe a good fit for my niece. Must keep talking. Anatomy? Medical stuff? I don’t really know much. Ooh, except what I hear on… “NPR!” I blurted out, my brain interrupting a sentence I was rattling off about feeding Baxter apples and carrots. “NPR just had an interesting piece on about bacteria.” I rattled off what I could remember about bacteria and their DNA and our DNA and an ecosystem, and then, just as I thought I might be pulling off a tiny bit of normal and interesting interaction (I know, really?), it happened.
“…and the vaginal canal. Oh my gosh what they’ve concluded about the bacteria in the vaginal canal is just amazing.” I continued, words erupting, spewing. He was Pompeii, and about to be buried in ash. “Yeah, you know, of course that babies are sterile, until they are born. Well, the scientist on NPR said the bacteria the baby gets coming out of the womb they now think is essential for preventing things like allergies and asthma and maybe more serious things.” He is now looking down, at his dog. It will only be in hindsight that I notice his uncomfortable silence, his avoidance of eye contact, his attempt, 3 times, to say he has to get to work.
“Yeah, so babies that are born c-section aren’t getting the necessary bacteria.” To my credit, I don’t tell him the follow-up conversation Kurt and I had about this NPR story, where we make a terrible joke about taking a baby from c-section and dunking them a few times into the vaginal canal, like a doughnut into coffee, to get the necessary bacteria. I continue. “Oh, but preemies have problems too, because a pregnant woman’s vaginal canal only gets the right bacteria shortly before birth, so a preemie wouldn’t benefit either.” I know, I know, fascinating, right? Or, uh, maybe…I know, I know, could I have said the words “bacteria and vaginal canal” more?
But, it got worse.
“And, and…” I was practically gushing with information I was sure made for good conversation “so you know they don’t think anymore, according to this one expert they had on the radio, that we can really repopulate our gut bacteria from enough probiotics, because they only stay temporarily. But guess what they do now?”
Can you guess, dear reader?
“Guess what they do? When somebody’s bacteria has an extinction-level event (that’s what they were calling it with everything we do with antibiotics, etc., an ‘extinction-level event’) they do a Poop Transplant.”
The words hung there, suspended for the second or two it took my brain to finally realize I had just said, had been saying completely disgusting things to a total stranger. I did the only thing I knew to do…I back-pedaled.
“Flora. I mean, you know, they do the transplant to repopulate the flora and fa…” I cut myself off, knowing I was about to say flora and fauna. I was about to repeat my words, tell him they did poop transplants to repopulate a person’s flora and fauna, and I was going to present an image of an intestine loaded with everything from dandelions to eucalyptus trees, from bacteria to Bambi. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad to launch into a flora and fauna discussion, ala G.I. tract, but I realized that after saying the words “poop transplant” I should no longer speak. I finally realized he was pointing at his watch and saying he had to go, for the third time, so I smiled and said “Um, well, nice to meet you.”
My husband and I kept chuckling about my encounter as we were going to sleep last night. I was twisting around a lot, my back all kinked up from sitting on the grass of the riverbank all day. “I think I need a chiropractor,” I said, then leaned in before rolling away, “maybe a hot one.” He rolled over, spooning me, “Yeah, not a chance.” I laughed. “What’s this? I thought I was lucky to have already caught somebody with all my weirdness. I mean, you already got what you were after early on, so are you saying it’s still appealing? Now that the bloom’s off the rose, so to speak…?” He smiled, “Well I don’t know if saying ‘poop transplant’ would have been something I could have scrubbed from my first impression of you, but the rest of it…Well, let’s just say you’re my dork.”
It is a good thing I’m already married.