Another Moment, Another Lesson

Thea Devine here, confessing that quite often I feel like I’m at the prom without a date.  Although, since I didn’t go to prom, maybe that analogy isn’t quite apt.  (But there was that senior high school dance where I was helping out, when a classmate said so pityingly, “Oh, don’t you have a date?” It scarred me forever.)

Anyway, it used to happen especially when I had to go alone somewhere I didn’t know anyone.  I just dreaded it.

So I was quite taken by this moment that happened the year we delivered my oldest son to freshmen orientation, where, that evening, we were among the hundreds of guests invited  to a reception at the home of the president of the university.

We were with my son’s roommate’s parents, and we were watching a petite woman make her way among the crowd, stopping to greet people and ask whether they had a son or daughter at the school.  A few moments comparing notes and she went on to the next group of guests.

I was admiring how she’d taken the initiative so easily among a multitude of strangers.  When she finally came to us, someone  behind us thought to ask, “Who are you?”  It turned out she was the wife of a famous politician, whose son was in that freshman class as well, and she chatted with us for a few moments and moved on.

A politician’s wife.  Who would know more about how to work a crowd?

But for me, it was a magic moment, completely divorced from who she was.. This, I thought, was how you conquered those prom feelings.  How you’d deal with being shy and feeling out of place.  How you became a fish swimming in water instead of flopping around on the riverbank.

You ask the other person to talk about him or herself.  Who doesn’t like to talk about themselves?  Maybe you don’t ask who they are or what they do.  Maybe, like my boss I wrote about in a previous post, you say, tell me everything.  People do, trust me.

I mentioned this moment to a very shy and retiring friend of mine because I was so taken with the lesson, and I was kind of floored when she exclaimed, “Oh I know her!”

Of course.  So I wrote about it — a short story, about 1000 words.   Of course.  What else would an author do?  That’s precisely what those moments are for.  To learn from, and to make fiction from.

Of course.

Are you shy?  Do you feel like you’re at the prom without a date?  Have you ever had a magic moment in a crowded room? (Falling in love counts,)


6 thoughts on “Another Moment, Another Lesson”

  1. Hi Thea, I especially enjoyed how you turned your experience right around into a story that we all can enjoy. How you reworded that cliche “fish out of water” and you became a fish swimming in water instead of flopping around on the riverbank. Keep the conversation focused on the other person. Most enjoy talking about themselves. It is fun when you ask questions and it is obvious they know the way and try to turn it around to you. A small battle ensues, and who wins? The one who perseveres and proves to be a good listener. Thanks for the post.

  2. Such a great lesson, Thea, as always. Hmmm, I’m not really shy, but I do have moments where I’m not as confident or prepared as I would like. For instance, I found myself rambling a couple of times during my pitch sessions at CTRWA’s Fiction Fest last weekend, and had to pull myself back to the topic 🙂 Have I fallen in love across a crowded room? No, though I’ve felt powerful attractions to people (not just that kind of attraction!), when I’ve just known that that person and I have some kind of connection and could be friends.

  3. Thanks for the post Thea. Like most people, I’ve been struck by sidelining shyness when entering a room of people I don’t know. It’s an awful feeling, and although I can carry on a decent conversation with just about anyone on just about any topic, I often rely on someone approaching me first. I’ve even actually gotten to the driveway of a party being held by a business associate, only to reverse and go home rather than face just such an awkward situation. I berated myself for it afterward, and felt like a fool, but promised myself I’ll never allow my own fears and insecurities to rule my decisions again. Your point of asking people about themselves/children/work/interests, is perfect. After all, they may be just as insecure and feel the same level of relief as I do when someone takes the initiative to chat. As writers/authors, we MUST overcome this common fear. Being a wall flower – or worse yet in my case – a no show, just isn’t going to cut it in the marketing and promotion end of our business. 🙂

    1. Exactly, Debbie, and now I talk to everyone, even strangers in the store. I mean, you just don’t when you might find a friend or –a story idea. My son — the university son in the piece — now says I would talk to paint if I thought it would answer back. I talk to myself, too.


      1. Lol. I’m great at one on ones, or small groups. I often will also compliment another woman if I really like what she’s wearing, or engage in other trivial chit chat, Its the larger group situations where I don’t know anyone that I tend to shy from. Oh, and talking to yourself isn’t necessarily a problem – it’s if you answer that it becomes one. 🙂

  4. Hi Thea,
    I’m not shy in the least, but because of that I tend to say too much at times (I’m working on that). What a nice story. I’m always the “odd man out” because I am a single woman, but I never let that stop me. You know me though … I never let anything stop me.

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