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.
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,)