Shy Baby

Some people are born with confidence and some people aren’t. I have seen people who have ridiculously high self-esteem and I sometimes wonder: From where do you come with your fancy self-love and positive attitude? Because when I popped out, all those years ago, I came only with a head full of hair and a 40-piece set of emotional baggage. Yes, you go ahead and try to picture my mother giving birth to a matching set of luggage, but nothing good will come of it. Nothing. Good.

For as long as I can remember, I have been socially awkward.  Maybe you could call me mildly retarded and in that case I would say you have been spending too much time with my brother and he has been showing you that picture of me from that time we went to dinner and I was looking mildly retarded.  A picture is a brief moment in time, it is not the entire sum of one’s life!  STOP PHOTOCOPYING THAT PICTURE AND TAPING IT TO MY CHRISTMAS GIFTS!  That is not nice.

I can count off incident after incident in my life where my shy demeanor has impeded my ability to do something.  Throw out some random situations and I can give you a story.  Oh, like maybe you want to hear about how it impeded my ability to play with my friends?

Amy and Debbie, two sisters, lived down the street from me.  I would often go over to their house and we’d play dolls or games  or just listen to the old spooky Halloween record until someone started to get scared and cry.  Whatever.  But sometimes it was not so simple.  Sometimes when I would come up to the door and ring the bell, one of them wouldn’t answer and I’d be standing there in front of their mom, a lovely lady, who would ask me what I wanted and wait until I could say I was there to play with her kids.  And you know what?  That day would never come…only tears and more tears and then after that, I would shit my pants and cry some more.  What happened next?  I can’t remember, she probably let me in to play once I started to cry from the humiliation of someone answering the door and saying hello to me.  It is a miracle she didn’t just slam the door in my tear-soaked face and turn to her family and say “What the fuck was that?  That little girl is INSANE.  And oh, totally gay.  Mark my words, she’s a homosexual.  She is not allowed back here ever again.  Because she’s insane, not because she’s so totally, completely gay.”

Or hey, how about when my shyness got me left in the woods on a small horse with no one else around?  In preschool, we went to some horse camp once a week.  I was pretty small so I only remember bits and pieces.  The majority of what I remember is that we were riding these little ponies all together.  They were hooked up to one another so we were like a chain gang of 4 year old caballeros.  Well, I was in the back and at some point my horse was unhooked.  UNHOOKED.  And I was separated from the gang and apparently no one noticed because – hey – I’ve always been pretty good at being completely ignored by everyone.  So I sat there quietly, unable to scream for help because – how embarrassing that would be, to scream for help.  What would they think of me? He nibbled on some grass and otherwise was motionless and uncommunicative in any way.  He did not reassure me with kind words or help pass the times with stories about his youth spent running free across the plains or smoking weed behind the evergreen tree with the kids of questionable moral character.   I sat there for what seemed like 2 years, becoming more and more panicked with each passing day, watching sunset and sunrise as this stupid horse just sat there unmoving and unconcerned that I was now dead from dehydration and starvation and humiliation and terror.  For two years we sat there, this horse and I, until finally someone came for us, acting like it was no big deal, like my skin hadn’t rotted off my bones and maybe they should call in a forensic scientist to identify my skeletal remains?  No, just a click click that horse people make to get that stupid horse to take a few steps back to the end of the train where they hooked us back up and carried on like nothing had happened and my parents hadn’t spent every holiday for the past two years weeping over a photograph of me in my bedroom back at home.  No, don’t worry about me, I’m not thirsty or so terrified that I threw up in my mouth a little bit, thank you.  Just carry on like you have the worst job in the world, escorting 4 year-olds on unnaturally small horses through your woodsy backyard.

Then there was that one time I got into serious trouble for showing a preschool playmate, Brian, my underwear.  I was actually showing him the picture of the ducks on the front of them because they were new and really, pretty cute.  Apparently, flashing your 4-year old lady parts to some kid in your preschool class is inappropriate, so they called my parents who had to sit me down and have a long, humiliating talk about the responsibility of wearing a dress. And it is no wonder that I haven’t worn one in many years – I just can’t be trusted not to flash my goodies when I get a nice new pair of underthings.  So, looking back, it appears that at one point I had some brazen self-esteem but I used it all up on that day in 1980.  That is also where all of my heterosexuality was played and all I was left with was the gay.  Just so much of the gay.

The end.


  1. September 2, 2009

    What a pity they didn’t encourage you to keep flashing the boys. This is obviously where you “turned” gay.

  2. September 2, 2009

    I think recognizing it is the first step towards over coming it… right, RIGHT? I had an episode my first week at middle school. I was a big bad ass sixth grader and my mom made arrangements to pick me up after school so she could take me to the orthodontist. So the school bell rang, I went to the benches on the side of the school and sat down. Cars and bikes came and went. School bus after school bus drove away from the school to take all my new friends home. Soon I realized my mom was getting really late and I started to panic. No one was in sight. I started to cry. Just hugged my knees and huddled on the bench crying and waitng and waiting. I ran out of tears and started getting panicky. I was still waiting and no mom. She had never been late before EVER. What if something happened to her? What if I had to sleep on the bench and go to school the next day in my same clothes?

    Eventually the school secretary came out to the door and shouted my name. I turned around and she asked me if I was so and so. I nodded, not knowing who this total stranger was. She yelled at me to come inside. My mom was on the phone. Mom was all appologies and tripping over herself with explainations. She lost track of time and was rushing over to the school to get me right away. I don’t know how long it had been, probably only 30 minutes but it felt like 5 hours.

    She asked me why I didn’t come inside the school and ask to use a phone to call her.

    I didn’t know.

    I didn’t realize that was an option, it never even crossed my mind. All I knew was to sit on the bench and wait.

    It came out later that my mom was late picking me up because she was watching her favorite soap opera and has simply lost track of time.

  3. heathen
    September 2, 2009

    When I was in kindergarten, I was waiting for my dad to come pick me up. I thought I saw his car so I got my stuff and went running out to see him and it was someone else’s dad. I was so embarrassed that I sat on the steps and cried. The teacher had to come back out to drag me inside.

  4. September 3, 2009

    This is a good example of the essential core of the shy person, I think. Ya’ll spend way too much time agonizing over humiliating situations you’ve found yourselves in in the past; reliving them again and again and again. You spend too much time debating whether or not you should do something in case it turns into a humiliating situation like some of those in the past (or worse) and you live too much in your head contemplating the myriad of humiliating situations that may still occur in the future. As you adroitly pointed out in your pony story, almost all these things that you were, are or think you might be, horrified to experience, are water off a duck’s back to everyone around you. Seriously, I’m of the opinion that there’s no one on earth that cares all that much what I wear or if I say the wrong thing or if I fall off the sidewalk or have a booger hanging out of my nose. Sure, they might point and laugh for a second, but then they get on with their own lives again. Anyone that spends their life obsessing about me maybe not being all that interesting during a public speaking engagement, has much more serious problems that I do. So to hell with them.

  5. heathen
    September 3, 2009

    I totally agree with you.

  6. Elaine
    September 3, 2009

    You are so adorable with your low self-esteem.

    I love your writing.

  7. heathen
    September 3, 2009

    Thank you, Elaine. 🙂

  8. September 5, 2009

    i love your writing TOO!

    believe it or not, i used to be shy but i grew out of it. are you still that shy? has the writing helped at all? i mean, b/c you are an amazing writer and i’m not just saying that b/c you sent me that naked picture of you to my phone 😉

  9. September 23, 2009

    Hm. So THIS is how teh ghey starts. I always wondered.

    Meanwhile, “a chain gang of 4 year old caballeros” is going in my next movie script.

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