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How I’d like to respond when someone asks me an innocuous question.

Rebecca

In the last two years, I’ve become a blusher. As in, a person who blushes. As in, without warning my body decides I’m embarrassed. I don’t even realize I’m uncomfortable until I’m trying to coax the blood away from the surface of my face by chanting “calm down, calm down,” and  “what is wrong with you?”

It happened just the other night. I met an editor from Slate.com. I wasn’t intimidated or nervous or anything. Within seconds of our conversation beginning, however, my body got hot, my face got red, my eyes got shifty. Apparently, I was intimidated. I was nervous! I’d have never known if it weren’t for my face. (She would have never known either. Darn you face!)

It happens every so often and for no apparent reason. When my boss asked me about my day. When someone at church asked me about an old friend.  When a sales rep asked me what I was looking for. When I realized I hadn’t buttoned up after breastfeeding and answered the door anyhow (just kidding on that last one).

I hate it, this unannounced blushing, and have  since spent a fair amount of mental energy trying to psychoanalyze the whole thing. 

I present my suspicions:

  1. I went to BYU. I loved that place, but I think four solid years of interacting with people who agree with me sort of scrubbed me down. I came out of there not sure how to have a conversation without asking someone “where they served” or, “what ward they were in” or, “did they know Sara Pratt?” Also, I was in my twenties and had never been to a bar.
  2. Right after I graduated, I spent six weeks living in the Bronx while training to be a teacher. My roommate was an atheist from Missouri who walked around our dorm room completely naked (sometimes with hot pink high heels on) and refused to flush the toilet because it was a waste of water.  I loved her too, but suddenly finding myself living with a lot of people who almost completely disagreed with me? Perhaps the transition was too stark. I left there convinced that I didn’t have anything in common with anyone in the whole world.
  3. I think if I’d treated the situation immediately—had real conversations with adults, that sort of thing, I might have been okay. Instead, I took a job at a middle school in Washington Heights and spent my days with seventh and eighth graders who thought the answer to personal body odor was an entire bottle of Axe. I knew I was in too deep when, sitting on an airplane, I looked up at the in-flight movie (“Are we there yet?”) and without even thinking correctly identified Ice Cube as the star. What? Perhaps, I wonder, this fear I have that someone is going to call me a dirty name, throw a chair at me, and flip me off when I try assign him/her detention is teaching residue. At the very least, my first job out of college didn’t help me socially. 

It was after I quit teaching that I noticed the blushing thing. I wasn’t ready for normal society. To complicate things, then I went and worked for really rich people (self explanatory) and then I started working for a one-year old who screams at me for the slightest misstep and thinks it’s socially acceptable to start licking my hand for no apparent reason.

I’m getting all awkward just thinking about it…

*I remember walking into a classroom the day after major legislation that I supported had passed. A student was holding up the NY Times article and asking every one in the room, “Can you believe there are actually people in this country who believe these thing?” “Freaks,” someone responded. 

**I’d like to point out, to those who think my theories are bunk, that science hasn’t done any better. 

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