Try #9 | Meeting New People
Contrary to the impression I give off, I am not an extrovert. When it’s my responsibility to keep the energy up in a group, I put on my best smile, laugh loudly, and give everything I can to make sure everyone is having a great time, getting along, and enjoying themselves. That being said, when I am just another stranger in the crowd, I get shy. I become very aware of what other people think of me; I get awkward. Holy hell, do I get awkward. In a natural state, I am terrified of the spotlight, so how do I put on such a great show when asked to? I am a very, very good actress.
This is why I admire people who can strike up a conversation with a stranger as if it’s not scary at all. On Saturday night, sitting at The British Pub in Hood River, Ryan turns to the two dudes next to us and says, “How are you guys doing?” They are reclined in armchairs but immediately begin to converse – they are from Astoria. They are brothers. One works for an airline, the other is in the coast guard. The four of us become fast friends, we play darts until 1am, and we leave the bar hugging each other good bye, promising to text each other next time one of us is in Astoria or Portland.
I love meeting new people, I just don’t like to initiate the conversation. I don’t know if my penchant for interviewing people came from years of journalism school or if it was always there. Wherever it came from, it is incredibly satisfying to me to get to know every little detail of a stranger’s life. I start with the big picture – where are you from? What do you do? Where is your family from? How many siblings do you have? And then move into the smaller details – are you oldest or youngest? What annoys you? How often do to you call your mom? How long was your last relationship? Why did you break up?
I eat these details up like candy and formulate questions just as quickly and consistently as a conveyor belt. I won’t stop until I see that familiar look in their eyes… the wow-you-are-a-weirdly-inquisitive-person-who-asks-too-many-questions-why-are-you-so-interested look. At that point, I always end up apologizing, explaining that I am an interviewer at heart, and let them do the talking for a while.
This is precisely why I don’t date. It’s a revelation I had very recently when I noticed that 3-months always seemed to be my deadline with a new relationship. Digging deeper, I realized it takes me about 3-months to find out everything I want to know about a new person. The big picture. The little details. The favorite hang-out spots. The group of friends. The family. The childhood. Once I have a 360-view of what makes this person who they are, I bail. It’s a terrible habit. I value the details of the human more than the human themselves.
Maybe I’m forever destined to be a historian; the old lady they interview for a documentary on life in Portland in 2015. On the porch, surrounded by 40 dogs, rocking in the rocking chair, knitting my millionth washcloth, they will ask me, “How come you were never married?” and I’ll respond, “Because I ask too many questions.”