Do I look like I’m easy to talk to?
Didn’t think so. And I’m not actively trying to look like an asshole here, by the way. I’m just talking to my friend at a wedding where neither of us are drunk yet. It’s common for people to ask me what’s wrong, and when I say “nothing, why?” they respond that I look upset, or angry, or like I’m “thinking really hard about something.” And I always have to explain that no, I’m not upset, angry, or even thinking particularly hard about anything, and that the reason I look this way is because “it’s just my face.”
This is just how I look, pretty much all the time. My face is most comfortable this way. I’m aware that I don’t look like the friendliest person in the world, but at the same time, I don’t mind because I’m not the friendliest person in the world. It’s not like I’ll pick a fight with any odd stranger, I just don’t feel the need to be insincere with my affections, particularly towards people I don’t know or people who make stupid pop culture references.
While many people are able to determine this by my general demeanor, I’ve found that a group of people exists in the world that is immune to my bitchface. Instead of looking upon me and deciding better of it, these people not only approach me, this person they don’t know and have no reason to like, but they also engage me in conversation. And this isn’t “what lovely weather we’re having” conversation. This is bizarre, uncomfortably personal, fucking weirdo freakass conversation, and for some fucking reason or another, these people think I need to be a part of it.
Like the balding woman at the grocery store a few years ago. I didn’t know she was bald at first, by the way, because she was wearing a hat and I was trying to choose a brand of whole bean coffee.
“My, you have pretty hair,” a voice said, and I looked down to see a hobbit-ish lady wearing sweatpants and a stocking cap in June.
“Thank you,” I said. “It’s genetic.”
Then I turned back to the coffee and hoped she would go away. Again, I’m not trying to be unfriendly, I just don’t want to talk to most people or, really, be around them in general.
“My hair used to be that color,” she said. “But now…”
She trailed off, and because my Midwestern parents raised me to have some Midwestern manners, with which we are forced to suffer all conversational discomfort with a tight smile because it’s the polite thing to do, I looked over at her. It was then that she yanked the stocking cap off her head to reveal a few wisps of vomit powder-colored hair just barely covering a shiny, spotted scalp.
“Oh my,” I said, which is what I say when I can’t curse but don’t know what else to do.
“Yeah,” she said, her voice having dropped an octave into a flat, nasty drone. “This is what a husband’ll do to ya. Don’t ever get married, sweetie, not if ya don’t wanna end up like this.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t,” I assured her. “I’m not interested in marriage, anyway.”
Does this conversation seem like it’s over? It should be over. It should have been over after I graciously thanked the hobbit lady for complimenting my hair. Then it should have been over after I said “oh my” after being confronted by a possibly sickly stranger’s cranial shape. So of course this conversation is over now! Right?
“I was married for thirty years!” she spat. “That bastard beat the livin’ shit outta me more times’n I can count!”
Then she growled something unintelligible and yanked her stocking cap back onto her head. I’d stopped pretending to consider buying coffee at this point and was just staring at her, perhaps because if she whipped that hat off again, I wanted to be prepared.
Though she was still grumbling, I caught the phrase “I wish that sonofabitch had died in Vietnam!”
I don’t remember how I left that conversation, exactly. I know I was polite about it, but I certainly didn’t allow it to continue. I’m fine with someone not being cool with marriage, or with someone harboring resentment to some asshole they once married. That’s all well and good. And I was glad that she wasn’t married anymore, especially if her husband abused her, and I secretly wished her the best with her hair problem and her sweatpants. But there is only so much a complete stranger should know about your life. This is a very Midwestern way of thinking, by the way. While we are typically a polite and straightforward people, we don’t go about airing personal secrets or publicly wishing death upon our acquaintances. I have no idea where that woman was from, but I do know that I left her in the coffee aisle and hid out in the baby food aisle (the only place where I imagined she wouldn’t wander into on her own) until I thought she’d probably left.
There have been a few insane oversharer encounters since the balding woman, enough that when Graham and I first started dating, he marveled at the number of crazy people I seem to attract. They just come up to me and, perhaps because they’re too crazy to read social cues, find me deliriously interesting and just start telling me all their problems. And even when they’re not crazy, even when they’re a little too friendly and maybe also a little bit lonely, I get roped into their talking fits like a willing participant.
The guy who changed my wiper blades today? Didn’t know my name but told me all about his wife who died last year.
The guy at the mechanic’s place whose primary purpose was Standing Around while my car got inspected? Grunted maybe three words before he declared that he hated computers because they keep track of everyone, and also hated phones because he was “an old plumber, I don’t like anything unless it’s real, it works, or I can drink it.”
Which is not a terrible philosophy to have, but in terms of real live conversation, I’m just not sure I want to be involved.