How did you read the title of this blog post?

Did you read it as “compare-able”? As in, oranges and apples are not “compare-able” because they are obviously two different fruits, you knucklehead?

Or did you read it as “comprable”? As in, these M. Night Shyamalan movies are “comprable” because they both have terribly obvious “twist” endings.

I know, I know. The second pronunciation is correct, but for whatever reason, I say these words in different ways depending on my meaning. To me, “comprable” is something lesser. If something is “comprable,” you are compromising by choosing it. It’s like saying,
“I’ll have both if it makes you happy, but I’d really like the first one.” Whereas “compare-able” means something like, “Those two things are the same, and it doesn’t matter to me which one you pick.”

And quite literally, this is semantics…that I’ve made up in my head. There is some perceived distinction in wordplay within this word for me that isn’t there at all.

And yet, this word has completely ruled my life in an imaginary way. Until today.

Okay, here it is, plain and simple: I am a human, and so I compare myself to other humans. Not in a “why is she so rich and perfect and I’m not,” way. More like, “why am I so awkward, I just said “I’m good” when she didn’t say “how are you?” way. And so, I’m constantly wondering if people find me “compare-able,” as in someone similar to a person they have met before, but generally a dime a dozen, or if I am “comprable,” meaning that they could be hanging out with someone much cooler, but they’ve lost interest in their own life and they might as well compromise their best interests before they come to their senses.

But I realized something today: when you are truly yourself, when you are really who you are inside and out, you can’t be comparable or comparable. Because there is no one that will ever be exactly like you and you’re not compromising anything when you can be yourself.

And suddenly, the pressure was off. I didn’t have to think about being too this or too that. I could just be me, and there were no words to describe me, whether they had multiple pronunciations or not.

Because when you defy the boxes and labels that people try to put you in or on you, some members of the outside world become frightened or confused. But most people? They’re just dazzled that you have the confidence to be yourself. And they haven’t got any notion of what you were once or what you should be. You’re just you. And they’re speechless.

In Fear of the Awkward

There’s a lot of motivating forces in the world. There’s pride, of course. But then there’s money. And I suppose love. Maybe even revenge (if it is served cold).

But really, I think there’s a specific one that trumps all: awkwardness. If someone feels that a situation is going to be awkward at all, they avoid it like it’s the plague, Ebola, and adult responsibilities rolled into one. People will avoid a certain store if they feel that they will see someone they know there. People will put their heads down just so they don’t have to address someone walking on the same side of the street. I mean, people are afraid to make a doctor’s appointment, for goodness sake.

And guess what? I count myself among you. I am actually the queen of awkward. Your oblivious ruler, reigning not with an iron fist but one clenched in frustration when I say something utterly stupid.

Oh, sure, I’m so “off-the-cuff” on this blog, but ask me how the weather is and if I don’t stutter, I’ll say something incredibly weird and inappropriate. Then, I’ll think about it for the next three years and blush every time.

Sure, I’m making light of this now, but really, it is crippling and sad. I have to rehearse my food order so that I don’t say it wrong. I am constantly being told to speak up. I am always sighing and cringing after every social interaction ever. And I’ve never known what it’s like not to feel this way. Instead of ruling my life with fear of the unknown, I’ve chosen to shape my future with the fear of the awkward. My  life is a bad romantic comedy on steroids, all bumping into someone four different times, trying to dance around him or her, and then finding yourself face deep in his or her chest yet again.

Now, I could tell you that I’ll overcome this in the next five years, and maybe, so will you. I just have to tell myself that “people are just people,” and there isn’t anything to be afraid of, right? But that’s the thing about fear: it is completely irrational. And the problem is that every situation is going to be awkward if you continue to think too hard about it. We all just need to let ourselves go to let the situation and conversation flow, man.

I know, I know. Easier said than done. But if you try to think a little less during all of your “awkward” experiences, you may find that it really was all in your head.

The Evolutionary Need for Blushing

The short and long of this post? There isn’t an evolutionary need for blushing. That’s right. Scientists have no idea why it would be smart for your body to tell your enemies that you are a little embarrassed or concerned about your well-being by letting your blood vessels bloom on your skin in a rather showy manner.

But it happens anyway as part of our “flight or fight” response. Apparently, it also has some effect on our social relationships. When people see our red faces, they can tell that we are sorry for whatever faux pas we have committed, and they deem us trustworthy as a result. I’ve even heard that pink cheeks indicate good health and robustness of life, which can be helpful in attracting a mate.

Except when you blush over everything. Then everyone just thinks you have a problem, not that you are a potential friend. Much, much, much to my chagrin, I find myself feeling a bit flushed and warm over the most ridiculous situations. I get red just answering the question “How are you doing today?” or drinking a beer (which I blame on my Irish heritage that also allows my face to get red in other ways, like when I get sunburned on an overcast day).

So, what is with my bodily betrayal? Shy of getting surgery to stop my blushing (and have facial sweating as a side effect for the rest of my life), I have no way to stem the obviously embarrassing tides. The reaction is completely involuntary.

I know, I know. In terms of evolutionary short sticks, blushing isn’t the worst of them. You could be the white moth who is living during the Industrial Revolution when all of the trees turn black with soot from the greed of machines. But isn’t it bad enough that I don’t own a poker face? Not only can people read exactly what I’m thinking, they can also tell how I feel about it. Which is bright red embarrassment. Constantly.

Yet, maybe that’s the rub. Maybe blushing is the closest we can get to reading people’s minds and knowing their true feelings. As humans, we’re terribly susceptible to covering up our emotions or, put simply, lying. And sure, we express our emotions, but it’s hard to tell how someone really, truly feels. Tears can be false in that we can make ourselves cry without stimulus or, conversely, when we’re happy. Smiles can also be painted on, and more likely than not, we don’t naturally wear them. Blushing, as I mentioned, is unable to be controlled. You are embarrassed, and your body is exactly aligned with your emotions.

And so, maybe we all need to be genuinely embarrassed sometimes. Not because it feels good to have a hot flash, but because in a world that it is superficial, blushing reveals our deeper selves (specifically our cardiovascular system).

Be Quiet!

Today, for the umpteenth time in a million encounters with people I’ve barely met, I was asked the following question:

Are you always this quiet?

And even though I am always preparing myself, subconsciously, for this moment, I haven’t come up with a snarky answer yet. Maybe it’s because I really am this quiet. But in all actual fact, what am I supposed to say? Yes, I am this quiet, but now I’m sort of not because, you know, I’m speaking.

Except, today, I finally had a sort of rebuttal for the world: what is wrong with silence that everyone is so uncomfortable with it? Headphones and cellphones are in our ears more than sound itself. Doesn’t anyone notice that someone has to do the listening while others do the talking? Why do we encourage people to speak when they have nothing to say? What, I ask you in my loudest voice possible, is wrong with being quiet?

Personally, I have never been one for small talk, and it seems to have run in the family. My grandfather, an incredibly successful and powerful man, was incredibly irritated by talk of the weather or of nothing in particular. And so am I. Why try to fill the silence with words that don’t mean anything when you can wait a few more seconds and craft something profound? Why be loud when you can be quiet? Has the Internet, with its pleas and encouragements to divulge what we’re thinking, completely ruined silence for us all?

Without commenting on these greater societal ills, I can only make a stand for my own issues. I am quite aware that my silence stems from a small word that can cause big problems: shyness.

This, mind you, is not the same thing as being introverted (although I am introverted as well). Introverts have been recently championed online as the underrated counterpart of the extrovert. To be an introvert, one simply needs to seek alone time to feel “recharged” and “energized,” whereas extroverts seek people to fill that need. Two sides of the same coin, really.

Shyness, however, is a horse of a different color. (Although, not a loud color because the horse does not want others to notice him, because, you see, he is shy.)

Shyness is simply believing that what you have to say is not meaningful to the conversation. Or, shyness is the general feeling of anxiety when one thinks about speaking in a conversation. Essentially, you would prefer to let other people talk.

Of course, shy people’s lives are punctuated by others encouraging them to “speak up,” when they’d prefer to dig their own grave and lie in it right then and there than draw any more attention to themselves.

All I can say is that there are many, many, many types of people in this world. And there is, and always will be, a place for shy people. When everyone else is too concerned with hearing themselves talk, we will keep the silence golden.

And actually, I encourage everyone to be a little quieter. You may hear something you’ve never heard before because you were too busy talking. In fact, you may hear a shy person trying to finally speak.

Adult Middle Finger with a Child’s Bandage

Actions always speak louder than words. Especially when a certain action is representative of a certain choice phrase that is incredibly offensive (at least in American culture).

I mean, flipping someone the bird can really be a slap in the face. Literally. It is basically the equivalent of taking off your glove and slapping someone to start a duel. Really, can you think of a quicker way to start a fight with someone than giving them the finger?

Which is why we need to be really careful about who we flip off. Not just because you have no idea who has a gun (or a crossbow for that matter) these days but because we need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. 

And here’s how to put this into some perspective.

Every day I have a commute to work. Inevitably, every day I encounter idiots, imbeciles, and people on cell phones. I would like to believe that my tolerance is much higher, but occasionally (usually), after the third time I get cut off, I feel like speeding past the parade of a**holes and giving them a piece of my mind. That is, without rolling down the window. 

But when I thought about doing that today, when I thought about giving the car next to me a righteous glare and a certain digit (not a number), I looked down and saw the How to Train Your Dragon bandage over my precious finger, that I had to have from the grocery store a few months ago. And I absolutely needed it over the weekend when I cut myself with a potato peeler. 

Suddenly, I realized I had no grounds, (I mean no grounds whatsoever) to be giving the middle finger to anyone. To the driver next to me, I was just a girl who didn’t know how to keep her obsessions out of her first aid choices. I was just an overgrown child sloshing through rush hour. But most of all, I realized that I knew what it was like to (accidentally and intentionally) drive like an idiot, and I certainly have known what it is like to be late.

And somehow, my tolerance of people grew three sizes today.

So, I don’t really care how you do it. If you need to wear a really childish bandage on your middle finger to remind you that we are all just one step away from barbarism and that we are all one step away from our childhood at any given time. But the overall message I want to convey is that we need to be kinder to each other. We need to put the middle fingers down and put the thumbs up! (Too cheesy, even for me?)

Okay, maybe that’s not going to happen. But at least we can be more patient with each other as we walk (and drive) this earth together.

My Grandfather Kissed Me on the Mouth

Author’s Note:

Today, I would like to take the time to celebrate my grandfather’s birthday with this blog post. I hope you enjoy him as much I did.

The Man, The Legend

My grandfather was a stately, diplomatic man. He was once mayor of my small town, but always a lover of politics and knowledge. In an age before the internet, he was our Google and our Wikipedia. The dinner table would always fall silent when he would begin to talk about a particular topic. We’d always lean a little closer to hear what gem might spill out.

He was robust in appearance and in life. He was a great man, and an even better grandfather. Not only because he would slip $20 bills into our hands and call it “gas money” before we could drive, but because we respected him and admired him thoroughly.

Except for one thing that irked me. Every time we would leave his house, he would kiss my sister and I directly on the lips. Yes, you read that right: on. the. lips. When I asked my mother for an explanation for this behavior, because I was suddenly 16 and had already been kissed by my Pop-Pop, (oh my god, he might have been my first…) she simply shrugged and said, “It’s always been like that.” So, reluctant to ruffle his well-poised feathers, I puckered up for peck after peck, all the while hoping that I didn’t accidentally linger too long.

Maserati, Please?

But my grandfather was always teaching me something, always helping me to learn and to grow.

And I only recently realized that in this uncomfortable memory was a valuable lesson about love.

He kissed us on the lips because he didn’t want us to be confused about how he felt about us. He refused to give us social “air kisses” as friends might, and thankfully he did not put his tongue down our throat like a romantic partner could (try another blog for that kind of action.) He simply desired to convey his love in an unmistakable manner.

Sure, he could have bought us a Maserati (or two?) to produce the same effect. Such an effort would have eliminated any adult weirdness I may feel about the situation now. But that wasn’t his style and it isn’t mine. His intimacy as a no-nonsense man was meaningful in a way that a new car is not.

The Kicker in the Kisser

And really, when was the last time that YOU showed someone or something that you loved them that much? When was the last time you defied an awkward moment to remind someone that they meant something to you? (I’m looking at you, teenage boys, who hang up the phone without telling your mom you love her when you’re out with your friends.)

And when was the last time you knew how someone felt about you, without any worrying or questioning for hours after about their true feelings?

The problem is that we beat around the bush, tree, and lots of other foliage simply to avoid being vulnerable or too personal with others. Days fold in and out and we forget to tell the people who matter most that we appreciate them. That we love them. We don’t think about not being able to see that person who we see everyday. But I assure you, that day will come when you can’t. And you will wish you loved them harder, held them closer and told them what they meant to you. I know I do. I miss my Pop-Pop everyday. Even his kisses.

So, here’s your chance. Get off this blog. And kiss the nearest person to you on the lips. Oh, it’s your mom? Good. She deserves your love the most.

Remember, be candid with your affection and you will never regret anything in this life.