Meeting the Man

Everyone has a hero. A relative, a mentor, a historical figure, Angelina Jolie… My hero, my literary hero, is David Sedaris. He makes me chortle. Sometimes he makes me think. Mostly he makes me laugh out loud at the everyday absurdity of the human condition.

A couple years ago I had the opportunity to see him speak. It was on my birthday, so I bought a ticket months in advance and waited. The night of the event I sat on my couch, all dressed up, hair done, just sitting. Paralyzed with fear. I suffer from a social anxiety disorder that “occasionally” causes me to freak out and I can’t leave the house. If I’m going somewhere with someone, it’s usually ok. Or if I’m meeting someone, as long as they come fetch me from the parking lot, then I’m ok. But for this event, on my birthday, no one wanted to go with me. I really thought I could do it. He was my hero after all – I should be able to do this! Nope. No way. I sat on my couch bawling like a baby.

Fast-forward 2 years and David Sedaris is coming to Changing Hands Bookstore – my favorite bookstore – for a reading AND SIGNING. OOOOH EM GEEEEEEEE!!!!!! “This is awesome”, I thought. So again, I buy a ticket for myself because none of my friends are interested. That’s fine. I can do this. I’m an optimist. I won’t let this chance pass me by again, right???

The day of the event I left work early, changed my clothes and packed up ALL of my Sedaris books so he could sign ALL of them. Because that’s the kind of whole-hearted dork I am. I’m pretty sure I looked like a crazy librarian with all those books, but I didn’t care… I WAS GOING TO MEET THE MAN!

I took some pills to calm me down, having learned a valuable lesson from the last incident and I headed to Changing Hands. There were a million people there, but I had my ticket, my seat and my books – I was ready to go. Then it happened. He appeared. He read from his new book. He asked questions, told stories, and made us laugh, genuinely laugh, from deep inside our bellies. As the reading was wrapping up and the signing was about to begin David Sedaris said something that caused such an adverse reaction in my body, my soul, my brain that I almost vomited, shat, pissed myself and passed out. Almost, not quite. I’m not that big of a freak, Jesus. But I did start shaking and sweating and may have started to drool like a dog in agonizing, yet stoic, pain.

“WHAT DID HE SAY????” You’re on pins and needles, I KNOW….

He said… he said…. David Sedaris said that everyone had to tell him a joke when they came up to get their books signed.

A joke. Tell him a fucking joke. Simple… It’s just a joke, right? A few stupid words with a punch line. If he likes your joke, he’ll tell it to his audience at the next night’s reading. Most people would bounce at the chance to make their hero laugh. Me? I barf at the chance.

My social anxiety consists of three very important components:

1)    I cannot enter a social establishment alone, i.e.: a bar, club, restaurant, coffee shop. I cannot enter alone.

2)    I cannot have people staring at me in a social situation. I cannot be the center of attention or focal point. Do not look at me. Do not see me. I am 6 feet tall and fat. Just keep your eyes moving along and see someone else please.

3)    I cannot speak to strangers socially and I certainly cannot tell a joke – not one – not ever. That is a skill I do not possess and even if I did it would require that I speak to people AND THAT THEY LOOK AT ME, which totally flies in the face of item #2 above.

As I stood there in line, about 87 people in front of me, I weighed my options.  I had, after all, made it this far. I sat through the reading with a few hundred strangers. I entered the building all by myself. I could do this I thought. It’s David Sedaris. I’ll tell a dumb joke, get my books signed, throw up in the parking lot and die happy.

Abso-fucking-lutely

For the next 2 hours I stood in line, sweating, visibly shaking, writing down the ONLY joke I’ve ever remembered in my damn life, and repeating it to myself over and over and over again. I tried to focus on other peoples’ conversations to distract me, but quickly realized that the people within earshot were either complete fucktards, saying things like, “Mastiffs are prone to biting small faces off. Like… kids faces…”, WTF? Are you kidding me? Everyone knows that Mastiffs eat gerbils and Chihuahuas – don’t be stupid. And then some of the people lived such affluent lives that I couldn’t even comprehend what they were complaining about: someone couldn’t access her trust fund. Me either, honey. I feel your pain. And someone “had” to find a new groundskeeper because the current one kept staring at her “lustfully”. Well, at least it was a distraction. The sweating and shaking had subdued and now it was MY turn.

HERE. WE. GO…

DAVID: Hello young lady. What’s your name?

ME: Jenny

DAVID: Do you have a joke for me?

ME: Yes, but it’s highly offensive to women. (I looked at his assistant and apologized in advance for what I was about to say out loud.)

AND THEN I DID IT!!!! I told “The Joke” AND I nailed the punch line! It’s the only joke that I’ve ever been able to remember in my entire life, but because it’s incredibly offensive to women, and possibly French people as a whole, I have never told it. Until that moment. And do you know what happened? A massive sink hole opened up and devoured my fat ass… Not really…

He laughed.

I made David Sedaris and his assistant laugh out loud. He pulled out his notebook and wrote down MY JOKE.

I grabbed my books, said thank you, ran to my car, and then I cried.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I battled my own silly demons, met my “hero”, made him laugh and cried victory. Literally.

BEST. NIGHT. EVER!

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2 Responses to “Meeting the Man”

  1. Congratulations! I don’t care how you managed to do it…the fact that you did it…..you are wonderful!
    Don’t ever be afraid to speak up even to strangers….you may just be missing out on a great friend!
    Big hugs sweetie! Big hugs!
    MOM

  2. funny story, eerily familiar as well. had no idea we had this in common. in fact, thought i was a freak because i was the only person who had this problem. thank you for revealing your social phobia,now i dont feel so bad.

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