It was the summer between sixth and seventh grade when a boy from class was coming over to my house. Try as I might, I cannot recall the reason for this visit. We certainly weren’t good friends and Brother is considerably younger than I am so I doubt Joshua was hanging out with him. Perhaps he was joining us for swimming lessons? No matter. Joshua was coming over and I was a bit jealous of my friend, Mandy, and her romantic exploits.
I had decided, clad in a one-piece bathing suit and carefully arranging a beach towel with penguins on it next to our backyard pool, I was going to practice flirting. I love the water and was a decent swimmer, though not nearly as brave as Brother or Mandy, both of whom would dive easily into the water while I hesitated, trying to calculate my chances of being hurt while standing in the pale blue metal at the edge. But I had been in the water that morning and my hair dried into masses of curls. I was tan (if one can call very, very freckled such a thing) and felt rather fetching on this particular day.
I decided that I would smile at him when he arrived on our back patio and invite him to join me on his own towel. I would listen when he talked and pretend some interest in his topics of conversation. I steeled myself for this effort - Joshua was a bit of a nerd and was interested in comic books and computers and other topics I found profoundly boring. But I planned to let him admire me while we chatted. And then, perhaps, (avert your eyes! It's getting racy!), I would let him smooth sunscreen on my back. That pushed the boundaries of my bravery enough, I decided and closed my eyes as I thought - for neither the first nor last time - that sunbathing was hot and sweaty and miserably boring.
Just as I was considering entering the air-conditioned house and finding a book, I slipped into a daydream. What if Joshua was unexpectedly interesting? What if he was funny and smart and wanted to talk about topics that interested me? Perhaps he had adored me for some time and upon my slight encouragement would confess his true feelings and I would be so flattered that I would allow him to call me some nights after school. If I were feeling particularly generous at lunch, he could sit next to me at a table.
Joshua arrived - for whatever reason there was for him to be there - and joined me by the pool. I told him he could spread out a towel and smiled indulgently when he sat on his instead of lying down. Not wanting him to stare at my bottom, I rolled over to face him as he looked down at me. He opened his mouth to speak and I prepared myself for some boring comment about what he’d been doing that morning even as I wished he’d tell me how wonderful I was so I could be flattered enough to attempt to like him back.
“Your nose hair is kind of long,” he offered instead.
Situations such as these have repeated themselves at intervals frequent enough to keep me from growing arrogant about much of anything. So while I flutter with happiness at having my E returned by Dr. Brazen Hussy (which was terribly sweet - if I had her address I’d be shipping bottles of alcohol with bows on the caps as we speak) and getting another from Propter Doc, a writer I admire a great deal for her honesty and ethics and work at getting a group of postdocs to form some sort of community. Those links have resulted in a rather large upswing in blog traffic though and I find my stats pages are populated with people coming from them rather than the google searches for transitional relationships (who’s #1? I am! I am!), keeping red velvet cake moist (Sorry - no idea. I was using it to talk about something else completely.), squinting because of eye sensitivity (Wear sunglasses. Or let me know if you have better advice.) or the question game (Such a good way to flirt online.)
I find myself torn, therefore, between wanting to write something wonderful and interesting so that some of my new visitors might come back, and figuratively putting my hands around my nose so nobody can see how long the hair is. (It isn’t long, by the way. It’s more the way my nostrils are formed, I think.) Given that Brazen Hussy made me laugh when she noted the length of my posts and I wrote Propter Doc a comment because I sort of think she’d end up trying to poison me with chemicals if she had to see me every day, I’m leaning toward the latter in some moments. Because I’ve read Propter long enough to feel I know her in some sense. And where she’s solid, I’m flaky. At work, I display the emotional intensity that so bothers her, though I’m never offended when she writes about it. Thinking about those sorts of differences helped clarify what I want from a group in my job search.
My point is that I’m not bothered by different points of view. If I annoy you or you disagree with my choices, I could appreciate your opinion. But if you’re mean to me, I might cry. And then I have to write on my blog about how you’re a big meanie before I feel better.
As I was waking up this morning, I glanced through my links on Technorati. I tend to keep track in some vague sense, but hadn’t checked lately.
“Do you know PhysioProf?” I asked Friend after she shuffled down the hall from the office and started to drink coffee.
“DrugMonkey. ScienceBlogs.” Friend isn’t so good in the mornings so I continued to stare at her inquisitively until she elaborated. “DrugMonkey now writes on Science Blogs and PhysioProf shares that spot.”
“Oh,” I said while I clicked over. “PhysioProf links to me,” I declared proudly and watched her eyebrows rise in surprise. “Is that bad?” I asked, immediately worried when I glanced through posts quickly. “He seems a bit political. Likes to curse - is he British?” I tried to think of an American who favors the word fuck so frequently and failed. “I think I like him.” I decided before frowning at her again. “Why? Do you think he hates me? Thinks I’m awful and stupid and deserving of failure?”
She shrugged in a way that was hardly reassuring. I fretted for a moment before shrugging as philosophically as I’m capable.
I fully expect my stats to dip back to their modest state very soon. And if some of you do stick around, please comment so I can read you too. If I drive you crazy or you’re simply not impressed, that’s fine too. Joshua ended up playing Nintendo with Brother while I examined myself in a mirror, feeling rather awful about myself. Brother now has an Xbox, I think, and I’m a bit less sensitive. Time does change some things, but sometimes just a touch. So maybe you use a bit of tact if you feel it necessary to mention my nose.
But the number of visitors is a lovely reminder that some people I enjoy a great deal might like me too. So thank you.