No matter what I do with my life, or how successful I am, I will always be a socially awkward penguin inside. That shit runs deep, man.
Yes, it does, Mr. Wheaton, yes, it does.
This has been my identity for so long, I don’t know that I could extract my socially awkward penguin and know who I was afterwards—I think it’d be much easier to make peace with her and not allow her to always lead the dance.
I envy people who can act silly in crowds, who can dance at concerts without a care in the world, who are comfortable in the public eye (but not overly-so); the only way I can do this now is when I am intoxicated.
Obviously, this is a problem.
As I have no plans of becoming a functioning alcoholic, I’m having a go of it sober and with a little help from a generic brand pill lovingly named sertraline.
I actually told my partner, John, the other day that while I do enjoy watching performers do funny things, I’m also inwardly cringing at their antics, embarrassed for them. I hold my breath when someone flubs a line and immediately want to go up and hug them, letting them know it’s alright, if they do.
I found out recently that not everyone has this response when they screw up in front of people—on purpose or not. They can laugh heartily with the crowd, they are comfortable with themselves and their immediate response isn’t to turn red, dissolve into tears and run from the room, seeking the mild comfort of the bathroom, where one can cry alone and replay the scene over and over again until it is firmly lodged into their brain as The Day Everyone Saw Laughed At You.
Apparently, that’s a funny little joke my brain’s been playing on me all those years.
So anyway, my partner’s always been a jokester.
I’ve known the guy for almost thirteen years now and not a week has gone by where he isn’t making up jokes on the fly, singing along with the music in Kmart (I joined in with the singing on our last Kmart trip…incidentally, this is how I found out that the lyrics are “Ain’t that America,” not “Ain’t that a miracle”), dancing outrageously in the car to eighties music and (the bane of my existence) trying to get me to dance with him in a store, mall, grocery store…in pretty much any public place.
Quite frankly, I thought he was the weird one, not me…I mean, who does that kind of stuff?
In the last six months, I’ve developed (by necessity, since my partner is actively pursuing this line of work) quite the knowledge base regarding clowning.
I had no idea that clowns were anything but scary painted strangers, who were so over-stimulating in dress, color, make-up and shoes, that I would forget to breathe (and not in a good way). They also make balloon animals…and I have a pretty bad balloon phobia.
Anyway, it took a lot of convincing but I’m finally starting to realize that most clowns don’t live that stereotype. These folks are just like my partner; they love to entertain, make people laugh and be funny.
What I believe I’ve actually had a problem with all these years is the fact that they can easily do what I am most terrified to do: bring attention to myself and be silly.
I think this is why I’m so drawn to flash mobs, theater, Amanda Palmer and a handful of my close friends; they do what I (secretly, desperately, secretly) wish I could do.
They can stand on a chair, in a busy mall food court and start singing and dancing. They can become someone else entirely and entertain people behind a mask. My friends can play music in front of hundreds, others can stand up front at a concert and dance and still others (okay, really only one) wears mismatched socks on purpose.
I love them all so much, because if they can do it, then maybe I can also. Or maybe osmosis is real after all.
I am a big believer in paths opening up when I most desperately need guidance or to learn a lesson. Thus, I worked in the tourist destination/foodie heaven that both Nate Berkus and Oprah talked about, known as Zingerman’s Deli, where I played the role of Clara, Gourmet Breadslinger Extraordinaire; I also am married to a guy who was born to be an entertainer and to make people laugh and who pushes my buttons in order to get me to loosen up.
It’s good for me. I know this. And I will keep telling myself this until I believe it.
Moral of the story is: befriend your socially awkward penguin…but do not always allow him or her to be the lead. You’ll miss out on a lot.
Clara Sayre is John’s best friend, the caretaker of a cat and a tortoise, a wanderer, feminist, nature-hugger and a lover of the printed word. In order to make money, she works as a receptionist and as a bookseller—but her ultimate dream also involves writing, traveling, cheering on her husband while he pursues becoming a professional clown and turning her volunteer position on the production team of The New Captain Kangaroo Show into a long-term, paid gig. She can also be read at her personal blog and at The New Captain Kangaroo’s blog, as her blogging alt-persona, Claraboo the Caribou.
Editor: Bryonie Wise
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