Tiff and I had a chat this morning about my assertion that I am, at heart, a wallflower.
"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," she said.
No, really, I am. Okay, maybe not so much now, but historically? Yes.
At least, I always thought so.
As a child, I was shy. Not in a painful way, not so much so that I couldn't say my name in public or actually answer a direct question. But I was slow to engage other people and tended to stand back. In peer groups, I was almost always the last chosen for games—though it didn't help that I was a fat, out-of-district transplant, moved to a school with a gifted program. I wasn't like my classmates, and I was generally happy that way. I didn't socialize with them away from school, I didn't dress like they did, and I didn't think like they did.
In junior high, I had a few good friends, but I tended to stay on the outskirts. Sometimes it was, again, because of my history of being generally unpopular. Blending into a crowded hallway let me stay anonymously out of the line of middle-school-fire.
When I got to high school, though, some of that changed. It was a small magnet school with about 150 students across four grades. We were all gifted outcasts who were encouraged to flaunt our eccentricities, and we did it with abandon. RLC was a revelatory experience for virtually everyone who went there. Most students found their identities within the walls of that old, mustard-colored building. Some found they didn't really fit the amoebic mold of gifted eccentric and chose to return to their regularly scheduled programming, leaving RLC for a big, normal high school.
Even then, though, I had an amazing talent for being able to go unnoticed. I could wedge my way through a situation quietly and garner as little attention as I wanted. Usually. I really did learn at an early age when to keep my mouth shut—though I know some of you who read this will argue that point until the cows come home. (You're all a bunch of contrarians anyway, so shush it.) I can be sociable with almost anyone, but I can also be non-existent when it suits me.
At least, I always thought so.
I'm an Amazon. I'm 5'11 with broad shoulders and a loud, stomping step and a louder, projecting voice. (Thank you, choir.) I am often brash and bold and demanding, though usually with the sweetest of intentions and persuasions.
If I'm in a very crowded situation—a store or a show, for instance—I can maneuver quickly and quietly through that sea of people and get to where I need to be, with very little flourish. I don't have to be pushing and demanding to navigate the crowd. Hence, my wallflower super power.
It occurred to me as I was talking to Tiff that maybe I'm a little more foreboding than I thought. Maybe my general size and aspect make people just get the fuck out of my way. When I'm in that situation, I tend to stand very tall, shoulders back, tits forward like a shield. Maybe that countenance is enough to make people want to step aside. I can smile and say please and excuse me, but I sometimes don't. I'm incredibly adept at giving the get-the-fuck-out-of-my-way look, and people usually do. I often don't have to say anything at all. They just move.
I'm much, much more extroverted now than I used to be. It's taken me years to grow into that. But I still have times when I like to skirt the edges, to slide my way along the wall and go unnoticed. Whether people really aren't noticing or they're looking away for some other reason, I have no idea. It doesn't really matter, either. I'll still use that ability, as needed, to maneuver along my path. Sometimes it's better than bulldozing my way through.
What I don't want to do is find myself paralyzed, stock still, waiting for someone or something else to come along and make me move. It happens every so often, the fear of my life and my surroundings freezing me into submission. That's when I have to feel my way carefully, inching along slowly, extending my vines blindly until I can find the sun.