I don’t know if there is anything more difficult than standing in front of a group of strangers and talking about yourself.
“Go on. Introduce yourself. You go first.”
No, thank you. But saying as much and sitting down would be extremely awkward for all. Usually not an option.
How am I’m supposed to condense myself into a snappy sound bite when I’m still such a work in progress? There is a lot to me. There is a lot to all of us. And I get that making introductions is an important art, a vital part of just about any social function, but it’s not easy. Where do I even begin?
“Start with your name.”
Oh, if you only knew how difficult that alone is. I’m Amelia. Everyone who has ever known me (in real life–not in aspiring-author-land) past my name on a roll call, knows that I don’t go by Amelia. My parents gave me a name, only to supplant it instantly with a nickname. Fine. But growing up I couldn’t introduce myself by my nickname and last name because I had the distinct honor of sharing those particular names with an infamous woman in the adult entertainment world.
So after hesitating and stumbling over my own name like an idiot, the horror continues.
“Where are you from?”
Do you mean where was I born? Where did I grow up? Where did I meet my husband? Where were my kiddos born? Where are we living currently? Where did we last buy a house? Or why do I say “y’all”?
More hesitating and stumbling out something about towns that no one has ever heard of and then trying to triangulate a frame of reference? Do you know where Death Valley National Park is? No. How about Mt. Whitney? Mammoth? The Mississippi River? Baton Rouge?
“What do you do?”
Please no. Can we stop? This question dredges up too many _feels_. Once upon a time, when I was still navigating new parenthood with my infant daughter, a young man turned to me and asked, “So what do you do all day?” Can we all agree that asking a mama who hasn’t slept for more than two hours together to account for how she spends her days is uncivilized? I tried to explain to this young man how infants are not capable of taking care of themselves, but he was exasperated with my reply. I was exasperated with his manners. To this day I want to throw my glass of water in his face and scream about the struggles of lactation.
A tense smile accompanied by something along the lines of how I’m a mama and technical writer. Best not to mention anything about my fiction. Am I done?
“Speak to your hobbies and interests.”
Sure! I like to torture myself by writing and revising novels. Two complete. Three unfinished. No, you can’t buy any of them at Amazon or Barnes. No, I don’t know when they will be published. Three of my short stories have been published; do you want to read those? No, that’s okay. That’s about how everyone feels.
“I enjoy creative writing and antiquing. I like to travel. And…”
My love of sugar and carbs knows no bounds. I’d much rather be sitting down right now with a cup of blueberry tea in a pretty tea cup than standing in front of y’all. Pecans are my favorite. I’m a horticulturalist, and my party trick is knowing the botanical names of every houseplant available commercially in the continental United States. I love my bicycle; it’s in a box right now. I play the violin not very well. I’m learning piano and French–also not very well. I desperately hope to traditionally publish some of my novels some day. I want to read your favorite book, even if I’ve already read it. Flowers make me happy, and I like my water with bubbles. I dream about growing pumpkins. I am easily overwhelmed by options. I’m often moved to tears at museums. People struggled long and hard to create and discover stuff. Gosh darn it, it makes me weepy. I like the texture of antiques as much as the colors and patterns. Nothing smells better than tomato leaves on a hot day. Except of course if you don’t enjoy the heat. I collect digital photos of handwritten recipes. Happily ever afters make me giddy. I struggle when you put me on the spot, but if you give me some time and a paper and pencil (or the digital equivalent) I do a much better of job of explaining who I am and what I’m about and owning my crazy.
“And… It’s nice to meet all of you.” Awkward smile. Even more awkward hand wave. What do I even do with my hands? I can sit down now? Oh thank goodness.
When was the last time you had to introduce yourself to a crowd of strangers? How did you manage?