Gilchrist: Socially awkward?
December 19, 2012
Welcome to Summit!There are more shy and quiet people living in Summit County than anywhere else in the world – and this makes perfect sense when you think about it. Our towns are the shy person’s ideal habitat. Tuck yourself away in a mountain valley with nine-month winters and come out of your cabin every few days or so to go to work or mingle amongst the Christmas visitors on Main Street. Would you rather jump in a river of boiling snot than make small talk with strangers? Me too! Some people love to talk about nothing at all regardless of the subject matter or audience. Talkers sure seem to be happier than listeners. As I have no idea how to end these one-way conversations, I tend to get stuck with the earnest guy who tells me everything he knows about Star Trek. Meanwhile, I’m searching the room for the exits. It’s like that old joke: -“I didn’t talk to my wife for two whole years.” -“Why?” -“I didn’t want to interrupt her.” But with the Christmas season upon us, we quiet mountain people will soon welcome millions of talkative visitors who will fill the stores, bars and restaurants where we work and play. So, as a lifelong Geek-thropologist, I bring you the Socially Awkward Mountain Person’s Survival Guide to the Season. Problem: Don’t know how to make small talk at the bars? Well, it’s important to learn how to do this because otherwise, you will get stuck beside me and the Star Trek guy. Solution: It’s easy. Start by making a simple observation. “Are you from one of the East Coast’s most dangerous cities? That knife in your neck says yes.”Problem: Don’t know how to accept a compliment? Do you narrow your eyes and put your hand over your wallet whenever anyone expresses a positive opinion about you? If you ever hope to have an actual woman as a girlfriend, you’ve got to lighten up sometime, Jack. Solution: Good news! The visitors from out-of-state might actually sleep with you. Unlike the rest of us, they have no idea what you’re really like. So when that pretty snowboarder says, “My, what a thick neck-beard you have!” You stroke it and murmur mysteriously, “Well, it just proves everyone is good at something.”Problem: Shy women tend to be overly defensive. Let’s say you’re at The Goat and someone sends over a martini and smiles at you. Avoid calling 911 and shrieking, “Help! I’m being crimed-on!”Solution: Stride confidently towards your martini-donor with the fan blowing your hair away from your face. Say, “I’m in awe of how beautiful you are regardless of your gender. Which would be . . . what?”Problem: You are an introverted retail or restaurant employee at the end of a 12-hour shift with a customer who is unhappy with your attitude. Customer says: “Hey boy, this here service ain’t what I ‘spected from my vacation dollar. Why ain’t you being more jovial at me?”Solution: Give him what he wants and needs. Reach your arms around him and give him a gentle kiss on the temple.Problem: You think of yourself as a noble and distinguished beggar, but your friends say that your blunt and colloquial entreaties for sex at the bars are embarrassing them. Stop begging. Learn that oldest of Summit County seduction tricks: create your own Free-Sex-For-Life story. Solution: “While snowkiting across Lake Dillon . . . did I say I’m a kiteboarder? That is, when I’m not fighting fires or nursing orphaned kittens . . . yes, it’s true, men can lactate under the right circumstances . . . I rescued a freezing baby squirrel and carried it safely to shore. What happened to the baby squirrel? Uh, one of the cats I was breast-feeding ate it, but hey, that squirrel enjoyed an extra day on earth . . . hey, girl? Where you goin’?”Merry Christmas, mountain people.Micaela Gilchrist’s novels are published by Simon & Schuster and by Scribner in North America and Europe and have been optioned for film by Paramount Studios. She is the recipient of the Colorado Book Award and the Willa Cather Women Writing the West Award. She lives in Summit County. Email her at MicaelaMGilchrist@comcast.net.