“How niiiiice!”

I was not raised by a Southern woman. I didn’t even move to the South until I was well past my most impressionable years. But something happens when I get flustered where I turn into this Southern lady I do not know. I don’t know why it happens. It’s not like it helps me out in any situation. I just end up sounding like a fake fool.

Last night, while buying tickets to Identity (the film with the most poignant life-lesson this year — “Whores don’t get a second chance!”), I recognized a voice behind me. I turned and saw that it was indeed someone from my past.

My brain starts rushing to place this girl, to determine her… identity. Jeez.

Anyway, I realize it is indeed the girl I know and she’s now noticed me staring, done her brain-whizzing thing and determined that she also recognizes me.

[scripty]
PAMIE
Is your name Jennifer?

GIRL
No, but I know you, right?

PAMIE
Oh, my God. Yeah! Yeah! You were my, oh wow! Hi! HI!
[/scripty]

It is at this point that I am hugging her. Holding her in my arms. I can feel her tension. Remember, I still haven’t told her how I know her. So, I sort of mumble into her hair, right by her ear:

[scripty]
PAMIE
You were my freshman orientation adviser!

GIRL
(startled, still stiff with shock)
Oh. Oh, sure, yeah, sure!
[/scripty]

I’ve pulled away from her now. But there’s something about the Texas girl in me that I just start hugging people when I see them. I hug people that really don’t want to be hugged, and I’m hugging them before I realize it. And I’m pretty sure I’m all RudeBoobs about it, mashing my chest into theirs before they remember my name. It’s happened more than twice now that I’ve held someone close to me, only to have them ask, “What was your name again?”

It must come from moving around so much as a kid, but I remember people long after there’s any reason for them to remember me.

[scripty]
PAMIE
You know, this is like, the fifth time this has happened to us.

GIRL
Really?

PAMIE
Yeah. You were my freshman orientation adviser!

GIRL
(turning to friend I’m too much of an asshole to properly introduce myself to)
Another Austin connection!

PAMIE
She was the first person I ever met at UT!
[/scripty]

I might have introduced myself properly here, or even introduced the man I was with if I wasn’t so flustered about still not remembering her name. My freshman orientation days left quite an impression on me. I still remember the two main friends I made from there — Paul and Mitch — and Mitch was another person that I continually ran into every once in a while in Austin… until one drunken night when I was part of the comedy troupe for his corporate Mardi Gras party and I think I might have made him eat an oyster off my shoe for beads (the beads meant VCR’s and shit. We were crazy that night. We took advantage of those poor corporate souls).

But I’m still trying to remember her name as I launch into another story about her. Because we are in mixed company, I try to keep it a little censored.

[scripty]
PAMIE
And one time I called the health center! And you were the person who answered the phone!

GIRL
You are blasting through my resume, here.

PAMIE
Do you remember?

GIRL
Well, a lot of people called the health center.

PAMIE
No, it was such a great story. I was like, “I have this problem,” and you were like, “Pam, is this you?”

GIRL
I don’t remember that.
[/scripty]

She might have remembered it if I was more specific. Because it went a little something like this:

[scripty]
PAMIE
Hi, I think I need to make an appointment.GIRL
Okay. For the women’s center?

PAMIE
Yeah.

GIRL
What are your symptoms?

PAMIE
Um, well, it… uh, I’m itchy? And um… well, there’s a burning when I pee… and uh… it REALLY hurts to have sex. Really hurts. Pain and um…

GIRL
Pam, is this you?

PAMIE
God. Yeah. I thought that was you.

GIRL
I’d ask how you’re doing, but… you’re…

PAMIE
Burning. Right.

GIRL
Yeah, you need to come in and get that yeast infection fixed pronto.

PAMIE
Thanks.
[/scripty]

So, I tell her the words “health center” and assume she’d remember, but of course, she still just has no idea. But then, she must have remembered something because she asked:

[scripty]
GIRL
Are you still acting?

PAMIE
Yeah! Yeah, and I’m writing.

GIRL
That’s great!

PAMIE
Yeah. I don’t remember your major.

GIRL
Film.

PAMIE
Oh, that’s right. So you’re out here doing that now?

GIRL
Actually, I teach high school english.

PAMIE
Oh, that’s fun!
[/scripty]

Those of you who are Southern are already cringing, I know. But for the rest of you, I’ll explain what kind of asshat I just made myself into. The “fun” is said with a tilt of the head. Your body leans back and rests on your heels, making your hips jut out a little. You even squint. It’s almost the most insulting thing you could do.

I do not know what possessed my body or why I did that. It’s not even who I am. I never say anything like that. When did I become an old Southern lady?

“Oh, that’s just darlin’!”

“You teach? That’s so niiice, giving up your life like you did for others. Giving up on your dream. That’s precious.”

“You must really love those kids to do that. That’s fun! You must have so much fun all day. I bet your students just love you; call you by your first name and everything. How fun!”

“A teacher! Fuuuuuunnnnn! I have a cousin who was a teacher, but she finally got married, so now she’s happy.”

“The stories you must be able to tell. Teachin’ English! That’s so fun. No, that’s just darlin’. Like a movie, but without all the movie stuff you learned. Fun!”

Seriously. What is wrong with me?

I tried to cover when she sort of stuttered at my asinine reaction to her answer. I said, “That’s great, that’s awesome. Teaching is awesome,” which is just an even stupider way of covering. And I really wanted to say, “If only I knew your name, I wouldn’t be sputtering out these stupid-ass things because my brain is on auto-pilot while I go through my life’s Filofax and the Fancy Southern Lady running the tongue is fucking up the joint.”

[scripty]
GIRL
That’s why I’m drinking coffee now, because I’m about to go home and work.

PAMIE
Ah.

GIRL
So, you’re seeing a movie then, right?

PAMIE
Identity. Gosh, that’s so weird. I think you were even in my art history class. I can’t remember the other time, we ran into each other another time.
[/scripty]

Now here if I was paying attention I could see that she was trying to get rid of me, reminding me that I’m late for a movie. But I’m too busy trying to remember her name. She wasn’t in my art history class. She was my yearbook adviser for the .02 seconds I worked on the yearbook in college. I think I dropped out and I think that might be the last time I ever saw her. Alex? Maybe her name is Alex? I can’t remember. But here’s where she pulls out an empty envelope and a pen. I go to pull out a pen and paper, but when I open my purse you can see the gigantic bottle of water I’m trying to smuggle into the theatre, and box office boy is checking out why I look so shifty.

[scripty]
GIRL
Let me get your number and I’ll call you. I’d love to catch up.

PAMIE
Yeah! Me too. Gosh, that’s so weird, running into you here.

GIRL
Okay, give me your number.

(I do.)

GIRL
Oh, you live around here.

PAMIE
I do. It’s so nice to see you.

GIRL
I’ve been out of town, but I’ll call you in a few days when I’m settled. That’s so weird. I was just thinking about you a couple of days ago.

PAMIE
REALLY!?!?!?
[/scripty]

Now here she’s just trying to be nice to me, I’m sure. How could she possibly have been thinking about me when she didn’t remember me at all? That’s very sweet of her to make it seem like I mean as much to her as she means to me. Notice she didn’t offer up her number. And she never told me her name. We walked away, and I was all, “So nice meeting you!” to the guy whose name I never caught, and I was still mumbling about her through the opening credits of the movie, right before I figured out the entire plot of the film. I sat through the rest of it wondering why I turn into such a dork in front of people.

It happened this past week too, meeting my book agent for the first time. I just went on this tangent and told this enormous story about Allison’s mom — the story where Allison ordered quiche instead of salad? Why would that ever be the story I tell someone upon first meeting them? It’s not a short story. And it involves a number of people that are complete strangers to this room of people I’m meeting.

I think maybe when I get nervous and flustered around new people… I think I turn into Allison’s mom. I’ve only met her once. How is this possible?

And now I’m getting ready to do all this book tour stuff, and I’m worried I’m gonna Steel Magnolias all over these other strangers. “You bought my book? That’s so nice. Thanks for reading. That’s darlin’. You want me to sign it how? Oh, how precious.”

Lordy. I do declare.

And today we welcomed into the world the highly-anticipated baby: Antonio David Zarate. Both Papa Chuy and Mama Cathy are doing well. Happy Baby Day, everybody. Take the rest of the day off to celebrate.

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