@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
You Look Like You Want To Say Something
There are few things that impress me more about a human than an extensive vocabulary. Though I wouldn’t consider myself a full sapiosexual (not that I consider myself fully anything), no matter how attractive you are physically or kind you are, my interest in a person (in general, as a mentor, a peer, a friend, a romance) can be greatly swayed by your speech habit. If you’re using words that I know but have forgotten about, it’s a clear tell to me that you’re not only a reader, but learner—two qualities I value.
For perhaps my whole life, from elementary days to college years, people have asked me if I were about to say something. Quiet by nature, and often terrified when someone addressed me, especially teachers or people of authority, I’d shake my head, “no I don’t want to say anything at all.” This stare of confusion followed me out of classrooms, into jobs and green rooms of comedy clubs. “You look like you want to say something.”
And I know this look well. Not from my own face. I can’t see my own facial expressions! And I’m not so narcissistic to spend time in front of mirror. But for families I babysat for or when I volunteered as a teacher assistant in classrooms, I’d see the same expression on certain shy kids’ faces and found myself asking the same question, “do you want to say something.” Only to immediately make them coil under the non existing pressure of talking. Then, I’d feel bad and wanted to explain to them that I knew how they felt, and often, I DID have something to say, I just held it in, most likely because I felt I couldn’t properly articulate it and I’d come off sounding stupid or be completely misunderstood, not knowing which of the two bothers me more. This is why writing has always been a better form of communication for me—I could then see my own thoughts in word form and see if it makes enough sense to me to share it. Ultimately, doesn’t matter what you say or do, words can always be taken out of context. We’re very good at taking words out of context nowadays, with devastating consequences of cementing ourselves in paranoia and mistrust. PC culture, you have the stage now, and I hate you because you’re not at all funny.
This was a mild point of contention between myself and a former lover, who used to say about my facial expressions, “I either know exactly what you’re thinking or have no idea whatsoever.” And then other times, he’d say, “I know you were just about to say something. Just say it!”
Here’s a little conundrum. The people I want to talk to the most, I’m the most intimidated by and shy to talk to. My now writing partner, Nick Griffin, was once one of those people. I’d be too scared to even look him in the eyes for more than just a couple seconds, let alone let loose the dumb-ass thoughts in my head.
It has come to my recent attention that people are sometimes intimidated by me. Which is hilarious! I’ve had people confess they’re intimidated to talk to me after shows, seeing how confident I am on stage. Haha! A dear friend of mine said she was intimidated to talk to me for the first time and I was like, “WHAT?! Why?! I am an idiot, if nothing else.” Then there’s the pretty girl factor. I guess I’ve always known that it is sometimes frightening to talk to someone you deem beautiful, but I still feel like the invisible tomboy. In my ugly duckling days, there were many times I’d stop dead in my tracks looking into blue eyes, at a loss for words while my brain is going, “say something, anything, you idiot!” Sometimes now I’m on the opposite end of this, where just a look will stop someone and the paranoid Guinea in me thinks, “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS GUYS (or girl) PROBLEM,” until there’s another part of my brain reminds me that sometimes you get looked at when you’re shiny. Even when you don’t feel like you’re shining and you especially don’t want to be stared at.
At my new job, there’s a editor who I’m extremely intimidated to talk to. This is ridiculous. While our interactions have been brief, she seems nothing else if not kind with a great vocabulary and a razor eye when it comes to editing. She somewhat reminds me of an Aunt which probably has to do something with why I’m drawn to her. Mostly, I want to pick her brain about writing. I’d love to form some sort of a bond, in which, she’d take a look at some of my work and lend her editing eyes to strengthen my skills. This is the weird shit I fantasize about. Becoming a better writer. Just complete nerd shit. Forming book clubs and having homework essays. Goddamn, I’m a dork.
We were both in the bathroom one time, washing our hands and I thought, “here you go, Lori, here’s an opportunity to bring up the fact that you’re also a writer!” Though often times, and I can tell you from experience, hearing another person say, “I’m a writer too,” can make you cringe depending on your mood. It then occurred to me to say, “I looked you up, but not in a creepy way,” which in a bathroom, is an extremely creepy thing to say. So I averted my eyes and went back to my desk.
Being a stand-up comedian who’s afraid to talk to people feels a little like being a doctor who hates the sight of blood. Self doubt is probably going to be the death of my (very short) career. Granted, public opinion is for sheeple and I could care less about their stupid thoughts. But in the rare occasions I do meet people who I admire, their opinions are gold to me. And the greatest gift they could offer is their time.
Often times, in today’s world with so much technology, if you missed an opportunity to speak up, you’ll have another moment to share your thoughts. As long as you’re still alive and so are they. In my life, the times I’ve sighed and moved on heavily outweigh the times where I was assertive. With growing apathy, I don’t see this changing much at this point in time. When I have something important to say, writing it down remains my preference over talking.
Sometimes I visit previous versions of myself. It’s the only known form of time travel around. I visit her in a classroom and ask her why she doesn’t want to raise her hand. She’s clever and retorts, “why don’t you believe in yourself?” “Look, it’s a lot. There are a lot of factors here involved when you try to be a writer. I’m older. I know some things now that you don’t yet.” “I know some things too that you’ve forgotten.”
And then the teacher calls on her, interrupting her reverie of speaking with me. The teacher asks Lori if she knows the answer. She shakes her head, even though it’s written down on the sheet in front of her. But when I look at her face, I see someone who doesn’t want to say anything. Not right now.