I think dressing up draws unwanted attention. People who think they know me refuse to believe the fact that I am extremely shy. They always assume I am joking when I tell them and fail to take me seriously when my shyness cripples me. At times it results in me being mistaken for arrogant, conceited, aloof, non-compassionate and withdrawn when in reality I am nothing more then completely and utterly shy.
Some of you are thinking, how in the world can I be shy when you have seen me do some of the things I have done in front of crowds? Being in front of a crowd, speaking to an audience, emceeing weddings, acting on stage, storytelling, improv, preaching – all those things are completely different for me. I am comfortable doing those things simply because, to me, they are jobs. Things that had to be done. Requirements for achieving a task. When you see me doing those things it is not me being me, instead, it is me doing things I have to get done. There is a difference.
Run into me at the mall, trap me in the foyer after church, coerce me out for coffee, surprise me on the phone, try to get to really know me and you probably won’t get very far. It is then, one on one, with no performance to hide behind, just me in the wide open, the shyness screams in my head to run, flee, vanish! I want to fade, blend, be invisible and for me the best way to keep camouflaged is by not dressing up.
Last Monday, the company I work for was holding is special Christmas Lunch at a fancy restaurant that I had never eaten in before. Since it was my day off I decided to do something rare for me. I dressed up by putting on a white shirt… with buttons.
Sitting across the table from me was one of my co-workers, Vivian. While waiting for our order she looked across at me and said, “That shirt looks good on you.” I nodded my thanks and she went on, “You should wear shirts like that more often.”
I shook my head and in earnest began, “No, no, no! When I start dressing up like this I start attracting attention; unwanted attention! People start to notice me; people I don’t want noticing me. They notice me!”
I was about to explain to her who these people usually were. Women with a veiled desperation, who, upon noticing me first, shortly thereafter notices the bareness of my ring finger and then, with a seed of delusion blooming in thier imaginations, embarks on regarding me the unrealistic hero of their escape fantasies, delivering them from the weight of their pervasive issues, both slightly disturbing and borderline psychotic, that plague their lives from moment to moment. Really? Me a prince charming? Me a knight in shining armor? Me? I’m just a guy who read comic books.
Before I could explain any of this to Vivian she was already shaking her head and rolling her eyes which soon focused on a plate of food being served at one of the other tables and the complications of being me vanished from her mind.
I had ordered the the restaurant’s Longshoreman Platter which is basically chicken served on a bun. I started to cut it up with my fork and knife when Tina, another co-worker sitting to the left of me, slapped my arm. “Brad!”she exclaimed. “You have chicken on a bun! You put the buns together and you eat it like a burger, not cut it up like it’s a fancy dinner!”
“Look!” I sputtered back, “I dressed up in a shirt… with buttons, for this meal!” Then, defiantly, placed a perfect cube of roasted chicken breast and hamburger bun carved from my platter into my mouth. “If I want to eat my chicken on a bun like a fancy dinner then I am going to eat my chicken on a bun like a fancy dinner.”
And that is what I did. Without spilling anything on my shirt… with buttons.
As we were finishing the meal, Vivian winked across the table at Tina and they both glanced across the restaurant and began to giggle. I was puzzled, even more so when I seen the object of their attention was the middle-age balding waiter looking back in our direction. Vivian look at me with the evil sparkle of mischief in her eye laughed. “He likes you, Brad.” It was then, to my horror, that I realized it was me being the one checked out. Tina burst into laughter.
I raised my finger and shook it angrily at Vivian. “See, I told you! When I dress up I start drawing unwanted attention!” She laughed even harder. It is not just women of desperation I now have to hide from, it’s gay men too.
It is going to be a long, long time before anyone sees me in a suit.