Call Me Mrs. (Una)Ware
Let me start by saying I do love being social, when I’m ready for it. But when I’m faced with an unplanned social interaction, I respond poorly. Sometimes I’m a clumsy fool. Like when I kicked a guy in the shin as we approached each other for a hug. I didn’t plan on seeing this guy, I didn’t plan on hugging him, and I definitely didn’t plan on, not whispering, but heavily breathing, “sorry about that” into his ear during the botched embrace.
Sometimes I’m a socially awkward weirdo. Like when I ran into a girl I went to high school with on the street. We quickly ran out of things to talk about so instead of saying something normal like, “good to see you!” I looked into the distance as if something down the street had caught my eye and said, “huh. Is that – is that a sign over there?”
Not even “what does that sign say?” just “is that a sign” as if signs are a rare novelty and we should abandon our failing conversation and bask in its glory.
Thankfully these clunky interactions were brief and not life changing. They didn’t define me as anything more than a shin-kicking, sign-loving weirdo, a label I can live with. But one recent surprise meeting ran a high risk of defining me as something much, much worse: a racist.
A few weeks ago I was back in Denver and went to lunch with my mom. It was a 45 minute wait for a table or no wait for the communal table in the middle of the restaurant. I hate communal tables and I don’t understand them. Why don’t they just break this one huge table up and have several smaller tables? Isn’t the fact that we’re all eating at the same restaurant ‘community’ enough? But I was in a hurry so we sat down between a group of 4 chatty high school girls and an African American man eating by himself.
Full disclosure: I was going to a funeral after lunch. My strange pre-funeral mindset, my hatred for communal tables AND my issues with unplanned social interactions ensured that this guy had no chance of getting a pleasant, let alone normal, conversation with me.
He innocently asked us how our day was and what our names were and I immediately shut down. UGH really, dude? Small talk? At the communal table? What could be worse? Don’t you know I’m going to a funeral after this? Of course he didn’t. As the conversation went to the weather, as generic small talk does, he mentioned that he had just moved to Colorado from Texas. Cool, guy. I rolled my eyes.
There was a lull and the girls next to us had left so I asked my mom if we could move down the table. AWAY from this perfectly kind and delightful gentleman who was just as friendly and kind as can be. I wasn’t trying to be rude but as I stood up, I looked at the guy, “welcome to Colorado,” I said. I GENUINELY meant ‘WELCOME to Colorado – the greatest place on earth, please enjoy’ but because I said it as I switched seats in a very unwelcoming way, it looked like classic racism. I might as well have said, “you’re not welcome ’round these parts” (cue deep southern accent).
We moved down the table and I immediately felt like an ass.
“I feel bad,” I said to my mom.
“Me too. Do you think he plays for the Broncos?” – Who’s the racist now?
We went back and forth, whispering our guilt to each other and it became more than I could bear. I invited him to scoot down and join us. I tried explaining that I wanted to move to the end of the table for “elbow room” which made me look like an even bigger idiot because as he stood to move closer, it was clear that he was gigantic. His need for elbow room was 10 times my need for elbow room. How did he keep himself so compacted in his seat??
I asked what brought him to Denver.
“Work. I do some real estate,” he said as he motioned loosely to the surrounding neighborhood, then quietly, “and I play for the Denver Broncos.”
My mom, who had proven herself to not be a racist, proved herself to be a total mom when she immediately asked why he wasn’t at practice.
I was sitting next to, and my mom was scolding, DeMarcus Ware. A highly anticipated addition to the Denver Broncos who was acquired in the off season. He’d already played 9 years for the Cowboys and established himself as a phenomenal athlete. He was an all-star, a nation-wide celebrity and the latest victim of my inability to carry on normally in a social setting.
What followed was one of the most pleasant lunch conversations I’ve ever had. He asked about our lives, he asked about LA and my dream of being a TV writer, he told us about his travels and how he is getting into writing and photography. He talked football strategy and how his kids live in Texas but come up for every home game. He was so open and I almost wanted to tell him about the services I was attending after lunch and explain why I was such a terrible person earlier. I also maybe wanted to marry him.
And maybe if I had known I was going to have lunch with DeMarcus Ware things would have gone differently and we would be getting married. Maybe if our lunch was in my iCal we would live happily ever after. But I didn’t and it wasn’t and we won’t because I looked like a racist. But I don’t want to fully blame the failure of my potentially perfect life with DeMarcus Ware on my awkward social skills. I mean, my mom was totally cock blocking me.