If I Only Had the Nerve

Three Facts:

1) When I had my Cosmo-induced mental breakdown back in September, there was one section I didn’t pay much attention to. If you’ve read Cosmo, you know the one I’m talking about because you’ve skipped over it. There’s an article towards the back of every issue featuring true crime or horrible drama– terrible things happening to pretty blondes with perfectly straight hair and teeth. The picture is always a blurry female shape walking alone, ripe for the abducting and torturing, and the article has some sensationalist headline (So Young… So Naive… SO COMPLETELY MURDERED) that makes you want to stop and read but also keep going and never, ever find out what happened to the blonde girls and their nice teeth.

What have you done with them?!

2) One night earlier this week, my friend Carin showed up at my door, asking if I wanted to run down the road to get her car. She literally meant “run”, and since I hate moving more than, like, all the things, it took a while for her to convince me. I wasn’t going until she said her boyfriend didn’t want her to go alone because he thought it was dangerous. I immediately thought of the section in the back of Cosmo. There would be nothing worse than reading about my super-kidnapped friend in the back of a crappy magazine, so I agreed to go with her as long as I could bring my stabbing-people key and my clubbing-people flashlight. If we were going to be in the back of Cosmo, at least our caption would say something like, “They tried to be smart BUT THEY’RE STILL DEAD. (Also, check out their weird brown hair.)”

3)  I’ve never been a big risk-taker. I like rules and schedules, and when I don’t use them it feels less like “breaking free” and, not to be overly dramatic, more like “throwing myself into a raging death spiral from which there is no return”. I don’t even like playing the board game Risk.

As I was running down the street, trying to remember how breathing works and not being kidnapped or murdered in any way, I came to a sudden, horrifying realization: I’m a chicken. Not an adorable, marshmallow Peep kind of chicken. I’m like the Cowardly Lion’s agoraphobic cousin, Chicken McScaredyCat. I’ve been living my whole life thinking I’ll ultimately end up a blurry picture in a stupid magazine and it’s really holding me back.

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wond...

The family resemblance is striking.

For example, I once begged my parents to go with me on a pirate ghost ride at the beach, and when they refused, I got so scared that the guy running the ride felt sorry for me, patted my head and told me I’d be ok, then gave me a free string of beads “for being a big girl.” This would be totally acceptable for a nine- or ten-year-old. I was 20.

A Sampling of the Areas in Which I Would Like to (Metaphorically) Man Up

Eating Sushi: I can’t eat sushi in front of other people. I can destroy burgers and I have no shame at all when it comes to sandwiches or even pasta, but sushi is my food Everest. I can’t use chopsticks, possibly because I’m an idiot, and someone has to re-teach me every time. I can’t break them apart with any kind of grace and once I get them separated, trying to perfect the pinching-without-stabbing part of eating with chopsticks is a whole new obstacle. If I get the sushi to my mouth, I have to start chewing without looking like an obese chipmunk with bad table manners. In the past, I’ve dodged grossing my dinner companions out by hiding behind menus and distracting them by saying, “Look over there! For like 15 minutes!”

Talking to Strangers: Just once in my short sweet life, I would like to kick a party’s ass. I don’t want to be the girl standing in a corner near the food, quietly choking on a cookie because she doesn’t want to offend anyone. I want to walk up to the chattiest, social butterfly-est person there and say things like, “Oh, hello! I like your hat. Do you like olives? I sure do. My brother said the funniest thing to me the other day! Yes, he told me I was going to die alone surrounded by cats. Do you have any cats?” Presumably they will be blown away by my aptitude for small talk. Also, presumably it is a party where hats are involved. (Maybe some kind of hat party?)

Watching Scary Movies: You know how some girls are all, “I hate scary movies! Eeeee!” but they actually mean they squeal adorably and snuggle up with their significant others? I am not that girl. I can’t watch scary movies with any kind of cuteness. I spend the entirety shaking, biting my nails, flapping my hands like Kermit the Frog, and trying not to pee on anything. My criteria for “scary” is absurdly low: I can’t listen to The X-Files theme song without wanting to cry a little.

This means my dad whistles it A LOT.

I’d like to say I’m simply being sensible about a lot of these things, but there’s being pragmatic, and then there’s being a big baby. I don’t want to be brave enough to punch bears in the face or get in a fight with Jillian Michaels. All I want is to be able to take chances without worrying the entire planet is going to implode the second I step out of my comfort zone. (It’s just that if it did, you’d all be really mad at me and no one would talk to me at any party ever again.)


  1. butimbeautiful

    That’s very funny! Start with small talk, why not! But you know, go for the shy looking person who’s also in the corner choking on biscuits, then work your way UP to the hat wearing socialite. Works for me!

  2. Snoring Dog Studio

    Hilarious stuff! Only when I get angry enough do I get over my fears. The rest of the time I sing loudly to fight off the feeling that there are boogeymen behind every door in my house. I still hate the dark. I love night lights. I’ve got them all throughout my house. BE SCARED, BE SAFE. That’s my motto.

  3. LediaR

    Baby steps. One step each time out of your comfort zone leads to another one next and another and another… I used to be so shy that if anyone stepped into my comfort zone I flinched and looked down at my feet. I was so lonely and miserable. Now, I can talk to strangers in the checkout line at the store as if they were my best buddy because of brave, nerve-rattling baby steps… The important thing is that I took them.

  4. Ana

    I agree with Butim.

    Ya know, I was a complete OCD freak with a fear of everything; I’m actually phobic of flowers and sometimes I’m afraid of my salad. It took me a lot (of embarrassing moments) to become less of an anti-social freak but it can be done!

    Btw ladies, here are a couple secrets Cosmo will never share with you:

    1. How to satisfy your man in bed: stop reading Cosmo so you become less paranoid and self-conscious

    2. How to look sexy (because obviously women never do): throw away that Cosmo. It’s one “accessory” you should definitely shed


  5. Bobthecat1

    I find it distinctly strange that the phrase ‘cat lady’ is so specifically designated. I don’t know of many instances of ‘cat men’ besides Ernest Hemmingway, and he was, well, pretty extreme in all pursuits. I’d like to know the real percentage of cat ladies in the world. I’m not sure that’s your destiny, I’m not sure you can be so self-aware and end up in that reality. My cats are fairly receptive to small talk, or they just put up with me because they don’t have the dexterity to open food cans. As far as hats, you’re on your own.

  6. 1stjoeyanna

    And here I’m the complete opposite, and it makes my 15 yr old shamed. She’s always saying ‘Do you know that person?’ or please don’t talk to people you don’t know, like I’m the one eyed flying purple eater! LOL

  7. hollybernabe

    Funny post! I used to feel like you did. But the I did some research.

    It bothers me that society harps on the whole “women shouldn’t go out because you’ll be attacked/raped/killed” etc. The statistics just doesn’t jibe with that. In fact, it is far more dangerous for women to hang out with people they KNOW as opposed to strangers. More than 75% of the assaults/rapes/violence against women is by their intimates, their friends and aquaintences. 4.5 million acts of violence against women are reported, but the vast majority of that is domestic violence. Approximately only 20% is perpetrated by strangers. The LAPD, citing the Bureau of Justice’s crime statistics* say that every year approximately 500,000 rapes occurr. In 2009, our country had almost 313 million people, of which 155.6 million were female.** Subtracting children, that’s about 116 million adult women. That’s a .0008% chance of being raped by a stranger. Even if three out of four women never report their attack, that would still be a .003% chance of being raped by a stranger. One statistic I found interesting was “Men, however, were more likely than women to experience violent crimes committed by both acquaintances and strangers. In fact, men were about twice as likely as women to experience acts of violence by strangers.”

    This tells me that women need to stop fearing the world and start choosing better partners. I for one, am going to enjoy my freedom and walk across America solo this year.


  8. Jessie

    Here’s the best piece of advice I can give you… Feel the fear, and do it anyway. Trust me, I do lots of stupid things, and I even do some things that take lots of courage and building up to, but sometimes I really do want to tell that girl she has a nice hat. I am horribly self-conscious at times, it’s something I still work to get over, and the worst part is I’m a horrible blusher. So if you’re freaked out, picture me (though you don’t know me), telling someone “You have a nice hat,” while my face flushes and turns some hue slightly lighter than royal purple for no reason because she hasn’t given me a stink look for talking to her and there’s nothing in my teeth or anything. So I feel silly and horrified for no reason, but I’m glad I did it anyway.

  9. mamalang

    I found you when you were freshly pressed a few weeks ago. You remind me of myself 15 years ago. And a lot of me still. I found out that my cautiousness was a strength after marrying my husband and having his mini-me son. You’ll grow into it someday, just be patient.

  10. nosugarjustspice

    I totally relate to this post. My friends often say I’m paranoid but I like to think of myself as cautious. I won’t go down dark alley ways or stairwells alone or get into first dates cars. Which all just sounds common-sensey to me.
    When it comes to scary movies I am a complete baby too. I can’t watch any scary movies at all. Even though I logically know that none of it is real they still scare the bejeesus out of me and will occasionally give me nightmares (Signs gave me nightmares lol.) Again though I like to think of this as a good quality, it means we’re not desensitised.

  11. how bout some cake

    I’m on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from you! I LOVE taking risks! It’s gotten me into some trouble, but that usually turns into great stories. It’s also caused some of the best experiences of my life- like studying abroad in a country I’d never been to, switching colleges and careers, and moving 2000+ miles to a city where nobody knows my name. Oh, and marrying a professional gambler! Maybe we can trade tips on living and end up somewhere in the middle with a healthy moderate lifestyle :)

  12. manythemiles

    This post resonates with me SO much. I’m always wishing I was the life of the party, but it’s just not in who I am! I would be right there with you choking on cookies.

  13. Dana

    I am a terrible coward in most areas of life as well. But I ask you this: why are pieces of sushi so large to begin with? Even if you can wield chopsticks properly and gracefully direct a piece of sushi towards your mouth, there’s no way some types of sushi (green dragon rolls, I’m talking to you!) can be eaten with one bite. Have you ever gracefully gnawed through sushi nori and kept the second half of a piece of sushi intact? Me neither. What gives?

  14. pigeoninthecity

    this post makes me think you might be my long-lost sister. in a really non-creeper way, though, don’t get me wrong.

    one time walking home from the bus stop, i saw a shadow move and ran (at a speed i wasn’t aware was possible for someone of my stature) for four blocks. it was likely a squirrel, but hell if he was going to catch me!

  15. imwithsilly

    hehe….next time your at a party walk upto to Mr. Chatty-McPOpular and say,” Hi, my name is Megatron, Fun Megatron!”..,.you’ll find it’s a very effective ice breaker!

  16. V J Morris

    If he was cute, you should have totally asked the guy running the ride to take pity on you and go with you on it……Also, I hate talking to strangers as well. I never know what to say, it’s like my mind just goes blank, then I panic and blurt out something stupid like “do you like apples?”…weird.

  17. Pingback: Look at Me, I’m-a Shattered | Listful Thinking

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