A month or so after moving to NC, Tim and I still hadn’t found jobs. Broke and friendless, we spent countless days sitting in our apartment (it was the middle of summer, so not conducive to outdoor exploration which had neither purpose or direction) and we very quickly tired of staring at each other for hours on end. One afternoon Tim returned home from an appointment with a temp agency in town and proclaimed that he was going to a “party.” Turns out that the placement specialist (is that what they are called?) thought that he [Tim] would very much like another client of hers (“You guys have a lot in common,” I imagined her saying. “He refuses to work a desk job and has traveled all over the world too.”) Tamara [the placement specialist] told Tim that this person and his girlfriend were having a salon at their home that evening and although she [Tamara, and at this point the only person we would remotely “know”] couldn’t make it, she suggested that Tim and I go and then she promptly picked up the phone and told this couple that we would be coming.
Now, I do not make friends that easily and the thought of just showing up on someone’s doorstep make me sick to my stomach. “Are we that desperate?” I thought. “Who does that, just knocks on a stranger’s door because the woman at the temp agency suggested it might be fun? And what kind of twisted idea of fun is that? They’re having a what? A Salon? Like with curlers and hair dye?”
Turns out a salon is much, much worse…at least for someone like me. Our ever trusted Wikipedia defines a salon as “is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation.” You have to be kidding me.
Especially in new situations, but particularly in situations where I feel completely out of my element, I’m a pretty reserved person. I tend to lay low, stay under the radar, hide in plain sight- whatever other idiomatic phrase you might prefer. So, imagine me, surrounded by people I don’t know, who are at least 8-10 years older than I am, have known each other for years (mostly) and are all either (1) current or former graduate students in English or Comparative Literature (2) current graduate students in German and (3) current graduate students in Philosophy. Oh yeah, and the topic of that night’s salon- fear. Figures. Tim was totally in his element. I was mortified. But I was too mortified to make that connection for everyone– “Um yeah, fear? Major fear. You’re looking at, folks. You’ve created it for me so thanks for that.” Instead I just sat there. Silently.
I don’t think that I said a word until the last of the guests left and I found myself sitting in the kitchen with Amy (the girlfriend) while Tim and Adam (the other client) sat on the porch- at this point already good friends. I give her great credit for her patience with me and wonder now if it was like pulling teeth to get me to talk. I can’t remember. But I must have said something worthwhile, because we saw them again. And then again.
That was 8 years ago. Amy and Adam have become our closest friends, and (by far) the couple that we, as a couple, have known the longest. Two years ago Amy and Adam were at our house having dinner and told us that they were going to have a baby. A month later they came over for dinner again and we told them that we were going to have a baby. On Saturday, their “baby” turned 2 (as does ours in about a week). I often think back to that night standing on their front steps and am glad that the moment of hesitation we had before ringing the doorbell was just that- a moment. Look at what we would have missed.
Happy 2nd Birthday G. We are thrilled to know you, and to watch you grow.