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It is not polite to whisper.

“Oh Mighty Isis!” S. said and crossed her newly bangled wrists in super power mode. Her eyes widened. “Oh shit.” We stood in Pier 1 Imports and she was looking over my shoulder out into the mall.

“What is it?” I asked.

in front of the dorm

in front of the dorm

She laughed, pulled the bracelets off, and tossed them back in the display basket. “You know who just walked by.”

“Who?”

Mr. Lambda Chi.”

I spun around. “Oh my god. Where?”

S. grabbed my arm and dragged me out of the store. “We’re going to find him.”

I was 18 and Mr. Lambda Chi was 22. I didn’t know he was about to be engaged, but I did know he had called me several times and with each call I thought he was about to ask me out. All he did was ask if I was coming to the next party. Of course I was.

S and I found my other friends before we found him, but there he was in front of the Pizza Hut. S. pushed me along. “You’re going to eat pizza,” she said in my ear. “Go talk to him.”

He did look happy to see me. He was going to grab something to eat, he told me. “So are we,” answered S.

At the table, he asked me if I wanted a slice of his pizza. “Oh, no thanks,” I said and joked, “I’d just get pizza stuck between my teeth.” He insisted. I said okay.

A while later my friends start whispering. The whisper travels around the table. “It isn’t polite to whisper in front of people,” I said, sure they were whispering about him and me. S. grabbed my blouse by the shoulder and yanked me to her. “You do have got pizza stuck between your teeth,” she said.

I burned red. He laughed. But later when I invited him over, he said yes.

There is no reason sharing one’s writing should be like this, but… I try to remember that even I am told I’ve done something embarrassing, I can still be liked. And just like I could never understand a girl who could easily let a guy know she liked him, I can’t easily understand a writer who says, “Hey, I write a story. Want to read it?” Why don’t they feel any fear?

5 thoughts on “It is not polite to whisper.

  1. I’m one of the least assertive people I know, but I used to be one of those “Want to read my story?” types. So why no fear back then? I want to say Pride. But the truth is coarser than that — more like arrogance. Sort of “Look at me! Look at me! Somebody please look at me! And praise me, dear God, PRAISE me!” Nobody else I knew wanted to be — was considered to be — a writer. (Or a “writer,” in quotes.) And none of this stuff I was pushing on people had been actually published, mind you.

    That lasted right up until I started meeting other writers, online and in real life, and reading their unpublished work — and getting their reactions to mine. Talk about a dose of humility and embarrassment and yes fear, too.

    Posting excerpts of stuff online works for me only because it IS online. Maybe it’ll snag the attention of somebody in a position to offer me riches and respect; probably not. But otherwise there’s no actual transaction required between me and reader(s). It’s really just a way of thinking out loud to myself.

  2. Well, of course you’ll still be liked. Good to remind yourself of that, your writing skill doesn’t take away your lovely personality. 🙂 (This from a girl who has to remind her own self every time she sends something out.) For a while, though, I must admit I had come to like the negative feedback more than the good. I guess I’m a tad masochistic. Probably had something to do with the friendship factor. If someone is willing to take on the responsibility of pointing out your flaws, they must really, really like you. So it hurts on one level, but confirms your likability on another.

    I’m so rambling. I’ll shut up now.

  3. Aren’t we always told ‘feel the fear and do it anyway?’ The only people who have read my book are agents and editors … a couple of friends who really insisted have seen the first chapter and synopsis. Other than that I haven’t shown it to any friends or family – too close, too painful. I’m still working from a position that absolutely no one is interested … and if someone publishes something just feel so grateful.

  4. Almost no one reads my work. And when I do show it, I’m the opposite of Kate. I show it to close supportive friends, workshop folk and/or my students (back when I taught.) I am terrified of showing to the real writer folk. Professionals, agents,etc. I think about my old professors from college, or the other writer kids (I was editor of the lit mag, and I was… uhm… inclusive in my editing), and I am worried that they will read my work and think I am a hack. A mediocre poet. A genre writer.

    One of the other writers from my college has published a couple of books and runs a program in Vermont. I won’t be showing him my work. Although… I think he’s said that my blog is great. In fact, one of the best artists in my arts High School found me on facebook and was amazed at my art work. Another thing I like to hide. Maybe there’s nothing to hide.

    Maybe we’re fine the way we are, even good, even if not everybody will love us.

    Heck, not everybody loves Shakespeare.

  5. Oh, I’ve been so nervous this week. My CD project is kind of experimental, and the time between mailing it and hearing a response is agony. (Then it never helps when your first response is a “different, but neat” from your mother-in-law.) I keep trying to remind myself that it won’t be for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth putting out there. Not everyone loves Tom Clancy, and the people who follow Anne Lamott’s non-fiction and novels are generally two different groups of people. Oh, the things we tell ourselves to keep our sanity…

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