Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Hi, my name is..."

Imagine this scenario: You walk into the library with your child and immediately spot another child from preschool. You say, "Look, honey, there's little Anna! Hi Anna!" And your child runs right over to Anna for a big ol' giggly hug or high five. You look at Anna's mom and smile and exchange pleasantries, and then you walk away telling your child "Say goodbye to Anna and her mommy." You see this woman every day at pick-up and drop-off, and you run into her in the library, grocery market, playground; you've spent hours chatting with her at birthday parties or at the preschool Halloween parade. But do you know her name?

I spend so much energy trying to teach my son to have good manners, to be friendly and outgoing. Every time he encounters a new child, he walks right over and says "I'm Sweet Boy, what's your name?" I'm always so proud of his bravery.

I'm a friendly person, I think. I mean, I have no problem talking to a stranger in line at Target or while pushing the kiddo in the swing at the playground. But for some reason, when it comes to actually introducing myself and asking another person's name, I'm socially deficient. I've always been this way -- weddings, parties, workplace functions -- I'm somehow embarrassed to just reach out and say, "Hi, I'm TallGirl. Can you remind me of your name?" As if the person will either (a) laugh, (b) run away, (c) just plain hate me, or (d) think I'm an idiot because I have been smiling and saying hello for over a year without ever asking their name.

This is one of the things I love most about my husband -- he has no problem walking into any social situation and making new friends. We will go to a party, for instance, where we know no one but the host, and we will leave with very detailed information about at least five of the guests because Big Daddy just knows how to introduce himself and make conversation. I, on the other hand, am awkward.

So, in my continued efforts to step outside my comfort zone in teeny tiny ways every week, I made a goal for myself this week to reach out and introduce myself to a couple of the moms I see so often. The first attempt was a complete bomb. It went something like this: At the YMCA pool after Sweet Boy's swim class, I noticed one of the moms from his preschool class sitting near our flip-flops. So as we were putting on our flops, I said hello, and we chatted for a second, and as we were about to leave, I reached out my (dripping) hand and said, "You know, we chat so often, and I don't think I ever introduced myself -- I'm TallGirl." She took my hand and smiled, but the look on her face was complete confusion. And you know the best part? She didn't tell me her name! So I walked away wondering, did I annoy her with my dripping wet handshake? Could she hear me over the din of the splashing kids? And it quickly disintrigrated to, Does she think I'm stupid? Does she think I'm ugly? Is she going to tell all her friends about the crazy, socially awkward woman in her bathing suit who approached her at poolside -- and laugh?!

However, just as I'd recovered from this debacle, I had a much better encounter with another preschool mom yesterday. It restored my faith not only in myself but in the friendliness of others: Sweet Boy and I went to a local playground for lunch, and one of his buddies from his class was there too. Of course he ran right over and jumped on the swing next to his friend, and I said hello to the mom. Just as I had mustered enough courage to launch my "You know, I never introduced myself" spiel, she looked me square in the face, smiled, and said "Would you remind me of your name? I know we've met, but I'm just terrible remembering names. I'm Cindy."

HOORAY! You can't even imagine my delight to tell her my name, and to laugh at how I always forget. And then making small talk as we watched our little monkeys play together was just so much easier. There wasn't that odd feeling of "but I don't even know your name!" hanging over us. (And I have repeated her name and her children's names about 100 times so I don't forget!)

I'm going to try to take a page from Cindy's book and just go for it when it comes to introductions -- no matter how many times I've seen or talked to the person. I'll let you know how it goes, though, because apparently, from my first encounter, I'm not the only socially awkward mom out there.

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