Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Such Stupid Things

The other night I attended a party where I didn't know very many people. I'm not good at mingling. The idea of wandering around a room, never able to truly settle into one conversation, makes me crazy. I'm not sure how to engage in a real discussion when everyone is there and then off again, to say hi to so-and-so, get another glass of wine, grab some kind of puffed pastry.

So I become an investigative reporter. I ask hundreds of questions until people are sick of me and desperate to move on. It's the only way I know how to get through.

One of my grueling interviews involved a series of questioning about what it is like to have a child attend college. My 'interviewee' was worried about his son running off to do something incredibly stupid and I asked if that was because he, himself, had done stupid things in college. He hadn't. But he wished he did.

I thought back to my own days at Cornell, 'on the hill', as they say. Thought back to a few of the stupid things I did in a state of wild abandon. I swam in a lake during a severe thunderstorm. (And it was no accident, I intentionally went out during a thunderstorm to swim and later discovered that a woman drowned in that very lake the same day.) I walked down a crumbling path into a 200 ft gorge at midnight to swim under the haze of alcohol, barely 100 pounds and having had far too many drinks to do something so dangerous.

But when I think of those times, I do not fear what could have happened to me, though I realize both experiences could have had a tragic end.

I only fear what would have happened to me had I not done them.

Because I knew once what it felt like to swim between the rush of a waterfall and the rain pelting down, not knowing or caring which washed over my shoulders and soaked my hair. To descend into a gorge and jump, fully clothed, from slippery rocks into water, under moon and endless sky, and not know its bottom. Not know its end.


  1. I used to hate mingling at parties, too (I used to be so shy!), until I discovered the interview method. Except, in my experiences, it's been win-win - people love being the center of attention and being able to talk about themselves, and I get to mine them for future stories!

  2. Coming from both a writerly and journalistic perspective, I also tend to "grill" the people I meet at parties with some sort of ongoing dialogue about their childhood and formative years.

    What's good to remember -- as I'm sure you well know, as does Allison above -- is that most people enjoy talking about themselves... and when they realize they have a new audience, someone who hasn't heard their jokes and stories a thousand times, they're all too happy to share them.

    Also, I was once wild and reckless, too -- just in different ways. Sometimes I reflect upon those times as I sit at my orderly desk at my orderly office job, typing and sipping too-hot coffee. Those memories are the fabric of our days.

  3. Sometimes I look back on things I did when I was younger and I think, "Wow, can't believe I'm still standing," but I don't regret anything b/c it's stuff I can stick in stories now :) Mostly the only regrets I've ever had are things I DIDN'T do.

  4. Lol, I suppose I'm tame. But I wouldn't say I haven't lived. I took a lot of risks, but just none that would get me arrested or anything like that. Just little things that if I think about my kids doing that, I think I'd go crazy with worry.

  5. I have looked back, seen the situations I put myself in, and wondered how I go through them. And, what was I thinking?
    Interesting POV!

  6. I find it very uncomfortable in a group of people I don't know. I slowly shut down and spend my time wracking my brain trying to think of things to say.

    Talking about whether you are a risk taker on not in life, I was having pretty much the same conversation with my friend the other day. She said that she sometimes regrets being the type of person who takes risks, because of things that have gone wrong. However, I wish that I was MORE of a risk taker, because there have been loads of times when I have missed opportunities, simply because I wasn't brave enough to go for it. No matter what type of person you are, it seems like you always wish you were the opposite!

    Interesting post Melissa and apologises for the lengthy comment!

  7. Life itself is a risk and to not take a risk is to not experience life in full. At the time, the risk factor does not kick in ... only when one looks back. You are right to be glad of those unique experiences.

    On mingling ... I would be much the same, asking questions to overcome not having the skill of partying and mingling. I am afraid that I am happiest in a small group, or one to one for conversation. I love the dressing up aspect of a party, but not the actuality. Sad!!