Single White Nerd: The Painted Nerd
Saturday, 12:30 PM. Two guys have me pinned down in a ravine. Every time I pop my head up, I attract paint from a sniper hiding in the brush above. A periodic barrage of whizzing pellets from an unseen adversary ahead blocks my passage forward. They’ve got me cornered, crouching behind a glorified shrub. Unacceptable.
“Cover me,” I yell to a teammate pinned down behind me, “I gotta go for it, take one of these guys out.” He grunts in affirmation as a pellet explodes on the ground in front of him splattering orange paint onto his shoe. I can’t tell who he is—under the masks we all look the same—but I know that he’s about to cover my ass. We’re dudes and that’s what dudes do for each other in paint-war.
In the moment before I crouch-run out into the open, I remember the previous night. Wish I’d had a dude to lay down a barrage of cover fire for me then. To distract the enemy while I extricated myself from a tight spot, evaded an attack of a different kind.
Friday, 7:30 PM. I’d had the fantastic idea of getting three female-type friends together for dinner. Let’s call them A, E, and G. Individually, A, E, and G are three of my favorite people. It stood to reason that hanging out with all three amazing individuals at once would be three times the fun. Sometimes my decision making is flawed.
Don’t get me wrong: at first, the dinner went well. Better than well. A, E and G had met before, but never really spent much time together. Watching these three intelligent, strong, independent women get to know each other over bottles of wine and overpriced appetizers brought me much delight. The conversation sparkled, laughter emanated from the table in waves. The other people in the restaurant envied our good humor. Either that or they were annoyed at all the laughing. I didn’t care. I was having fun as I swigged my Malbec and congratulated myself on a successful foray into social match making.
It all started to go wrong around the second bottle of wine. A turned to E and G. “Which girl from Sex in the City do you think Michael is?” she asked.
“Oh,” said E while sizing me up, “He used to be a Miranda. Totally Miranda. Now maybe more of a Samantha.”
“Maybe. Definitely not Carrie, though,” laughed G. The other two joined her in laughter.
“I think he’s Charlotte,” said A. The other two looked at her for a moment. “Just kidding!” More laughter.
Having never seen Sex in the City, I had no idea what they were talking about. But it seemed harmless enough. It seem harmless until A turned to me. “Michael,” she said, “We’ve been wondering why you’re still single.”
Me: Huh? When? When were you wondering this? You guys don’t even know each other.
G: Just now.
Me: But you were talking about Sex in the City. (All three laughed.) Wait, you weren’t talking about Sex in the City? Because it sounded like you were. (More laughter.)
E: Seriously, we think you’re great. So what gives?
G: He’s scared.
A: Yes he is. Michael, you are such a wimp.
E: I think he’s just too picky.
A: True that, sister.
Me: Whoa, hang on. What’s happening here?
I didn’t need them to answer. I already knew. I could see it in the way they all turned toward me at the same time. My wonderful, intelligent, charming friends had merged, Voltron-like, into a single entity bent on my destruction. Or at least on affectionately mocking me. But that’s not as dramatic.
They laughed again. My eyes shot around the restaurant seeking something that would distract them, derail the course of the conversation.
G: We want
A: you to be
G, A and E: You just have to stop being a wuss and man up when you’re interested in something.
I had to fight back. I used the only weapon in my arsenal: “Stop. Stop right now or I will blog about this!”
For a moment, I thought it would work. I thought their unity would splinter at the threat of showing up in this blog. Instead, they just laughed again. E spoke through her chortles: “We know you will. You’ll probably say something about us merging into Voltron. But you’ll make it a word.”
“Yeah,” continued G, “Like ‘Voltron-like.’ And you’ll make some ham-handed war analogy.”
“Ooooh, yes,” said E, picking up the thought, “You’ll say we had you pinned down in a conversational ravine.”
“No I won’t! That’s stupid! And predictable!”
“Yes you will. You’re lying. I can tell because you licked your lips,” said A. “And,” added G, “the corners of your mouth pulled up a little. That’s the other he does when he’s lying.” “Yes,” finished E, “you have your lying face on. Definitely.”
Of course, they were right. They had me pinned in a conversational ravine from which I had no hope of escape. They knew my every move before I made it. And, really, maybe they were just being helpful and having fun. But then why did I feel so attacked? Maybe it was my insecurities coming out to play. Maybe the fact that these people knew me so well made me feel all vulnerable and gushy, stripping away my thin veneer of male pride. On the one hand, I was glad to be among friends and filled with happyaffectionjoy. On the other, I wanted to strangle them. It was all rather confusing.
Back in the real ravine on Saturday, there is no confusion. “On three,” I yell. “One, two, THREE.” My teammate starts popping off paint rounds in the general direction of our enemy. Covered, I scramble out into the open, letting loose with a barrage of my own pellets. For a moment or two, I think it worked. Then the pellets thwack into me coming from a guy who had been lying in wait. Four or five of them, bursting against my arms, chest and helmet. They sting a little. Just enough to let me know I’ve been hit.
“I’m out,” I yell, raising my paint gun over my head. Just like that, the attack stops. “Good luck,” I call to my teammate as I walk off to the side. He nods at me. One dude saluting another dude on the field of paint battle. Simple. Rules. No confusion. Respect. Fun. Awesome.
Then another few pellets hit me. “I’m out, dammit. I’m out.” Laughter from the brush.
featured image credit: ToniVC