The reason you know that you, without any doubt at all, are amazing is because I am ignoring you. I’ll prove it—right now, look at me. See? I won’t make eye contact with you. In fact I am planning my exit because your sheer fabulousness is overwhelming. Don’t feel badly about it, because I will do that exact same thing to Tobias Menzies when and if I ever cross paths with him and don’t you feel special being in the same boat as Tobias Menzies? When is the last time you could ever say, “I was treated exactly the way Tobias is treated”? Now you can. You’re fucking WELCOME.
Speaking on behalf of the functionally shy: interacting with people makes us nervous. Not as nervous as tree full of machete-wielding spiders, but absolutely not remotely as relaxing as a baby sloth holding a winning lottery ticket. I am a hot mess at any gathering of two or more people. My inability to navigate social situations with grace and my tendency to confuse charming with loud guarantee that I leave a lot of people wondering “WTF? Was I talking to a T-Rex wearing false eyelashes? How the hell does a T-Rex even put ON false eyelashes?” It’s not entirely my fault. I have to talk that loudly to hear myself over my inner monologue. “Is this how people talk to each other? Did I say that correctly? Have I already told this story? OMG SHUT UP SHUT UP YOU ARE SCARING PEOPLE. I wonder if I have food on my boobs. How can I check without looking like I’m checking for food on my boobs?*” Needless to say, maintaining narcissism at this advanced level takes dedication and training, and you should not attempt it without stretching first and consulting with a stunt coordinator. I’m a professional. Ignoring you is just easier. For both of us.
*For the record there is no way to check for food on your boobs without looking exactly like you are checking for food on your boobs. Doing this brings everyone’s attention to the fact that you’re the kind of person who cannot get through a meal without getting food on her boobs. I don’t really mind boob attention, but not the attention where people are wondering “Is that a chunk of fish or is she wearing a nametag? I can’t tell.” It’s likely a fish chunk, particularly if the special was mahi.
What I’m saying is, I’m ignoring you because I have a complicated relationship with one of my favorite books, A Wrinkle In Time. “It was a dark and stormy night.” With that borrowed, sly sentence, Madeline L’Engle busts out a mindbender of a book that I first read when I was six and have read since then (according to math) a whole bunch of times. The story introduces the adventures of the extraordinary Murry family. The Murry parents are brilliant scientists, and the father’s experiments in physics have imprisoned him on a hostile planet. Sister and brother dream team Meg Murry and Charles Wallace Murry -along with their friend Calvin- work to save him and the Earth from evil forces while establishing interplanetary diplomatic relationships and learning to time travel. And they get their homework done and make it back in time for dinner. It was all stuff that looked great on their college applications.
Me: I’m here about the Murry family opening?
Recruiter: Great! Skillset is assertive, bold, and confident
Me: Butterflies startle me
Recruiter: Thanks for coming in
As much as I wanted to be, I just wasn’t Team Murry material. The core competencies I brought to the table were ‘awkward’, ‘jumpy’, and ‘big vocabulary’, but damned if Madeline L’Engle hadn’t covered that too. Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit are the book’s friendly space warrior versions of MacBeth’s three witches. Non-Earthling veterans of the ongoing war against darkness, they manifest in absurd physical personas to recruit the intrepid Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin into battle. The ladies are depicted as having as great fun choosing their human characteristics-wacky clothes, crazy hats. I had a particular affinity for the bookish, quiet Mrs. Who. She prefers hanging back from the crowd, carefully observing the people around her, and communicates in quotations because she finds it a challenge to articulate her thoughts. YUP. You go, gurl. More accurately, shrink into the background and never directly approach people you really want to get to know but can’t bring yourself to talk to, gurl.
Me: Do you have any other openings?
Recruiter: Are you good at math?
Me: (tap dances)
Recruiter: I hate this job
I’d never read a book that legitimizes quirky characters the way A Wrinkle In Time does. Madeline L’Engle is incredibly nurturing of eccentricities. Mrs. Who isn’t flashy, and she isn’t spunky, the way most of the female protagonists I was familiar with from kid’s books were. Nancy Drew? I’m looking at you with your shiny convertible and your hair that was always perfect EVEN THOUGH YOU DROVE A FUCKING CONVERTIBLE. Laura Ingalls Wilder, I’m looking at you too. Way to conquer the frontier and all but if you’d dropped me on the prairie with nothing more than a wagon and a calico apron I’d be dead in a week. Mrs Who doesn’t fit the mold, any mold. She’s very much her own being, but it’s her insight and advice-and that classic smart nerd accessory, her gleaming, glinting spectacles-that allow Meg to retrieve her father from his prison on the evil planet Camazotz. She makes her contribution because of who (GET IT) she is, not in spite of it. (DID YOU SEE THAT SUBTLE PRONOUN JOKE)
Me: I can make pronoun jokes
Recruiter: Um, thanks
Me: I do observational humor on all parts of speech
Recruiter: We’ll keep your resume on file
As a now fully formed adult introvert, I recognize that 1. I don’t have alien time-travel powers that allow escape from social interactions and 2. Cave dwelling as a hermit isn’t a good option for me because I prefer indoor plumbing and indirect rock lighting does not flatter my complexion. Therefore, I occasionally have to do an impression of a person with good social skills. I do my best, but usually I end up in a corner, propping up a wall like a well-accessorized load-bearing column, watching all the people I’d love to meet and talk to in conversation circles that appear both Alqonquin-y and Round Table-y. Trying to keep it cool makes me a little twitchy, and I know I’m prone to conversational blunders. I’m just trying to figure out the rules on this planet. It takes me a while to work up my nerve. When that happens, I’m likely to appear in front of you, quote something obscure, hand you something shiny, and leave before you have chance to respond. Honestly, it’s all I can manage. It means you’re totally fucking amazing.
As talented as I am at making up shit to worry about, I’m not worried that I will ever have to avoid Tobias Menzies in person. He doesn’t follow me on Twitter, we live in different countries, and he’s not invited to Thanksgiving at my sister’s this year. Frankly, it’s a relief. He’s clearly smart, funny, and British, and that is too much for me to process coherently in public. But I swear, if by chance I ever sit next to him on a plane, I am going to ignore him. I am going to ignore him so hard.
Puppybait me all you want, I’m not making eye contact
Explore the ways Tobias Menzies can entertain you here.