Bad At Small Talk

The Rabbit Goes Around The Tree…

My entire 20s are summed up thusly:

I was never going to get the tie tied.

I was standing in my roommate’s bedroom. Not my bedroom. I needed a serious mirror for what I was doing, and I didn’t really have one. My roommate, though, was the kind of person who of course would have a serious mirror in his bedroom. And boy I needed it.

I felt weird about being inside his bedroom, seeing as how he was at work and all and that bedrooms are intensely personal spaces. They’re where you sleep, and I think sleep is about the most intensely personal thing someone can do. I spend a lot of time thinking about sleep. Chances are, if you know me, I’ve visualized you sleeping at one point or another.

So I was an intruder in my roommate’s sleeping quarters. But screw it. I needed the mirror. No, check that. I needed a miracle.

I should have been in the car. On the road already. Leave for things early. Obscenely early. Always, always, always. Drilled into me from my dad. Yes, you’ll get there impractically early (bring a book if you must) nine times out of ten, but that one other time…when there’s a major traffic accident, you have to turn around because you left something at home, you suddenly get explosive diarrhea…you’ll be glad you left at 4 p.m. for a 6 p.m. awards banquet that’s 30 miles up the interstate.

This whole thing had given me an excuse to run out and buy a new suit. Here’s something you don’t know: I look great in a suit. Yes, I’m putting that on the green felt table. I. Look. Fantastic. Yeah, okay, so maybe remnants of a fat childhood make me still refuse to ever be seen shirtless, and my witty asides mask the fact that I really am sort of embarrassed about being the size of the average eighth-grader, and my inability to tan surely does me no favors…screw it. Put me in a suit, and I will go up against any man in any manly challenge of man confidence. I will bench more weight than you. I will uproot that tree stump before you. I will go home with your girl. I will fix the plumbing.

So here’s something else: I can’t tie a necktie.

Through college, where I had to wear a jacket and tie often (long story, not important,) I usually had a trusted friend tie my tie and then, ever so carefully, I would loosen it, loop it over my head and place it in my closet. Then, when it was tie time again, I would put it back on and carefully tighten it up.

No fuss, no muss. And after college, where my tie needs involved three seperate job interviews (all which led to jobs, thanks,) I would find someone to help me muddle through.

But alone, in my roommate’s bedroom, no one is helping me muddle through. My thinking seemed so clear earlier. I would go to the gym, work out to the point of feeling confident and in shape, return home, shave my face and head, shower, throw on my citrusy-smelling adidas aftershave (because when you think personal fragrance, you think adidas,) put on my suit and then simply type “tying a necktie” into Google, become instantly proficient, and then, then, arrive super-early to the university where (after sitting by myself in the parking lot and reading) I would walk into a banquet room full of journalists. I would have worked out, then put on the suit, so I would be radiating confidence, complete confidence, confidence enough to not even worry about the fact that none of these people know me, that even though I have been in their line of work and have worked in buildings with some of them, I’ve never gotten invited to their dinner parties and pub crawls and (at least when it comes to the journalists in their 20s or 30s) their ironic halloween costume parties.

It’s fine, because I am one of the winners, one of the honorees, someone who has single-handedly brought journalistic excellence to our fair state in the past year. And I want to look good and I want to radiate confidence and capability when I am introduced and receive my award, my award for simply being there when something newsworthy happened, and never mind the fact that what happened was terrible enough to make me not sleep, then drink in order to get to sleep, and then just drink whether I could sleep or not…I was going to radiate, dammit, show that I don’t need their dinner parties or their costumes or their grindingly boring conversations on free-vs.-paid content and the future of print and the rise of blogging and blah blah blah blah…

Those “How To Tie A Necktie” diagrams are just as impossible to follow online as they are in real life.

I break down. I fail. Because I know what I must do, and by doing it, I will lose my all-important glow of confidence.

I call my roommate. I ask for Help.

He is not at his office, as I thought he would be. No, no chance slipping in the back door, walking upstairs to his solitary, private office and closing the door while a man two years my junior has to, really, dress me.

No. He is breathing heavily on his cell phone. There are rhythmic whirring sounds in the background. He is at the gym. On the eliptical trainer.

Have you ever walked into a gym wearing a suit?

Bless his heart, he didn’t decide to tie me in the middle of the gym. No, he understands me, understands that I now feel very much like I’ve not accomplished anything, not truly, and that deep down I very much want to be invited to those dinner parties even though I find my job and just about everything surrounding it very mundane and boring and not worthy of off-hours re-hashing.

We go to the lobby.

And there, in the lobby, he places the tie around my neck and goes to work. And I’m sure it looks hilarious, especially because he is tall and I am not, and he is lanky and I am not, and he is in workout clothes and I am in a suit getting a necktie tied by another man in the lobby of a gym and I’m staring alternately at his Adam’s apple and my shoes.

(Okay, and also maybe it occurrs to me that my dad never thought to teach me this sort of thing. Not once. Nor how to make a bed, balance a checkbook, how credit works or how to cook rice. So at the end of the day, it’s not my fault that I am losing the confident glow that I was hoping would floor my colleagues. I can blame my parents.)

Why is he taking so long? Why is he taking so long? Good God, tie the thing already, I need to get on the road, people are staring, I’m sure, the whole night has been shot to hell anyway, it doesn’t need to be perfect anyway and…

“Doug Crise? Is that YOU?”

Of course. It figures. The only thing missing from this was a chance meeting with the mother of the girl I more or less pined for throughout college (and a year after), the girl who I could never get out of The Friend Zone with despite watching her go through dating failure after dating failure with men much more awkward than even myself…

“Oh, wow, it IS you, how are you doing?”

I have a man standing basically crotch-to-crotch with me. That’s about all that’s new on my front. How are you?

“Well, I’m sure you know that [DAD’S NAME REDACTED…ACTUALLY I FORGOT IT] died…”

I did know. He was fit, sinewy in the way that extremely fit older people are, ate perfectly, was a monster raquetball player and didn’t smoke or drink. Heart attack.


We’ve arrived at the Can’t Get Worse part of the tour.

“To a police officer!”


He finishes my tie after something like five hours.

“So what are YOU doing here all nice and dressed up?”


January 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment