I tend to be myself. Even if I have to admit I don’t understand something or I’m confused or lame in some way. In fact, I can be downright embarrassing.
I also have a competitive streak. I want to measure up if I can. Stand up for myself. Show confidence.
Years ago, when our kids were small and our lives were crazy with diaper bags and grade school art projects and dance lessons and t-ball and Disney movies playing all day long, I found myself away for a week at an executive training course. It was kind-of a treat to stay in a nice hotel and hang out with adults. This leadership training was mostly geared toward “high potentials”. People there were movers and shakers. Competitive, like me.
As part of an introductory exercise on the first day of class, they went around the room and each person was expected to say something interesting about themselves. As I listened to each person describe their lives, I felt myself slinking down into my chair.
“I’ve been training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro…” the first guy offered.
“I’m a distance runner, and I’ve just completed my 5th Boston Marathon…” added the skinny blonde with the amazing skin.
“I jump out of planes…”
“I swim with sharks…”
I kept trying to think of cool hobbies or activities I did….and I couldn’t think of a single thing. We used to be interesting. We used to ski and sail. We used to travel. We used to be cooler.
Now we just did kids. We drove a minivan. We lived in a tract home. We carried diaper wipes everywhere we went, and we used them. All day long. There was no time for anything else. No time for mountain climbing. Or marathons. Or shark swims.
The pressure mounted as my turn to speak drew closer.
Should I make something up? I thought to myself. Yeah. These people don’t know me, and I’ll never see them again. Maybe the shark thing. Who would question that?
Almost my turn. Starting to feel panicky. Not a good liar. They’ll know. My heart is starting to race. Then…
Pull yourself together, woman! I said to myself. You have an amazing husband and four wonderful children! What are you feeling bad about? You chose this life and you are completely happy! Own it! Show those people you’re a proud little suburban wife and mother!
So I resorted to honesty. But I aimed for charming and witty, too. You know: “Don’t let ’em see you sweat.” Here goes…
“Hi. My name is Kristi, and I have to tell you honestly: as I’ve been sitting here listening to all of your amazing interests and accomplishments, I’ve started feeling pretty intimidated. See, I’m married and my husband and I have four kids under the age of 8. I drive a minivan and I live in the suburbs. And that’s about all my husband and I have time for. Our idea of a good time is putting the kids to bed early, then lying in bed watching adult movies.”
I think I even chuckled at my own charm.
Then I realized no one else was chuckling.
Wait. I was honest. And charming. Why were they all staring awkwardly at me with their mouths ajar? All I said was….
OH…MY…GOD. It dawned on me.
“OH, my. That’s not what I meant…” I hurried to explain. “I didn’t mean ‘ADULT’ movies. I meant adult movies. You know: with swearing and bombs blowing up and stuff. Grown-up movies.”
My stunned audience suddenly understood and gave a grateful, collective sigh, followed by haughty laughter. I was, of course, mortified at the realization of what they thought I meant. Not the kind of “cool” I was after.
And all week long, my new friends would recall my introduction as we departed at the end of class. “You know, Kristi, they don’t show the titles on your hotel bill…”
I still believe in being myself. As pathetic as I may sometimes appear. And honesty is the best policy, it’s true. In retrospect, while “swimming with sharks” might have been a cooler answer, the honest answer got more laughs.
And I love a good laugh.