Social media has created a weird, multidimensional world for nerds like me. Where once, you ended up kicking yourself upon returning home from every social occasion because the retort to something Clever Clogs said over dinner only popped into your head while brushing your teeth, now even the socially inept have opportunities to make witty quips. Without the handicap of a tied-tongue, and the breathing space of being able to compose (and edit) status updates and tweets, even the shyest of the shy can come across as gregarious, funny and sharp. This is why writers love social media. It’s allowed us to connect with other human beings, to actually ‘socialise’ instead of finding a wall to lean against at at parties and hope everyone thinks you’re just cool and aloof and not a pathetic wallflower with no mates.
You! Pathetic wallflower?
Having seen me at my book launch, you might think I’m being disingenuous. Not so. This confession will haunt me forever, but here goes. I was on drugs at my book launch. Not drug drugs, like Bret Eason Ellis, but a little purple pill that makes me brave enough to stop shaking, think (which is important when you’re being interviewed about what you, well er, think) and speak. In essence, I have a way I imagine myself to be before stepping into the limelight, and a way I actually am when confronted by a bunch of strangers staring expectantly at me. The two live on opposite sides of the planet. Until I swallow a beta blocker. An hour later, the funny, smart woman that my friends know kicks the shy butt of the kid who couldn’t ask for ham at the deli counter off the stage. Don’t judge me. I’m not the only writer out there with this prop. When I confessed this to a fabulous famous author friend, she dittoed. And no, I will not out her, so don’t bother asking.
What has this to do with being offered a chair?
Everything. Little purple pills are not a staple in my diet. Like a bottle of Moét, they’re only brought out on very special occasions. Literary festivals. Book launches. Of my own books, obviously. On Tuesday night, at the launch of Charlie Human’s debut novel, Apocalypse Now Now, a young woman crossed the crowded floor of The Book Lounge to tell me how much she loved Sister-Sister. And then, she offered me her chair. I was flabbergasted. Nothing like that has ever happened to me.
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
Yes, okay. People have come up to me a literary events and complimented me on my work, but I was being spotlighted at those times so primed to respond graciously. On Tuesday, the kid who couldn’t ask for ham responded. I didn’t engage with her as I would have liked to. What I did was turn into a beetroot and I may have even thrown my shawl over my head.
Later, when I’d had time to think about all the things I should have said, I looked around and she was gone. I didn’t get to tell her how incredibly touched I am that she read my book and that she told me she loved it. At the very least, I would have liked to ask her name so that I didn’t have to call her a young woman in this post, which makes me sound like a granny and is really disrespectful, considering that she crossed a crowded room to offer a stranger a chair. That’s brave.
Which is the thing I want to tell her, most of all. That I think she’s brave. Braver than I’ve ever been.