Why are you talking to me? Seriously, why? Because it burns! It burns!

Last night, I put up my Christmas lights. All by myself. Kim, the Cat, helped. Please understand that “helping” means meowing loudly because I moved her precious ottoman and attempting to knock me off the stepladder. “Help! My cat is trying to murder me, and I can’t get up!”

On paper I should be a catch. I’m pretty cute in that I possess a pleasing combination of Type II Diabetes and facial hair that appeals to certain niches of the gay community, your Bears and what-not. I have a wonderful sense of decor –as long as I don’t move ottomans. Plus, I’m really funny and charming once you get to know me.

Key phrase: Once you get to know me. Before that, you must swim a moat of alligators that have a look on their face like they’re trying to digest old string cheese.

While flying back from Ohio this weekend, I was waiting at the gate, secretly hating the gay couple with match-y iPads, match-y shoes, and that match-y cuteness that portends bad sex. Just then, a gentleman approached me from 10:00, an angle that my progressive lenses render more of a Magic Eye poster than actual vision. “Hi,” this person said. I swung a few degrees to see who dare interrupt my hateration. He was a borderline ginger in his mid-30s who met most of the criteria required by the superficial male. He also had nerd glasses. In the words of the late Bill Hicks, “Looks like we got ourselves a reader.”

“Hi,” I said in a voice more suited for a guard in Castle Wolfenstein. Achtung Schweinhund!

“Do you live in Park Slope?” he asked.

I looked at him like he was a clerk at American Apparel asking for my email so they could “send a receipt.” I looked deeply into the right temple of his glasses and said, “Uh, yeah. Why?”

“Oh, I just see you all the time in the C-Town. Mostly on Sunday nights. It’s sort of a thing.”

I gave a deposition into the temple of his Warby-Parkers: “I go to the C-Town a lot. I live across the street.”

“Oh, I live up the hill between 7th and 8th, nearer the Park.” I fought every urge to blurt out, “I know where the Park is, dumbass!” That I didn’t showed remarkable restraint on my part, and I, to paraphrase my therapist, allowed myself the little victory.

Of course, allowing yourself a little victory takes up a measureable amount of time to the outsider. “Well, just wanted to say hello.” And with that, he turned and walked back towards the chairs by the window. I turned, noticed the couple also had match-y watches, and headed to the gift shop to get a souvenir Columbus t-shirt that says “Nothing tips like a cow… Columbus” for my friend Greg because he watched Kim while I was away.

“You should get the yellow; that’s what I have,” suggested a blond pilot with a pilot voice and the teeth to match.

“I look stupid in yellow.”

We boarded the plane.

I didn’t realize that The Reader/Neighbor was striking up one of THOSE conversations until I was seated across the aisle in the exit row from the couple listening to the Flight Attendant explain how to leave in a panic and dish with her new gay BFFs. (The tall one works at a watch store in Times Square, which explains the match-y watches.) I scanned forward and could see The Reader/Neighbor reading. An actual book.

Maybe if I depressurize the cabin, he’ll give me another look.

This has been a problem for a long time and has pretty much guaranteed that whatever chromosomal soup is responsible for my lousy first impressions dies with me. My oldest friend in NYC, Damian constantly has to re-assure me on our walks that people are not giving me the stink eye. “That guy wants you.”

“Really? Why not just smile?”

“Because he doesn’t want to make love to you; he just wants to fuck you.”

“Go figure.” Besides, we all know that if the guy smiled, I would just stand there with my arms akimbo, doing that thing with my eyebrows. More than once I have heard Damian explain to the incredulous about how I was actually quite silly.

“Hmmm. I always just assumed he was an asshole,” say the incredulous.

But, Chris, you were engaged to a woman once, right? Surely that had to begin somewhere.

I was seated in my favorite easy chair in the best coffeehouse in Austin, The Flightpath. Lynda walked over, said hi, and plunked down on the arm of the chair. Her opening line, the most successful opening line ever used on me:

“Did you know that all women’s writing is done with menstrual blood?”

Gentlemen, this is the small-talk bar you have to clear.

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