Thursday, November 29, 2007

Three little words

Sis and Mr. Sis are going to a local casting call, this week, for the next edition of The Amazing Race--with their love of world travel, it's something we've long encouraged them to try. What the hell, right? Project Runway and TAR are pretty much the only competitive reality shows I bother to watch, the latter precisely because there are no weird manufactured conflicts or elaborate backstabbing alliances to be had. They take teams of two people with a preexisting relationship--couples, siblings, parent/child--and simply observe what happens with that dynamic when they send people out on a high-speed global trek. The primary objective is to get there, fastest; the fascination comes in watching people thrown into utterly alien environments and cultures, given vaguely culture-relevant tasks, and just trying to cope with it.

There is, unfortunately, always a lot of Ugly Americanism on display. There's also virtually always a team of blonde ladies who vow to get ahead in their round-the-world journey by relying on their sex appeal. Flirting! Flirting and bikinis will ease their every path! Each season, someone voices this intent, and each season these interchangeable hardbodies run into the inevitable wall when they discover that, for example, the camel you're trying to milk doesn't give two shits if you're a smoking hot blonde. That's entertainment! Of course, the people you actually root for are the ones who Get It: the teams who are appropriately awestruck and humbled and thrilled by the opportunity. They're polite in the face of exhaustion; they bother to engage with merchants and musicians and schoolchildren; they look at little kids emerging from a trash-built shack in some devastated corner of the Third World, and are affected--you can see them visibly respond, see them thinking "there but for the grace of God," see them realize that, in the long run, a million-dollar cash prize and a jetski or whatever are not, exactly, the point. Then, too, the best competitors have a pretty good sense of this before they embark, and recognize the race for the extraordinary gift that it is. In that way, I think Sis and Mr. Sis have as good a shot as anyone. Plus they're thinking that her shattered, rebuilt, bionic ankle could be their "hook."

Anyway. So they're filling out their applications in advance, and Sis was running some of the questions past me. One asked what three words you'd use to describe yourself, and then your partner. "Maybe not use 'litigious,' in this particular capacity," I teased her. But we spent a while trying to come up with something. We both independently said "determined," for Sis, and "loyal" for Mr., which seems significant, doesn't it? One I thought of, later, was "competitive." Sis, if you're reading this, you gotta put that down, girl. You have never in your life been able to walk away from a Scrabble board or a $5 bet, admit it!

"Okay, do me," I said, genuinely curious. "What three words describe me?" Sis stood at the edge of the abyss for a while, thinking.

MENSA intelligent, she started with. And I feel an obligation, dear reader, to point out that that is two words, there, because as a component of my brilliance, I can count!

Sarcastic. Okay. Not gonna argue with that one, either.

But then she hit me with the kicker: Intimidating. And all I could say was, really? You sincerely find me intimidating, in the slightest? Because I don't know what I'm conveying, I honestly don't...but still 99.4% of my time I am purely convinced that just below the surface of my skin, I'm a hugely insecure terrified giant baby, virtually every minute of every day. I am round and soft and awkward. I laugh often and too loudly. I have a penchant for lurid, inappropriate red shoes. I spent a significant portion of this week's therapy session debating the nuances between "childish" and "childlike," both terms I readily apply to my overall demeanor. Intimidating?

Sis is one of the bravest people I know. She punched a mugger in the face. I am...utterly flabbergasted, frankly, at her choice of words for me...because it has not ever, does not ever occur to me in any moment that I am remotely intimidating, to her or anyone. It sure as hell isn't conscious.

Intimidating. Actually, this isn't the first time I've been told this. Poor Holly, getting dragged into this again: we were teens, and I was lamenting my single dorkitude. Oh, how I longed for a shaggy-haired, marble-mouthed high school boyfriend of my very own! And I remember her telling me that I was, so something, that maybe guys found me intimidating. Well. I...despaired, then, I guess. Because, again: quailing in internal terror, 24/7. Smart, I couldn't help; intimidating, I apparently couldn't turn off, no matter how I willed it.

Twenty years later. Intimidating. And, for the record, single--not for the intervening two decades, thank God for small favors...but for damn long enough, I'm sure. not know what to say, in the face of that. All out of words, tonight.


Mrs. Mr. Sis said...

Oh, we are so not going to be on The Amazing Race. When it came down to the 60 second taping of team "Braun and Brain" putting their best feet forward, Mr. and Mrs. Sis totally blew it and froze in front of the camera a la Cindy Brady. Man those lights be bright! Anyway, the good news is that we'll never have to eat 2 lbs. of caviar, shoe horses, or unroll giant bales of hay into the wee hours of the morning. The bad news is, we won't get to meet Phil.

chicklegirl said...

Loved this post. I never found you intimidating, but maybe because I had also carved out my own little claim to dorkitude. That, and your incredible intelligence is tempered with a generosity of spirit and wise humor.

All I can say is, hold out for the one who isn't intimidated. It may take a while, but it's worth the wait. I remember when I met Jim, our friends teasingly said we were a match made in study hall. Exactly. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Oh, and your sister punching a mugger--I went back to read that post and wow. Go girl.