Monday, July 26, 2010

Wherein I discover a few things about myself

Saturday night I talked books for three hours.

It was that Literary Ladies Night that I mentioned in a previous blog, the one where I said I had to choose my favorite book to share.

I was more than a little nervous about the evening. For one thing, since I'm a true introvert, I'm not a joiner. I'm not a mixer. I have been, all of my life, painfully shy and awkward, and inclined to blurt out things that come out entirely wrong. Maybe that's why I prefer books and writing to social functions -- at social functions there's no such thing as a delete key.

For another, two of the ladies to be at the event were college professors. Okay, so once upon a time I was a college English instructor, but one of these ladies had a master's degree and the other was the proud possessor of a Ph.D. To say that I was psyched out was an understatement of British proportions.

The third reason is that I had offered to bring chicken salad before I remembered that I was a Bad Cook. Sure, it's awfully hard to mess up chicken salad; after all it's just chicken, mayo and loads of sweet salad cubes (chunky relish for all you who reside north of the Mason-Dixon line.) But I'm terribly self-conscious of my cooking.

We wound up with six ladies, with six books, as well as egg-salad sandwiches, hummus and chips, pesto, strawberries and cantaloupe and brownies, plus my chicken salad. Round-robin we went. I was fifth, and glad of it so that I could Monkey-See-Monkey-Do.

Of course I had nothing to worry about. The college profs both brought very accessible stuff -- an English cozy and a book that was an out-of-print memoir that could actually be a targeted at a younger audience. I realized that when they meant favorite books, they meant comfort books -- the things you rested your soul with.

Each book sparked discussions about other books -- and one woman confessed she'd had to plod through WUTHERING HEIGHTS, as she'd felt inclined to slap the characters. It was a refreshing let-your-hair-down sort of evening, with no pretensions and lots of sharing -- and I came away with at least five books I hadn't read, but definitely wanted to after their thumbs-up.

I recommended GODS IN ALABAMA, and read a favorite scene (where Arlene Fleet loses it during a bout of home-sickness in a Chicago Wal-Mart). They all listened, asked intelligent questions, and seemed to be genuinely intrigued by the book.

Oh, and my chicken salad? They went back for seconds.

So yanno what? Maybe I've just been letting the wrong people eat my cooking, and maybe I've been going to the wrong social events. Because I'd go back there in a heartbeat, and I'd bring my chicken salad.


out of the wordwork said...

It sounds like you had a fabulous time (3 hours spent discussing fav books? That alone is made of awesomesauce.)
And I bet you're not that bad a cook at all, Cynthia (I'd totally win the Bad Cook Cook off if there was such a thing on the Food Network)

Patty Blount said...

I really want chicken salad!

I'm glad you had fun and I agree... I think I am drawn to writing more than public speaking for similar reasons.

Years ago, I took a job teaching software - waaaaay outside my comfort zone. It was the best thing I could have done. I'm not paralyzed by the situations like these anymore.

Natalie said...

How fun! I love connecting with other people through books (and chicken salad!) I'm glad the evening went so well for you.

Lickety Splitter said...

I may be your long lost twin. I an more introverted than extroverted even though I can fake it. I can also cook a little something now and then that other people enjoy, but I am never confident that they will or should. I usually worry about feeding other people, no matter the occasion, but I am trying to get over my dibilitating penchant for perfectionism, because I will never do enough cooking to be meet my own standard. Glad you enjoyed your evening out!

Cynthia Reese said...

Nelsa, your kids have survived, so you MUST not be a Bad Cook -- and you're right ... 3 hours about books WAS awesome!

Patty, I can fake it, but I always worry that I'm talking too much or not enough. Having to be a teacher taught me how to get up and run my mouth in public, but, oh, my. It didn't banish the butterflies.

Natalie, it was fun -- and in the south, chicken salad is the chicken soup of the summertime!

Lickety Splitter, I'm beginning to think we're BOTH too hard on ourselves!

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Good for you! Isn't that the way. Events that sometimes scare us the most turn out to be great. I'm happy for you and I'd love your chicken salad recipe. :)

Lickety Splitter said...

Yep Cynthia, I am very hard on myself most of the time. See, I actually tried to let that misspelling of mine go, but I can't. I realized once I posted it, that I should have typed "debilitating" instead of "dibilitating." I am losing my spelling skills :( and that makes me sad, very sad.