Wednesday, November 28, 2018

COLUMN: Ladies Night

For as much time as I spend with them, my electronic devices certainly don't seem to know me very well.

You may have read my recent discovery that Facebook thinks my top interests include "ice," "cod," and "gay bars." My Amazon Echo ignores me until I start screaming "Alexa!" at it like a scolding parent. And now I've discovered another technological wonder that doesn't understand me in the slightest: Netflix.

For the past few weeks, every time I log onto Netflix, it's been constanly recommending that I watch an unending stream of dumb cringe comedies. You know, movies where nerdy losers do embarassing stuff and I'm supposed to find it endlessly funny.

Why is it funny to watch the embarassment of others? America's Funniest Home Videos has been on the air since the dawn of time, and it's basically nothing but people falling on their faces, taking shots to the groin, or dancing like nobody's watching (or filming.) And it's usually pretty funny. WHY?

Embarassing moments are great fun to watch -- unless they happen to you. I still remember that one time when I gave my crush a necklace for Valentine's Day and she responded by yelling "Eww!" and pretending to vomit. I'm pretty sure I'm still emotionally crippled from that moment and I'm also pretty sure it happened when I was ELEVEN. To this day, if I'm daydreaming and an embarassing memory pops up, I'll literally hear a voice in my head going, "LET'S CHANGE THE SUBJECT."

I'm an adult now, and at my age, you're not really supposed to care what others think of you. But let's be honest -- there's a small part of my brain that keeps a 24/7 vigil worrying if people are secretly pointing and laughing at me behind my back. This is pretty silly considering my silly job is to write a silly column that I sincerely hope you all point and laugh at.

Some might say I have a lack of self-confidence. I say I have an over-abundance of self-awareness. Specifically, the awareness that my particular self is prone to moments of extreme embarassment.

Take the other day, for instance. I was leaving work on my lunch hour and heading out to my car. Being the important deep thinker that I am, I was reflecting on a work problem I had just solved, wondering how I could fix another, curious where the nearest mailbox was so I could mail a card to my dad, pondering how long it takes mail to get from East Moline to Galesburg, complaining internally about the weather, reminding myself to stop for gas, and trying to decide what I wanted for lunch. That's when my thoughts were rudely interrupted by two immediate realizations:

(1) There was a very attractive woman walking just a few paces behind me that I hadn't noticed, and
(2) I was singing. Out loud. Loudly. With both volume and passion.

It also must be noted that I can't sing. Well, apparently I CAN sing -- just very, very, VERY poorly.

The fact that I was subconsciously singing out loud was embarassing, sure, but explainable. I am, after all, a huge music nerd with 30 years of DJ experience who works part time at a record store for fun. I've been exposed to a whole lot of songs over my years, and music is constantly going through my head. The average human brain can store roughly 2.5 petabytes of memory. That's 250,000,000 gigabytes -- the ultimate flash drive. Each of us has the capacity to remember literally hundreds of thousands of songs -- and I reckon I'm about out of room.

And out of those hundreds of thousands of songs swirling around in my subconscious, the jukebox in my brain chose that day and that hour to select: "Ladies Night" by Kool and the Gang. And not just any PART of "Ladies Night," mind you. No, the moment that I snapped to and realized I was having an a cappella solo karaoke jam session while in close proximity to another human was just one moment AFTER I had just emotionally and entirely subconsciously belted out, "Mmm, SOPHIS-TI-CA-TED MAMA! Come on you disco lay-day!"

Strangely, my attractive new friend did NOT offer me her number. All I could do was sheepishly mutter, "Excuse me," while trying to walk professionally to my car as though I hadn't just staged an impromptu one-man salute to disco in the parking lot. 

I'm pretty sure she pointed and laughed, if only internally.  But who knows? Perhaps my reassurance that she was a sophisticated mama was just the boost of self-confidence she needed to make it through the day. Maybe I was doing her a public service.

All I know is that I got to my car and strangely didn't feel like I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide forever. Instead, I just laughed a whole lot, which felt way better than shame. I'm an embarassing weirdo a lot of the time, sure. But I think I'd be disappointed in myself a little if I wasn't. When I worked in downtown Moline, there was a guy who would walk his dog around the neighborhood, always with a pair of headphones on, and always belting out songs like he was auditioning for American Idol. And you know what? That dude always had a smile on his face.

Life's too short to spend it constantly worrying what others think about you. If some girl thinks I'm a weirdo because I had an uncontrolled disco moment in a parking lot, oh well. If Facebook thinks I'm a fan of cod and gay bars, let them. If Netflix is convinced that I like stupid teen movies... well, Netflix is probably right -- those movies are awesome.

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