Friday, May 22, 2015

Damn Glad to Meet You

[My latest South Roanoke Circle Article!]

So Tim and I were grocery shopping when a man came up to us. He reached in to Tim for a hardy handshake and a jovial “How are you man?” Then he made a pivot to me and it was “So great to see you!” and hug time! As he walked away, Tim said, “Who is that guy?” Stunned, I responded, “I thought you knew him.” Baffled, we discussed the odd encounter. Not being the huggiest of people, my embrace of a complete stranger confused both of us. But it was determined that happened because of the Wilton incident.

Months prior, I was happily enjoying an adult beverage at an Oktoberfest party when new attendees arrived. A fellow started talking to us and after a few minutes, I said, “I’m not sure we’ve met before. We’re the McKernans!”

And there was silence. 

Tim and my “new” friend looked at me with disbelief, in the former’s case, and bemusement, in the latter’s. Tim broke the silence with, “Really Katie? That’s Wilton.” It sounds bad, clearly I should have known who he was, but it is even worse when you get all the background. It was Wilton, whose house backed up to our old one on Wycliffe, whose daughter had babysat for an infant Morrigan, and best of all, who I had seen just a few weeks prior at a concert. I had just introduced myself to someone I had known for 14 years. Needless to say, I was without any sort of explanation and completely mortified.

Luckily, Wilton, in addition to all the other things I’ve mentioned, also has a good sense of humor. But the whole encounter left me emotionally scarred, possibly permanently. What I knew definitively, was that I was never ever ever going to have a repeat of that moment. 

Which brings us back to our hug and run friend. Only after his, albeit friendly, accosting in the water aisle, was it clear the damage was so great, I was willing to hug weird guys just to make sure no one ever again found out about a memory lapse.

But it was worth it to hear the varied theories from friends about what was going on here. The more suspicious inquired if we still had our wallets (we did.) There were optimists who found the run in “awesome,” (notsomuch.) Those who looked at the bright side, commenting, “At least he didn’t slap you.” And one of my favorites, and infinitely plausible, the idea that Tim had saved his life at some point in the ER and he was overcome with emotion when he saw him. (I really like the thought but it really doesn’t cover why I had to be involved.)

And then there was the suggestion that struck fear in my heart: he was playing Rejection Therapy.

Basically, it is a game designed to help people overcome the fear of rejection. The main rule, as stated by their website, is that “you must be rejected by another person at least once, every single day.” They go on to elaborate on what counts - “you have to be in a position of vulnerability but allow the respondent to be in a position of power.” The cards include a multitude of suggestions such as “Sit beside a stranger. Strike up a conversation.” and “Challenge a stranger to a game of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock.” 


As an ├╝ber extrovert, just mildly forgetful sometimes, I have no need whatsoever for such a game. But let me tell you, I live in constant terror of it, and the card “Convince a stranger you know them,” catching on. But in the good news department, I’ll never be short hugs.

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