High School

Trumpet stage fright and boys that know too much.

I am one that does not shy away from the dramatics or from performing. Rather, I love the limelight, the spotlight, the attention.

I bask in it… in the theatrical sense.

When it comes to reality, my awkwardness still hasn’t ebbed away, even after all of this hard work. If I know how to handle a social situation, sure, I will be little miss performer. But when it starts to go south – and oh, if you don’t know me very well yet, it will – I’ll blubber and blurt things out and spend three days analyzing why, oh why, did I read a poem to that guy? Or why did I show him a story that I wrote three years ago? I mean come on, old, nostalgic writing? That’s almost as bad as serenading “Wonderwall” on the Quad. I didn’t even mean for it to come off like that, I just wanted to read this really cool thing but now he’s probably afraid that I’m going to fall in love regardless of the test of time or some shit like that – I read you my favorite vignette, NOW WE ARE DESTINED TO BE TOGETHER. 

However, something I was always terrified to do was perform a trumpet solo. In high school, we did this absolutely horrid solo contest that was part of our honors credit or something or other. The schools in the area always came together for this. Anyway, because I am the shameless overachiever that I am, I always did this solo contest. It was for the state of Illinois and some of my friends were really good, and, maybe I’m okay in a full band setting, but I was the saddest thing you ever did see when it came to soloing.

I attribute this to when I had my Whiplash moment during my freshman year of high school. No, fortunately, I did not have a band director that shouted obscenities to my face (thanks for that, Mr. K). It was that moment, you know what I’m talking about, when (SPOILER) Miles Teller goes on stage and they’re playing “Upswingin'” because Fletcher totally wants to tank Andrew’s career and Miles just is miserable on stage playing whatever he could.

My moment like that came when I had a three note solo my freshman year in some piece I can’t remember the name of, but it was famous, like, where I feel like I discredited the composer with this botched note. It was in front of the whole auditorium, too, for the spring concert. It was loud and it was wrong. I cried right there in my seat for the rest of the concert – why hide the atrocity that I had just committed? The audience was now publicly privy to my horror and shame.

Since then, whenever some hopeful soul looks me in the eyes as I start to play alone, I almost wish that I had a written apology that I could just hand to them. It’s like when people want me to sing and I say “No, you don’t want to hear that.” They laugh and they tease because they know that I am sensitive, but then I look them straight in the eye and say, “No, really, it’s just going to make everyone feel uncomfortable and bad.” Then their smile starts to wane and they don’t know whether to half-heartedly laugh or look away in discomfort.

The worst, however, was when my high school hosted the solo contest. Or it was like something where Mr. K felt the need that we had to have our own solo contest…? There were like two contests per year or something… this like at least six years ago since I think it was my sophomore year, so my brain is a little fuzzy on the details. Point being, it was at our school. We had to perform in front of a few judges and anyone else who wanted to watch. I needed to find a piano accompanist. I decided to go against my previous choice of the choir director since she was my accompanist for my painfully terrible rendition of “I Enjoy Being A Girl” as my audition piece for the musical. (Fun fact, I was never in the musical despite another try two years later, singing “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” as my audition piece. I was, however, in pit for three years). After that shameful performance, I couldn’t bring myself to ask her.

So, I decided to ask the most talented kid in school. Let’s call him Shawn.

I have known Shawn since Kindergarten and he is this day and age’s Leonardo DaVinci. He can do everything. Draw? Perfect renditions of cats that he would give to my AP Euro teacher. Sports? Any and all of them, especially baseball while babysitting my teacher’s kids. Smart? A 95% would have been mediocre to him. Attractive? Had the biceps of one of Michaelangelo’s angels and fiery red hair… that he managed to make look Godly.

I never really had a full blown crush on Shawn, though, despite the fact that I get a crush on about 98% of the men I end up becoming friends with (so if you ever get confused at my behavior, new guy friend, please just know that I am going through my weird… motions in my head. Don’t worry, I’ll stop telling you to listen to this one song soon enough). Sure, I found him attractive. Sure, I had imagined getting a pizza date with him. But… eh. I viewed him as competition. That was a more pressing matter to me rather than ooh! A BOY!

So, because he was the perfect, celestial-like candidate for my gleaming rendition of whatever solo it was that year that I decided to choose, I mustered up the courage and asked him. He, of course, being the suave gentleman that he was, agreed to do it. He respected our history, and for that, I commend him.

I respect him even further for how he handled my behavior when the doom-filled day came.

My solo was so bad that I didn’t even finish it. My notes were shaky, my pulse sweaty, I felt like I was going to PASS OUT. I sobbed and heaved and I RUINED my chance to show to Shawn that, yes, I could be more TALENTED than him. It was a mind game that I had created, and I ruined it for myself.

For the rest of high school, despite knowing him since elementary school, whenever I passed him in the halls, I looked down and shuffled and thought of all of those years of building up to some contest that was never going to happen. Instead, I imagined that he saw the gross, over-exaggeratory side of me that all too many have seen.

The point of it, though (and now only in hindsight I see this), is that there was never a competition between Shawn and I. I had built it up in my mind because I couldn’t stand the thought of having someone – especially a boy – be smarter or more talented than me. Well, let me ring up the Doctor in the TARDIS and travel me back through space and time to visit myself because, kid, there will be people who are better at things than you. That does not mean that you’re not worthy, though.

So, now whenever I find my match, my competitive equal, my rival in abilities, I do my best not to cry. Maybe I get close, maybe I get high-strung. Maybe it’s while I’m filming or I’m trouble-shooting in the editing labs. I’ll subconsciously go back in my mind to that time when I embarrassed myself gloriously in front of Shawn with my shaky trumpet notes. I’ve come to find that I feel like this when it’s during things that I think are important with people that I value. And then I’ll remember that at least, thank God, I’m not trying to do a two-minute trumpet solo in front of people I don’t know. I’m just trying to white balance with a new camera, and sometimes you have to swallow your pride and ask.

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5 Things Claire Won’t Tell You About Flirting (But You Need To Know)

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From my scandalous “Our Town” high school theater days.

So Daily Dot has these two little articles, another one of those online lists about men and women and sex and what not. What do men not know about lady sex? Men and sex, what do women not know? That’s the whole deal.

Now, since my grandma (hi Grandma Mickie!) reads my blog, I am going to refrain from going into the gory details of my… interesting… love life (or many times, lack thereof). However, in the spirit of singlehood and the fact that it is Valentine’s Day and all that romantic stuff, here is another guide to the workings of my brain and my easily flustered heart if I should ever flirt with you.

  • We probably know each other (and we’re probably friends or acquaintances).

This is a habit that I picked up from high school when I first was becoming less afraid of actually talking to guys. I was swimming in a sea of testosterone whenever I went to band and took my place in the trumpet section, so I had to learn to become comfortable with the male presence. I grew to like having a lot of guy friends.

With that, and the nature of my easily-won-over heart, I have become enamored with a series of guy friends over the years. It’s not even that I think that you’re flirting with me. It’s that we had COFFEE or did some ACTIVITY together and WOW you’re a COOL HUMAN that’s a male and ATTRACTIVE and wouldn’t it be nice if we held hands and watched Star Trek together??

I’ll try to hide it as much as I can, but the descent into my self-conscious worrying will overtake my interaction with you…

  • If I am feeling awkward, I will do one of two things: become professional or pet you (fortunately, I no longer will punch you).

So at this point, I have told at least fifteen of my other friends, “Oh my GOSH I think I TOTALLY have a thing for [insert guy friend’s name here]!!” More likely than not, I can hear people sighing and saying, “That’s nice, Claire” through the words on the screen of my phone.

“Poor [so-and-so’s name]…” my mom will sometimes say.

Not that she doesn’t want me to pursue anyone. It’s that she knows what this particular guy is unknowingly in for.

I’ll try to play it cool really really hard with you. I’ll reward myself for every evenly spoken sentence or “haha” in my texts to you instead of “oh haha, how wonderfully droll!!”

But then my mind with begin to atrophy with worry. Why did I say that his shirt clung well? I think to myself after a conversation. That’s totally too noticeable. I can’t afford to be noticeable.

I am notoriously very obvious when I like you. So I try so hard to not be obvious.

What will end up happening is that if you say a cute or funny or nice or flirty thing to me, I’ll laugh, bury my hands in my face, hyperventilate a little, and then pet you. Yes, pet you. Normally on the back or the shoulder. Sometimes I won’t even touch you; it’ll be like air pats near your skin because if I actually do touch you, then I’ll explode or something.

The opposite of what happens, however, is just as bad. I’ll treat you like a fellow colleague in a fictionalized work environment. This is because while growing up, whenever social interaction terrified me, I would retreat to academia.

I’ll ask you about the weather and your family and your homework like we might as well be talking in a cubicle. My texts to you might as well have a letterhead. The worst, however, is if I shake your hand like we just make a business transaction. That’s when I know in my heart that I really can’t overcome my own flustered nature, so why not shake your hand?

I used to be a bit rougher than I am now and would actually punch crushes or shove them out of chairs. It was like I was enacting some elementary school playground routine that I didn’t live out until I was sixteen.

  • Words don’t really work too well. And my texts to you become weird.

I touched on this slightly in the previous blurb, but this awkwardness becomes more prevalent as time goes on. I eventually will start my “double-texting” paranoia and I will soliloquy whenever I see you. I’ll cater my ranting to something that you’re interested in, like Star Wars or Arcade Fire or some form of sports and I’ll leave no space for you to respond since, well, I figure that if I do the talking for the both of us, then I don’t need to worry about what I’ve said and what you will say since I must’ve said something embarrassing anyway.

  • I will actually face plant on the floor and crawl away if it isn’t going to well.

God forbid I actually tell you how I feel about you. If you should ever reach this point with me, then I apologize. I apologize to those who have experienced this.

I’ll make sure to do this in person because if I do this in a text, it will be in the form of a fifteen-paragraph essay, many of it trying to explain my neuroses.

I will say at least five times, “Let me know if you feel uncomfortable! And it’s okay if you don’t feel the same way!” because I really don’t want you to feel off-put by me, even though it would probably be best if I said it once and didn’t keep bringing up being uncomfortable.

When I do actually tell you that I like you, I’ll whisper it or I won’t actually say it because I don’t want to believe that I am exposing myself the way that I am. I want to pretend like if I can’t hear myself say it, then you never will know what I am even saying.

Normally, I’ll joke about it and say some silly thing and most of the time you’ll be really understanding and tell me that either you’re interested or that you aren’t for different sorts of reasons.

My reactions range from being bashful and giggly to asking you why or why not so that I can add to my mental list of my social behavior to falling on the floor and crawling away. I will just go down like a tree being chopped. It doesn’t matter where – it could be in a normal room or somewhere as public as a bar. And this will be the one time where I actually am not thinking of the sanitary texture of the floor.

  • I will friendzone myself, but in the end, I am okay with this (and a lot of the time, it’s what I want anyway).

Normally after these experiences, I will give myself some time to cool down. I’ll back off for your sake or for my sake or for both of our sakes. I’ll focus on my life with my friends and family and school and work and go back into a normal sort of routine. I have a lot going on, so it’s easy for my mind to swim around with all of the things of life, man.

And then, happily more times than not, we’ll circle back around. We’ll laugh it off or we won’t even bring it up. We’ll catch up and we’ll have a good time talking. A lot of the time, we’ll become friends, the kind of friend that knows that even if you go into my heart and I become flustered, I won’t get you out of my mind. Because you’ll be important to me regardless of what happens.