Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Lies my brain tells me

My brain lies to me. It convinces me to talk to attractive members of the opposite sex by promising me that, this time, I will say something intelligent. Only a sentence or two – planning on actually flirting would be like getting myself helicoptered halfway up Mount Everest with nothing more than a set of toothpicks – but it assures me that I will be able to get those sentences out with something approaching dignity. I will not ramble. I will not let words slip out that I didn’t mean to have slip out. I will not ask embarrassing questions. I will stay just long enough for him to make some random appropriate return comment – extra points if it’s not about the weather – and then I will gracefully make my exit.
Occasionally, I’m dumb enough to listen to these promises and actually try to talk to some random attractive guy. At this point, my brain laughs like the most annoying child in elementary school and sits back to enjoy my abject humiliation.
This is especially horrible for those of us who make our living with words, who pride ourselves on wrangling the slippery little things well enough that someone is willing to pay us to do the job. We know a thousand words for every occasion, and can tell you the subtle differences between two of them that mean one of them is the lightning while the other is just the lightning bug (Mark Twain – look it up). But when it comes to the moment we actually need the words, when they’re a climber’s rope instead of pieces on a chess board, we’re as hopelessly lost as someone who doesn’t even speak the language.

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