Thursday, September 08, 2005

Daddy, where did I come from?

Ever since yesterday I've been pondering my shyness -- why I'm that way, and why it continues to paralyze me after 30 years on this planet, nine of them functioning in the American work force.

This morning I asked my father, "Was I always shy? Even as a kid?" And he replied, "Yeah, pretty much. You know, you're not all that different from me."

I always knew I was not at all like my mother (gregarious, pushy, aggressively affectionate, utterly devoid of shame) but I didn't realize until recent years how much I resemble my father in mostly intangible ways. We're both quiet, introspective and polite. Selective but genuine with affection. Privately sensitive. Smarter and goofier than anyone would expect us to be. We tend to be wallflowers but we do pull out the stops for rare public appearances. And we're creatures of habit, right down to our favorite cereal bowls and the proprietary blend of Kashi and Cinnamon Life with which we fill them. Also we have the same lips, and each of us can cock only one eyebrow. (The left one.) Dad uses this talent for comic effect; On me it's a beacon of warning.

I'm not entirely unlike my mother: I did inherit her competitive streak, her penchant for judgment and her nuturing disposition. We're just talking personality here; It's pretty clear where I got my musical ability and the smile that's unmistakably Mom's. (Her favorite joke: "When you were little I used to try and lose you in the mall, but some kind stranger always stopped me and said, 'This kid looks like she belongs to you.' And I'd say, 'Shit, they found me again.'")

But mostly, on the inside, I'm like my Dad. Which is a relief because there's no one more respectable or likable than my fine and quiet father. Now can I stop flogging myself for being shy?

And you know what else? I may be 30 now, but hey -- I'm only 30, and single. Not a partner, not a parent. Maybe when I have children I'll be forced to step up and speak out for my daughter on the soccer bench or my son who deserves a bigger part in the school play. ("Jewish husband? Go back and demand a speaking part!" I love that joke -- it's funny 'cause it's true.) For 30 years I've had nobody to speak for but least when my mother wasn't around to do it for me. Just last week, before I could utter even one consonant, she instructed the waiter at Asia Bistro to prepare Kung Pao chicken to my exact specifications.

With a mouthpiece like that, who needs chutzpah?

1 comment:

Meredith Soffrin said...

Very funny...and a lovely specimen of writing a la David Sedaris: "Dress Your Children in Neuroses and Trepidations."