Humor by Michael Showalter

A few thoughts on social anxiety.

I'm not what you'd call the life of the party. In fact, more often than not, I'm not even at the party. I'm at home with my wife and my cats, puttering about the house, watching television, eating a snack, reading a book or hand-painting small figurines of 17th century French peasants.

And the reason that I'm not at the party is not because I don't like parties. Or maybe I do like parties, but I don't people. But let's be honest, parties aren't much fun without people there.

Then again, I've never been to a party where no one was there. It's sort of a tree-falls-in-the-woods type scenario. "If a party is happening, but no one is there, is it a party?"

So let's say, I am at a party. Let's say it's a cocktail party. Granted I don't think I've been to a cocktail party since the mid-'60s, which is doubly weird because I wasn't even alive then. But still, let's just say I'm at one.

Now, inevitably there comes a time where I will find myself standing with other people -- let's call them acquaintances. And we're in a semicircle. I'm the one clutching my beverage tightly, as though it were supplying me with blood and oxygen, as though if I were to drop it or put it down I might collapse or disappear or melt like the Wicked Witch of the West.

And we're talking. And each person in the semicircle has a well-formulated and well-articulated point of view on whatever subject is being bandied about. Let's call it "the news of the day." And as the discussion lurches forward, and I rummage through my psyche searching desperately for something constructive and enlightening to contribute to the conversation, I began to feel progressively smaller and smaller. Because, like that character Morales in the Broadway musical "A Chorus Line," "I feel nothing". And I think to myself: "What is wrong with me? Why don't I have a well-formulated and well-articulated position about health-care reform? Why don't I have a unique perspective that will elicit impressed guffaws from my counterparts standing with me in this semicircle?"

So while we all stand in our semicircle, clutching our beverages, discussing the news of the day, these people see a grown man (me), in wide whale corduroys, a grey rag wool sweater, and a red-and-blue-striped turtleneck, clutching his beverage, nodding, like a common buffoon, seemingly alert, seemingly "plugged in," but he is not there. He is crumbling inside -- not unlike a scone or a soda cracker (I've been trying to for years to fit "soda cracker" into a sentence). He is a shell. Because he is not paying attention any longer, he is lost in an existential crisis about the nature of his own identity. And when I say "he," I mean "me."

And then it's my turn to talk and all I can think of to say on the subject of health-care reform is "Well you know, this is a real hot-button issue."

Obviously, it's not perfect, I'll be the first to admit it, but it will do. It should be just enough to get by -- however -- when I do finally speak, what comes out of my mouth is not, "Well, you know this is a real hot-button issue," but instead, "Well, you know, this is a real hot-bushon issue." Hot-BUSHON issue. I fumbled the words! I meant to say "button" but instead I said "bushon."

It is a decidedly awkward moment. My semicircle counterparts have to bite their lower lips so as not to break out into gales of laughter ("Can you believe that buffoon in the wide whales and the rag wool sweater said 'bushon' instead of 'button.'? Hahahahaha!")

I spend the rest of the night, the next morning, all of the next day, and well into the week wishing desperately that I hadn't said "bushon" when I meant to say "button."

Humor & Satire

Humor & Funny Stories - Hot-Button Issue

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