Yesterday, I was walking at an outdoor mall with my husband after attending a poetry reading, enjoying a gorgeous spring day, when two guys approached—one with a big fuzzy mike and the other hidden behind a video camera. An introvert’s greatest fear suddenly leap-frogged into my ordinary day. I frowned at them. But the camera was running, so I moderated my frown. I wanted them to know I didn’t want to be filmed, but they already were filming; I decided I didn’t want to look like a nasty woman on film.
“Hi! We’re from a local university. Can I ask you a quick question?” the one with the mike asked. I didn’t answer. He said, “It’s just one question.” I said nothing, feeling like a stalkee and wanting to stalk away, but that camera was staring me in the face with the guy walking in closer and closer. I was a bug under a microscope. With a pin stuck in it. I thought, What if I can’t answer the question? What if I can’t answer it and it’s a very simple question that everyone should know the answer to? Like those quizzes that show how stupid Americans are. What hemisphere is North America in, the north or the south? Uuuuuh. Duuuuuh. Can you name the capital of Iraq? Uuuumm, how many tries do I get?
I squirmed. I wanted to say leave me alone, go away, get that camera out of my face. Unpin me! I thought of how rude people in Michael Moore movies always look. Rude and stupid—throwing up their hands in front of their faces or trying to hurry away, making everything worse, so much worse. I thought, Michael Moore isn’t here; these guys look nothing like Michael Moore—they’re skinny, they’re young. That didn’t help much. I imagined my face on a big screen and people I know saying, “Oh my God that’s wyrdbyrd; how rude and stupid she looks.”
I uncharitably wished it was my husband who had been cornered. But I’m pretty sure he was sidling away, distancing himself. He was probably having similar thoughts, of the male variety: Do I look rude and stupid? Do I look like a Michael Mooree? Oh God let me out of here; unpin me.
“Do you know who Ron Mason is?” the young man asked and further visions of me appearing before the world, a twenty-foot vision of my clueless face in full digital color, floated into my mind.
“No,” I said in a curt voice meant to cover discomfort and insecurity.
“Thank you, that’s all,” he said, and I fled, pondering Ron Mason. With my haphazard attention to the news, and such an ordinary name, he could be anybody: a scientist who’s discovered a cure for cancer; a surprise candidate for president; the leader of the most famous band in the world; someone who’s been on every television in the nation for the past twelve hours after committing an atrocious act. Someone everyone but me has heard of. I asked my husband, Have you heard of him? No, he said. Well there’s that; If I’m stupid, so is he.
Naturally, I looked up Ron Mason. But not right away—not until today; maybe I wanted to pretend I didn’t care. Turns out he’s a film dude and I sighed a little sigh of relief, thinking these must be film students checking if anyone’s heard of their idol. But not too much relief, because then I imagined my face, wearing my new REI sunglasses, the ever-present groove between my eyes, gigantic on a screen in some classroom, and a bunch of eighteen and nineteen year olds laughing gleefully. And oh yeah, I haven’t had my hair done in five weeks.
But that’s my private face, I want to say to the two men, how dare you commandeer it for your own purposes. That’s my private grey hair peeking out at the roots. Unfair, unfair!
I admit to feeling more sympathy for those people who, cornered, appear rude and stupid and, yes, unattractive, in Michael Moore films. It’s a bit delicious when it’s someone else—particularly someone with obnoxious opinions—but not the least bit of fun when it’s you. I mean me.