The Glorious Awkwardness, in Which 26 Letters are Arranged in Praise of Being Ourselves
(A response to a prompt from Jon Batiste, who said as he accepted his Oscar, all musicians work with “the same twelve notes.”)
One evening in Evanston, Illinois, I went to a small gathering at my friend Linda’s place. I remembered what her elegant home looked like, so I didn’t bother to look at house numbers when I parked my car on the street. In fact, I was so sure I had the right house, I knocked lightly and walked right in the front door.
I called out “Hello! Linda?” and started looking around at the colorful art in the foyer. It didn’t look familiar. A petite, white woman appeared. My friend, Linda, is tall and Black. It turned out it wasn’t Linda’s house.
“Hello,” the stranger said warmly. “I’m Anya. Are you looking for Linda? She lives down the block.”
Embarrassed, I said, “Oh, my gosh, I just waltzed right into your house and it’s the wrong house. I’m so sorry!”
But you know what? Anya was so articulate and kind, I was soon introducing myself and having a lovely conversation with her. Such a gracious hostess to me, her unexpected guest, she even got my address in order to invite me to her annual winter party. Eventually, I left and found my way to Linda’s house, where we had a good laugh about my mix-up.
I attended Anya’s party in December and enjoyed getting to know her and her guests. One of the guests was Tony, who then invited me to his annual party, which involved sitting in his basement with our beverage-of-choice, taking turns reading Walt Whitman’s entire poem, “Song of Myself,” aloud. Which takes two hours. My kind of get-together! As Walt wrote in his poem, “In all people, I see myself, none more and not one a barleycorn less,/And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them,” adding, “I exist as I am, that is enough.”
You never know where our awkwardness and curiosity will lead when we are being ourselves. Now that many of us are vaccinated against COVID, daring to show our bare faces, and venturing out to socialize again, it feels awkward at times. It’s an adjustment. But being awkward is not always a bad thing.
(With thanks to Suleika Jaouad and Jon Batiste for the topic suggestion.)