When I approach heycheri.com with fingers flexed for a blog post, most of the stories I tend to write usually have an end-goal in mind. In between posts written purely for comedy’s sake or simply for the pleasure in it, for the most part, it has been my hope that by sharing my experiences with my readers, my words could somehow uplift, inspire, or help others gain perspective on their own situations, and with any luck, move them in a positive direction through comparison alone.
What I have also realized is that by only portraying the positive aspects of my life, focusing only on the uplifting moments or lessons learned through them, I am leaving out the other half of the picture, a half which, when missing, fails to balance out whatever extreme image of me I’m sure my readers now have in their minds.
Aware of this, I must say: It has never been my intent to mislead any of you into believing I am one way or another, that I lack in flaw of character, or that I am not left wanting for in good will. Though I am fully capable of carrying myself well when the situation calls for it, there are easily moments in my young, 25-year-old life that have left me flustered, thrown off balance, or unnerved.
Here is one now.
Being hit on is always such a surprising experience. In fact, despite the many times I have been hit on over the course of my life, the sensation still manages to catch me off guard.
The Internet? That’s different. When you are assaulted with as many disturbing and shudder-worthy messages online as I am on a daily basis (sup creepers?), you tend to grow jaded to flattery received via digital means and all of it starts to blur together over time. Sure, I am the happy recipient of actual thoughtful letters and requests for advice, but I’m not talking about delightful fan mail. I’m explaining what it’s like to get hit on.
Internet stuff, I can handle.
I have been handling it for what feels like forever (some would argue the value of this “skill”).
But real life.
That’s where I tend to struggle.
There’s something about receiving a gratuitous compliment in person that sometimes triggers a sort of reflexive shyness in me. And while I’m certain there are plenty of outlandishly beautiful and compliment-immune supermodels getting hit on right now, roaming the streets this very moment and casually deflecting cat calls while responding totally appropriately to relentless flattery from every which way, I, unfortunately, cannot count myself among them.
When someone hits on me in real life, it usually goes something like:
I would love to say I constantly feel self-assured, that every time I look in the mirror, I point at my reflection with a cheesy grin and go, “Yeeeeahhhh.” But the truth is: my confidence comes and goes in waves.
On a good day, I am perfectly charming, smiley, and an absolute delight to be around. Compliments are received with friendly acknowledgement and conversation, strangers gravitate towards me, waiters and chefs hook me up with free food, I walk away from specialty shops with gifts and favors from salesmen, everyone laughs at my jokes, and for some reason good things just keep happening to me.
But on many occasions, I’ve also been known to be a total social train wreck. Perhaps it is because of the days at a time I sometimes spend cooped up in my apartment where I work out of my pajamas, so easily entertained by my own company that I forget to interact with actual people. My social aptitude quickly depleting with every hour I spend alone in my room, experiences which should be common place are, instead, received to great emotional effect.
Because of this, compliments still make me blush, I am incredibly susceptible to flattery, and I can never quite believe it when someone tells me just how smart, beautiful, or talented I am. The easiest way for me to deal with these situations has always been to either burst out laughing in sheer disbelief, or, as demonstrated in the illustration above, politely thank my suitor, then disengage as quickly as possible and run.
When I was in seventh grade, there was this chubby, tan Vietnamese kid with sky-high, spiky gelled hair (let’s call him Daniel) that apparently had a crush on me. Innocent and young, I was oblivious to his fawning affections. From what little I knew about him, he was crude but funny. Other than that, he didn’t exist to me.
One day, Daniel passed me a folded piece of blue-ruled binder paper requesting that I meet him outside of Math class before I left for lunch period. So I did.
“Thanks for meeting me,” Daniel said, hands digging deep into his pockets while his eyes shifted hesitantly back and forth between his dirty shell top Adidas to my unassuming face.
“Sure, what’s up?” Truly clueless, I fiddled absentmindedly with the straps of my much-too-large-and-nerdy backpack, my curiosity peaked.
“I just wanted to tell you…” He paused, mulling over a way to spit it out, before finally blurting, “–I think you’re really cool! Do you want to go out with me?”
Perhaps, in this situation, launching into red-faced laughter was not the appropriate response, but that is exactly what happened. Twelve-year-old Cheri, severely socially inept when dealing with boys and totally incognizant of just how hurtful my reaction probably was to this poor kid who, I’m sure, had been planning out his strategy for asking me to be his girlfriend for days, laughed her ass off and had to stop for breath.
“Are you serious?!” I remember squeezing out the question amidst choked giggles. It wasn’t that I was laughing at him because I pitied him, or because I thought I was better than him. It wasn’t even that I wasn’t interested in him (although, okay, to be fair, I had a huge crush on a different boy in school). It was more that I was in such disbelief that a boy, a real boy, was actually hitting on me. Someone thinks I’m cool?? Someone wants to go out with me?? What??
“N-no. Uh, I was just kidding. S-sorry,” Daniel squeaked, slumping off quickly to leave me standing there alone, stunned from the experience.
Is it really any surprise that my current-day dealings with men and being hit on can sometimes still be largely similar? If, by some miracle, I am not scared shitless by the sudden approach of someone, I am usually so shocked by the compliments that my brain malfunctions into childish peals of laughter.
It’s different if I’m “on the job”, AKA, being paid to stand there and look pretty, or out doing PR for a client (also sometimes involving standing there and looking pretty). In those situations, flattery and compliments come with the territory, and I am fully mentally prepped for the occasion. That’s business. When it comes to business, I can shmooze and mingle with the best of them. In fact, I’ll do you one better — I’ll like it! When I’m with good friends, the situation is also largely the same. I draw strength from my comrades and colleagues — I feel invincible.
But when I’m out running daily errands, reading in a coffee shop, or lying out at the beach with complete disregard to anyone I might suddenly bump into, being randomly flirted with sometimes leaves me shaky and dumbfounded.
Recently, while sampling persimmon cubes with a tooth pick and looking like a total scrub at this organic grocery store a few blocks down the street from me, a tall, brunette babe of a man in a San Francisco plaid shirt nudged next to me and asked charmingly, “How do they taste? Are they sweet?” Shocked that someone was speaking to me, I instantly felt a rush of heat to my cheeks, my voice catching in my throat. I hurried to pick up my hand-cart filled with random produce, then stuttered out that, yes, the persimmon was delicious.
Was he hitting on me? I can’t say. Was he just being friendly? I’ll never know. Why? Because rather than staying to chat with him while he tried to engage me further in conversation, I instead excused myself quickly, then hurried as far away from him as swiftly possible, very much the frightened deer.
I’m a pussy.
Another day, I was taking a break during one of my sweaty 5k runs to soldier on through a brisk walk when this gorgeous, blonde, fit and tan surfer perched on a bike, naked from the waist up with his wetsuit hanging around his midsection and still glittering from the ocean (like a scene out of Baywatch, seriously) stopped his ride to try and talk to me. When he asked me how my day was going I, once again in total disbelief that someone would actually hit on me while out looking like a hot mess, stuttered through a half-mumbled response and then quickly excused myself, sprinting shyly away as I always do.
It wasn’t that I didn’t find either of these two gentlemen appealing.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t open to being hit on.
It was more the fact that I am out of practice in dealing with this type of exchange and find running away or holing myself up in my cave to be a more far more preferable and easier option than handling it up front. In truth, what little experience I do have in dealing with the opposite sex in public situations feels absolutely ancient.
I could bring up loads of scenarios just like these where, when approached in the wild, I scampered off like a spooked kitten. But I think you’ve heard enough embarrassing stories for one day.
On the bright side, I embrace my sometimes social ineptitude. While I do have my days where nothing seems to phase me, I am also very grateful for the days that remind me of my weaknesses. Not being perfect is thoroughly enjoyable. There’s just something so liberating about being up front with myself that makes it easier to attain a sense of happiness, of personal contentment, and of wellness.
“Achieving genuine happiness may require bringing about a transformation in your outlook, your way of thinking, and this is not a simple matter. It requires the application of so many different factors from different directions. You shouldn’t have the notion, for instance, that there is just one key, a secret, and if you can get that right, then everything will be okay. It is similar to taking proper care of the physical body; you need a variety of vitamins and nutrients, not just one or two. In the same way, in order to achieve happiness, you need a variety of approaches and methods to deal with and overcome the varied and complex negative mental states. And if you are seeking to overcome certain negative ways of thinking, it is not possible to accomplish that simply by adopting a particular thought or practicing a technique once or twice. Change takes time.”
– Excerpt from “The Art of Happiness” by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama
I don’t see self-improvement as some sort of stage in my life where my endlessly flawed performance will magically reach this plateau of awesomeness. Instead, I believe that self-improvement is never ending, and that if one possesses the ceaseless drive to limitlessly improve, one most certainly can. In this very zen state of mind, I laugh more easily at my stumbles, forgive myself for my faults, and repeatedly pick myself up to try again. I can’t say I always excel without fail when it comes to brushing the dirt from my shoulders, but I am propelled by the notion that practice makes things easier with time.
But basically: I really need to get out more.
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