This is why I shouldn’t be allowed to meet celebrities
Most days, I consider myself to be composed, well-spoken and respectful of other people’s boundaries. I’m by no means the sort of care-free, confident person who wanders through fields of wildflowers wearing white linen pants during her period — or ever — but, you know, I get by.
But all those traits go into hiding like a celebrity after botched Botox when I’m in the presence of someone famous.
My mind goes blank, rendering useless all the time spent rehearsing and talking emphatically into bathroom mirrors, committing to memory how I’ll flatter yet impress the object of my admiration with the right balance of reverence and repartee. I lose control of my limbs, my movements becoming forced and stilted, as if I were drunk-dancing the robot. And like the love child of Dustin Hoffman as an autistic savant in “Rain Man” and a stammering Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech,” non sequiturs and mangled sounds bypass my internal filter and spew forth toward a traumatized target.
After what amounts to a hit-and-run, I relive the interactions ad nauseum, torturing myself for not being able to even momentarily feign coolness. My top three most awkward celebrity interactions are as follows:
3. NORAH JONES, 2007
I’d been milling for more than an hour late at night in the drizzling rain with a hood pulled menacingly over my head next to Norah Jones’ tour bus. Which was parked in an abandoned alley. And I was the only one there.
What I’m saying is, if I were Norah Jones, I would have been scared of me.
There was no way of getting out of this situation without coming across as a crazed stalker with excellent taste in music. Well, I could have just gone home. But posters don’t sign themselves.
Eventually emerging from the stage door with a few of her bandmates, Norah approached me, said hello, and was lovely and gracious and thin and prettier in person. That bitch. She then motioned to my poster. And that’s when I realized I didn’t have a pen.
“I thought for sure there’d be other fans in line with Sharpies dying to meet you,” I said, inadvertently insulting her by drawing to her attention the fact that no one else was there. Smooth.
Dispatched to fetch a pen, her manager left Norah Jones alone with dodgy me in a dark alley in a rainstorm. For about 10 painful-for-her minutes, she listened as I jabbered nervously about the only topics I could think of on the fly: my job, sucking at piano lessons as a kid and … the weather. Silence probably would have been a better way to go.
2. INDIGO GIRLS, 2009
In a bid to meet Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, I waited with a few dozen other fans, amusing myself by eavesdropping on nearby nervous chatter. “Emily looks like she’s lost weight,” observed one. “I heard she’s dating a supermodel,” commented another. I stood there in silent judgment, confident that I was much calmer and collected than these losers. Plus, I’d already settled on what I’d say to Emily, my favorite of the duo: “You make life a little sweeter.” Simple, genuine, not in the least bit grounds for a restraining order.
What I hadn’t counted on was Amy coming out first. She put her arm around me, we smiled for a photo and then I blurted, “You ma-KE li-fe a LITT-le swee-TER,” accenting the wrong syllables and sounding like a stroke victim. Concealing her consternation, she thanked me, said something about the fans making it all worthwhile and continued on.
Emily was trailing right behind, and I was suddenly overcome with worry that she’d overheard what I’d told Amy. As a lesbian, this is something I don’t often say, but I’d blown my load too soon. I was without a Plan B, something else I’m unaccustomed to saying as a lesbian.
I stood there starstruck, unable to string a sentence together. When Emily, still damp from performing, pulled me close to mug for the camera, she remarked, “Sorry I’m so sweaty.”
Here was my big moment — my chance to thank her for writing music that would make my ears jump for joy if they had legs. “That’s OK,” I stuttered. “That’s … how I like it.”
Yes, I effectively told one-half of the Indigo Girls that I like a woman who perspires or has a gland problem.
So many Lawsbians had shown up for her tour stop at Brookline Booksmith that although Jenny was doing a reading on the lower level, the closest I could get was listening through speakers upstairs. But my tardiness was rewarded as bloggy babes Cameron and Marian and I were positioned close to the front of the signing line, as that portion was upstairs so suck it hard, on-time downstairs people.
I’d corresponded with Jenny before, so I thought maybe I’d get through this celebrity sighting unscathed. Also, I had brought her a present, so even if I forgot the script I’d learned like a Chinese Olympian memorizing a routine for fear of shaming her family on the world’s stage, the gift would at least give us fodder. She once blogged about her fabulously taxidermied pirate alligator Jean-Louis who is missing a hand; on eBay, I found an alligator hand that had been made into a back scratcher. Synergy, I thought.
As I was about to launch into a prepared speech, she disarmed me with a compliment. “I love your hair!” Jenny squeaked. Or maybe she said, “Your hair is awesome!” I don’t really remember. For all I know, she could have said, “Your hair is on fire and made of snakes!” That fact that she was addressing me at all was the verbal equivalent of being zapped by a mind-eraser in “Men In Black”. I was done.
As she signed my books, I hovered awkwardly over her right shoulder. The back scratcher, which she’d accepted with glee and placed beside her, seemed to call to me. As follows is my thought process in italics, and what I actually did in bold:
Do not pick up the back scratcher.
I picked up the back scratcher.
Put down the back scratcher. Just no.
I moved the back scratcher toward Jenny’s arm.
Do not under any circumstances touch Jenny with the back scratcher.
I slowly ran the back scratcher up and down her arm.
OK, wow. This is happening. You’re scratching Jenny’s arm with the hand of a dead alligator. Seriously, stop.
I increased the speed and intensity of the scratching.
It’s not too late … is the name of the third album by Norah Jones, whom you once frightened and practically held hostage in an alley. It’s *totally* too late for you now.
Continuing to stroke her, I commented to the New York Times bestselling author whom I was assaulting, “See, this alligator hand is a surprisingly great scratcher!”
Did I congratulate Jenny Lawson on her much-deserved success, tell her how flattered I was to be mentioned in her memoir or thank her for being born? No. No I did not. I exfoliated her upper arm.
Someone please remind me of these mortifying moments when I’m itching to meet another celebrity.
P.S. Please forgive me for dropping off the interwebs as I recover from today’s ass surgery. I’m not really sure how long I’ll be gone, but your well wishes have meant a lot to me. I’ll still be obsessively checking email and Twitter because I’m having my coccyx cut out of my ass, not my iPhone surgically removed from my hand. I would love it if you left a comment here telling me about one of your embarrassing celebrity run-ins, which will totally make me feel better while I’m in the hospital. Well, that *and* the opiates.