Sunday, June 13, 2004

dinner party conversation

I went to a small dinner party tonight. The hosts live in a unit in a building that has an intercom-and-buzzer security system. I arrive, press the button and say hello. I press the button and say hello again. I can hear people talking through the intercom speaker, but apparently they cannot hear me. Then I quickly realize that not only can I hear people talking over the intercom, but: (1) I recognize the voices as people at the dinner party, (2) they are talking about me, and (3) they are talking about a specific part of my personal life. Eek. Double eek.

I recognize that there are a lot of people who, in a situation like this, would stand there and try to eavesdrop as much as possible on what was being said. After all, you do not often get the chance to hear firsthand how other people talk about you when you are not around. Me, I scurried immediately and frantically to the far corner of the entryway so that I wouldn't hear any more of the conversation. I did not do this out of any particular sense of discretion or aversion to eavesdropping; I did it instead because I generally freak whenever I hear other people talk about me. It's related, I think, to how I can't bear to listen to my voice on an answering machine or can't bear to watch someone else read something I've written.*

So, anyway, I shudder and cower in the far corner of the entryway for maybe twenty seconds or so--the maximum length of time I imagine that I could be sustained as a viable conversational topic--and then gingerly step back to the intercom. When I lean toward the speaker to try pressing the button again, I hear a sentence that seems like it is still very probably part of a conversation about me. So then I start pressing the button for an adjacent unit in the building, which switches over the intercom, and I tell the stranger who answers that I'm going to a dinner party at their neighbors' and their neighbors' intercom is broken. The guy buzzes me in. Thank God.

Turns out the hosts' intercom hadn't been properly turned off after the guest preceding me had arrived. I didn't say anything about having overheard them talking. I have no reason to think they were saying anything bad about me, but, still, obvously, awkward, weird. The dinner party, however, was quite fun, with wonderful-wonderful food.

Someone there did compliment me on having lost weight, making the fourth person in less than two weeks to compliment me on a weight loss that has not actually happened. Really, truly, the scale is regularly consulted and its report remains the same. I was trying to think of whether I should admit (?) that I had not lost any weight, but then another person who overheard the compliment jumped in to say something apologetic about how they hadn't noticed, so then I didn't say anything. I feel like I am living a corpulent lie.

* A neurosis, to be sure, but, of course, as far as neuroses go, I have 32 flavors and then some.

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