“You’ve gotta seem like confidence is flowing out of your ass. Seriously, fake it until you make it.”
I walk in with these words in my mind. I start visualising a strange coloured energy flowing from my backside. It’s a little bit uncomfortable to be honest. Fluorescent yellow is a surprisingly jarring kind of colour. I try and tone it down to a warm pastel yellow but I find my practised smile faltering so I decide to stick with the overcompensating fluro-yellow.
I do a quick survey for familiar faces. No luck. I’m all on my own today. I feel a slight panic rise up in my chest as the nice lady at registrations searches for my name. Maybe they sent the invitation to the wrong person? She finds my name and hands me my name tag with a welcoming smile. I think I smile back but I’ve mostly lost feeling in my face so I’m not sure.
I hurry over to the bar and order the same drink as the person next to me. I think she’s looking at me. Oh god, take the drink and run, quick! I fight the urge to flee and introduce myself to the successful looking woman beside me.
“Hi, Katelyn. Nice to meet…”
“Everyone please take your seats. We’re about to begin.”
I receive an apologetic smile as the woman leaves the bar to take her seat. I stare blankly and upon realising I hadn’t returned her smile promptly feel my ears heat up. I pick up my drink and drift confidently towards the middle section of seats.
“Hi, is this seat taken?” I say in the most confident polite voice I can think of. My question sounds a bit like an awkward decrescendo played by an amateur orchestra – one which starts off accidentally in fortissimo when forte was written and then tries to compensate by abruptly switching to pianissimo as if attempting to balance the overexcitement with extreme meekness. Thankfully the seat is free.
I sit down and continue my analysis. Perhaps it would have been better to ask if anyone was sitting in the seat. Then I might have had the chance to continue the conversation.
If the seat was empty I could ask, “Is it alright if I sit here then?”
If it was taken I might remark, “Oh, that’s a shame. I guess I’ll find somewhere else to sit,” or something along those lines.
“Hi there, I’m David. Nice to meet you.”
I notice an outstretched hand at my side. I quickly regather my thoughts and turn to shake David’s hand. My smile is really start to hurt my cheeks but he’s smiling back so that’s a good sign.
“Hi, Katelyn. Nice to meet you.”
I hold onto his hand a fraction too long, and I fancy an uneasy look of confusion flash across David’s face. It’s a nice face. Fairly sharp features. Chocolate brown eyes. A touch of facial hair.
So are you excited about tonight? Too keen.
So what do you do? Too nosy.
So how was your day? Too boring.
So how did you find out about tonight?
“So how did you,”
“What do you,”
We end up speaking at the same time. I must have taken too long to say something. Better keep that in mind for next time.
He asks me about why I’m here tonight. I confidently recite my preprepared answer about wanting to be a successful designer and trying to find my way in the world. I ad-lib a little about hoping to meet a potential business partner tonight. He smiles and nods along as I talk. I let out a small sigh of relief.
“…and you? What do you do?”
He begins to explain his work with underprivileged children in some far away country I’ve never heard of. Oh no, is it even a country? Maybe it’s just a city? A town? I feel the panic rise up to my face, threatening to contort my carefully styled smile.
“Did you know that 30 children die everyday from extremely-long-medical-term even though it can be easily prevented with a cheap and easy procedure that requires a donation of only your-entire-monthly-income per child saved?”
“Don’t you think that the government should do more about this issue?”
I made up the last part. The words ‘did you know’ had me in a cold sweat as soon as he said them. Was it a rhetorical question? Am I supposed to be surprised? Should I pretend to care? Has my face gone out of place? What’s ‘this issue’?
I check my face and rearrange myself to affected a politely outraged tone, “Really? I had no idea. That sounds terrible.”
David excitedly continues talking. Phew, crisis averted.
Finally, the host takes up the microphone to introduce the first speaker. I smile apologetically at David and we both turn ourselves back towards the stage to applaud the first speaker. My hands are damp. Fluro-yellow makes you sweat as well?
Tonight’s going to be a long night.