If you were to put me at a party with lots of people talking and having fun, I would most likely end up finding a quiet place at the edge of the action, and I would sit and watch the other people. Or, I would just leave and go home. There is not much chance I would actually start a conversation with someone I don't know.
Because, I'm a shy guy.
However, if you put me in a room with just one or two other people, I will probably talk with them. Heck, I might even start a conversation. If I'm put in a situation where I am compelled to be around someone, like at work or school, I can actually function around them as if I am somewhat normal-ish.
When I'm at work, I can have simple, everyday conversations with people. When I was a Mormon missionary, I got along with just about all of my assigned roommates. Sometimes, remarkably, when I was alone with a girl I could occasionally utter words that were coherent enough to be understood.
Yet, put me in a large group of people, and I clam up like a...clam. (I've never heard a clam say anything, have you?)
An experience I had when I was a freshman in college is a good demonstration of this.
My first year out of high school, I went away to college at Brigham Young University (BYU), which was about a three hour drive from my hometown of Arimo, Idaho. I went by myself. My three best friends, the other members of our so-called "Arimo Mafia," went elsewhere. (Two went north to Rexburg, Idaho for college, and the other went right to work in Salt Lake City.) So, when I got to the dorms at BYU in Provo, Utah, I didn't know anyone.
It's a bit of an adjustment when you take a kid from a town of 300 people and plop him down in a school with 30,000 students. There were several times more people living in my dorm building than in my hometown.
|This is me as a college freshman. I don't look nerdy at all, do I?|
(My gosh, are those glasses or windshields?)
My freshman year I was lonely and depressed. So, I went home on the weekends. A lot. I probably made that six-hour round trip a couple of times a month. I had a big car. It was a large, green 1971 Dodge Coronet. (I nicknamed it "The Hulk.") Somehow, word got out around BYU that I drove to Arimo fairly often, so people from nearby towns started asking if I could give them a ride home.
I gave rides to four or five other people over the course of the year. It was no big deal. Sometimes, I would even talk to them. And then, one day, I was asked by a beautiful girl if she could get a ride with me that weekend. And suddenly I was scared and excited.
This girl was a year ahead of me in school. She had been a senior in high school when I was a junior. I had had a few classes with her, and I knew she was beautiful, intelligent, and funny. I had admired her in high school, but I never had a crush on her, because she always had a boyfriend. For the sake of her anonymity, (and because I am a nerd) I will refer to her for the rest of this story as "Batgirl." (Yes, she had red hair.)
Now, as a college sophomore, she contacted me and asked for a ride to her home in Marsh Valley, near Arimo. Normally, the thought of being alone in a car for three hours with a beautiful woman would have made me so nervous my head would explode. But, I really wasn't very nervous because: 1) in my few dealings with her in the past, I knew she was nice (nice girls are much less scary than mean girls); and B) I knew she had a boyfriend.
She was still seeing the same guy she went with for all her high school years, except that at that moment he was away on a Mormon mission. So, I didn't even entertain the thought that she might become my girlfriend because: A) I was such a doofus that it was unlikely; and 2) even if I did try anything he might somehow travel from wherever he was and beat the crap out of me. (They eventually got married and are still together more than 25 years later!)
So, I picked her up and we started our drive to Idaho. And a strange thing happened: we talked. I was able to carry on a normal-ish conversation with a beautiful woman. We talked and we laughed and the three hour drive seemed to take no time at all. Before I knew it I was dropping Batgirl off at her family's home.
I'll admit, the rest of the weekend I was looking forward to the drive back to BYU with Batgirl. But, before the time came to pick her up she called and asked if I had room for a couple more people. It was a big car, of course I did.
It just so happened that the two additional people I was to transport also happened to be beautiful women. One was a classmate of Batgirl's. She, too, was one year ahead of me in high school, except I had never had any dealings with her there. (Keeping with the superhero theme, I'll call her "Black Canary.") The third passenger was one of Black Canary's college roommates, not from Marsh Valley, an alien outsider. (I'll call her "Supergirl.")
As Batgirl, Black Canary, and Supergirl loaded up into my car, I was pretty excited. If I could have a good conversation with one beautiful woman, how much more fun would it be to do so with three beautiful women?
It didn't take long for me to realize how wrong I was. The dynamics were very different. Alone in a car with Batgirl, she could either talk with me or sit in silence. But, with two other girls in the car, with whom she had much more in common, it made much more sense for her to talk with them. It quickly dawned on me that Batgirl, Black Canary, and Supergirl would be talking amongst themselves. I was merely their chauffeur.
At some point on the drive (which seemed to take much longer than three hours) they actually asked me for the "guy" perspective on some issue. I don't remember the topic or what I said, only that when I finished, Supergirl said something dismissive to me along the lines of, "Oh, you're a nerd." (The two Marsh Valley girls were far too polite to say such a thing, even if they might have thought it.)
It took me a while afterward to figure out what went wrong. Really, nothing had gone "wrong," I just was too shy to try to insert myself into their conversation. Alone with one person I was fine, but with a group of three I was not.
That's why I'm so grateful for my second date with my wife. It was sixteen hours of hiking alone with a beautiful woman. I was able to talk and be myself. If she had brought along a couple of friends, I would have been in trouble.
I'm glad I had the chance to be alone with her, so that I could get to know her and she could get to know me. I'm so glad my wife is in my life. (For the sake of this story, I'll call her "Wonder Woman.")
So, being alone in a car with three beautiful women didn't work out for me back when I was a freshman in college. But, these days I find myself frequently in a mini-van with three beautiful women (Wonder Woman and our two daughters), and I'm doing just fine!