Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Faking Robyn

I was a very shy child.  I sobbed the first month of kindergarten, and felt like sobbing at the beginning of school for the next several years also.

My father was a physicist, and periodically visiting physicist's kids came over for dinner.  When our parents introduced us, we would stare suspiciously and then ignore one another.

But inevitably, 45 minutes before it was time for them to leave, we'd discover we were meant to be best friends from birth, play hard, and then whine nonstop while their parents dragged them out the door.

By 4th grade, I knew my system of meeting new people wasn't working very well.

Sometime that year, my mother planned a Pearl Ridge Mall outing with her new friend whose daughter was a year ahead of me in school.  A sick pit grew in my stomach as I anticipated being forced into another acquaintance.

When our mothers introduced us, Robyn beamed a big smile and said, "Hi!" in the most friendly cheerful voice ever.  I grunted something in reply and probably looked at my feet.

She and her friend went to wander the mall.  I slunk around with the 2 moms and 3 younger children feeling like a complete loser.

When we re-met an hour later, Robyn and her friend both held a bag of See's candy.  She offered me her favorite--molasses chip and said, "You should hang out with us, it's so much more fun than hanging with the moms!" (eye roll).

I did and had a wonderful time.

I realized Robyn's strategy for making friends was more effective than mine.  From then on, despite debilitating feelings of shyness, I "faked Robyn" every time I met someone new.

And it worked!  Faking Robyn quickly broke the ice in new relationships and I had much more fun.

For the past 21 years, I've held a job that requires me to fake Robyn regularly, especially at this time of the year called "New Student/Faculty Outreach."  It's not that I don't genuinely want to be friendly, but I still experience that inherent reserve/fear of rejection/what-will-this-person-think-of-me feeling that makes reaching out challenging.  It takes energy to be welcoming.

So I fake it.

All 3 of my kids also suffer from shyness.  They got a double whammy because Scott was also a shy kid and shyness is apparently genetic.

I frequently suggest they fake Robyn too.  But because they don't think I know anything about relationships (even though I studied interracial friendship in my doctoral dissertation and have been in ministry for 21 years), none of them have decided to fake Robyn themselves.

That has sad consequences for their social lives, but creates a real problem for me when their lack of reaching out means I have to drive someone to swim practice at 4:45 a.m. because that child won't speak up and get herself in a carpool.

Maybe all us shy folks should just
carry this mug around. . .
I've resorted to threats, including "You can make me the bad guy--tell them your mom's going to force you to quit if you don't get in a carpool."

She made efforts and got a ride yesterday morning.  But by afternoon she somehow got dumped, so there I was, driving her at 4:50 a.m. this morning.  Now I'm REALLY exhausted and grumpy.

So if you see me on campus and I greet you with a warm smile and a big "Hi!  I'm Kathy!  How are you?"  Know that on the inside I feel fear and trembling but truly want to get to know you and welcome you.

On the outside, I'm just faking Robyn again.


Roland said...

I learned to "Fake Brad" from one of my best friends in medical school. :)

Madeleine said...

This is really sweet. Thanks to Robyn.

TTH :) said...

I don't know that I believe you, Kathy, you do NOT come across as shy whatsoever!!! :)