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In general I don’t like routine appointments that require small talk. You’d think it’d be better to see the same person over and over, like maybe you’d get beyond just chatting, but I actually think it makes it worse. Probably because there’s this expectation that I’ll remember what we chatted about from one appointment to the next when honey, I’m just trying to make it through. Haircuts? Absolutely not – I made Kaitlyn learn how to cut mine. Getting your teeth cleaned? A necessary evil but don't even get me started.

Then there’s massages. It's an appointment with a stranger but there isn’t an expectation for conversation, the lights are dim, I can close my eyes, and all I have to do is lay there. I can handle that. And because I like a specific type of pressure, when I find somebody I like I tend to want to go back to them.

The main deterrent of course is the cost, but for our anniversary this past year, Kaitlyn got me a gift card to a place with a subscription plan. I went, loved the massage, and impulsively signed up. It's for my health! Self care! But with current economic times, it's been hard to justify the expensive monthly bill so I decided to simplify and cancel the subscription. To help get in sooner so I didn’t get charged for another month (because of course it had to be done in person), I signed up for a massage with someone new - just the next person who could get me in.

I went in for my appointment and it was all as expected. Massage therapists always have the same questions when you meet them for the first time – where do you want them to focus, are you experiencing any pain, and what do you do for work? When I met Jenny, that's exactly what she asked and I gave my normal answers – focus on my back, I carry my stress in my shoulders, I sit at a computer all day, and my posture sucks. There was the normal room exit where Jenny left and I frantically undressed as quickly as possible before making it to the safety of being under the bedsheet. I know they knock. I know they won’t come in without confirmation. But it still feels like an absolutely necessary precaution.

She came back in, I closed my eyes, relaxed, and enjoyed the just-right pressure (she passed the test).

At least I thought I was relaxed. About 15 minutes in as she was working on my right arm, she wiggled it a little bit before asking, “Are you okay?” It was an odd question. Was I too relaxed? Did she think I was asleep?

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I reassured her.

But her comment a minute later let me know she had thought just the opposite. “Relax,” she encouraged. I tried to tune into my arm – was I accidentally tensing? I didn’t feel like it. Try to be a limp noodle I told myself.

A minute later it was the same. “I feel like you’re trying to help me. Just relax.”

I checked in with myself again and tried to think if there was any tension I could let go of but I just felt normal.

“This is me relaxed,” I said finally, while also internally starting to panic. What do you want from me, Jenny?!

This isn’t the first time someone has commented on my tension. When one massage therapist was working on my arm she said with pure empathy, “Oh, you have so many knots!” Another stated, “You’re tense!” as he started in on my shoulders. I've always taken it as a form of validation – like, yes, that’s why I’m here. Please help. Even my friends have commented on me being tight and I’m convinced it’s the only reason I have any muscles. I’ve always just chalked it up to being an anxious bean.

But today it felt like more than that. Today I felt like there was something downright wrong with me, like I’m clearly the worst patient she’s ever worked on. Like I might have some undiagnosed condition that's causing this involuntary tension. Maybe I should webMD this when I get home.

I wish I could say her commentary ended after the first couple attempts but her urging to re-lax only became more earnest (though less frequent) for the next 40 minutes. And it became all I could think about. Am I meeting her relaxation expectations yet? How can I be more relaxed? Am I letting my head rest in her hands or still tensing my neck? Why can’t I tell what she wants? What does relaxation even feel like anyway? WHAT IF I’VE NEVER ACTUALLY BEEN RELAXED IN MY ENTIRE LIFE?

At one point she asked me randomly, “Is your name Kimberly or Kim?”

“Kim,” I said definitively.

“I was just trying to distract you, but your body knows what I’m doing,” she said.

We were well into the point where I thought we both could just resign ourselves to the fact that I’m a hopeless ball of stress when she said, “just melt into the table.” The words, Jenny. I think we can agree the words aren't working.

Turns out it was her final attempt because the next thing she said was, gloriously, “That concludes the massage.”

She left the room, I commenced the race to get my clothes on and braced myself for the conversation to come when I opened the door.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Great,” I said, deciding the best course of action was to try to ignore what just happened and leave as quickly as possible.

“Wait! Before you go, I want to show you some stretches because you were really tense.”

You don’t say.

She proceeded to have me practice two stretches I’m very familiar with before saying emphatically, “Do those twice a day.”

“Yep. For sure.”

I left, relieved I already cancelled my subscription. Maybe I need to become one of those yoga people, I thought on the drive home, already thinking through if I can ever get a massage again. But...I already know I don't like yoga.

I turned to the next logical alternative.

“How do you feel about becoming a massage therapist?” I asked Kaitlyn when she got off work.

Immediately: “I don’t want to.”

It was worth a shot.

“What if I got really into collecting crystals?” Kaitlyn asked one day. “Or dolls? What if I just wanted to have a display case full of dolls?”

Kaitlyn absolutely loves these types of questions. The What If? questions. The I-know-you-hate-it-but-answer-me-anyway questions.

“What would you do if I told you I’d committed a crime and had been keeping it from you all this time?”

“What if I became addicted to drugs?”

“What would you do if I had to wear diapers?”

“What if I told you I secretly had severe credit card debt?”

Let’s hand it to her, she goes big. And honestly, I’m impressed that every month or so she’s able to come up with some new scenario. But that doesn’t keep me from also really hating these questions. I mean, Kaitlyn’s the stable one – there’s no need for external anxiety kindling. And my responses are always lack luster because I don’t want to play the game. Usually something like, “I don’t know, I’d be sad/shocked” or “I’d take care of you.”

“Come on! You have to give me more than that. Think about it!” Is her immediate reply.

“But I don’t want to think about it.”

Rinse and repeat.

Part of the reason why I think she loves these questions (and also why I don’t) is because she always picks something that will push some kind of button. Like the oldest child that she is, she’s looking for a reaction, and, despite the fact that I rarely give one to the level she’s looking for, she’s persistent. In the case of the crystals and the dolls, Kaitlyn was trying to play off my general hatred of knick-knacks and collectibles. Bells, spoons, figurines, china dishes, nutcrackers, toy cars – I would never need more than one, if any. When someone else looks at a wall of Funko Pops and sees passion and joy, I look at it and see nothing but a graveyard of cash money.

Don’t get me wrong, I make my fair share of frivolous purchases and there are plenty of things I have that I don’t really need. There are even exceptions to the collections rule. As a kid I had Pogs and Pokémon cards, basketball cards and marbles. As an adult, I really like buying physical copies of books and have an unreasonable number of journals. But it turns out, there’s another contradiction to my own rule, and for some reason this one has been so much harder for me to accept. I really love Legos.

Now before you come at me for saying Legos instead of Lego (because surely all of you are enthusiasts), a) it’s a habit and b) recognizing the true plural feels like a personality trait and I’m not quite ready for that level of commitment.

I’ve always liked Legos. We had this big bucket of Duplos growing up and I spent many Saturdays dumping them all onto the floor in our basement to make stuff. Usually that stuff meant building towers, “log cabins”, and my own variation of a laptop and phone to do all my office and reporting work. As I got older I was allowed to play with some of my brothers’ sets like a truck and firefighter ship and I loved all the details. The joy while putting a set together! It’s like unto the high of being a carpenter putting together IKEA furniture. There’s a booklet with pictures of the step-by-step process and everything fits together so neatly. What’s not to love?

But Legos are one of those things you’re just supposed to outgrow, right? Like, as soon as middle school and high school come along, appearances are everything. And in adulthood, who has time and money and interest for Legos?

Well, turns out I do. And with Kaitlyn’s encouragement in any semblance of a hobby, I’m starting to buy sets again. It started with little $10 Brickheadz sets which were a low investment gateway to remind myself, yeah, I still really like these. And then I discovered this typewriter and I absolutely had to. Not that I bought it right away but come Christmas 2020 it was the perfect retail therapy purchase. No regrets.

Lego typewriter

It’s still hard to justify buying them though because the good ones are always hundreds of dollars and I’m a one-and-done put-togetherer. It’s only a couple days of activity and then it gets displayed in my office. It feels so frivolous. But that doesn’t stop me from keeping a mental cart full of them. And this past week, I took the plunge on one that’s been sitting in there for the better part of two years: this Nintendo Entertainment System set. I was motivated by getting my Christmas money, budgeting out how much money I’ll have left with the two trips I want to take this year, and reading an article that they’re going to discontinue the set in 2023. Oh, and moral support from Kaitlyn where I literally told her what to say but still needed the external verbal validation. Baby steps people.

It’s the perfect 90's nostalgia set and between the TV and the gaming system, it’s like two sets in one! There’s a turn handle on the TV that makes the scene cycle through, and it takes every ounce of self-control to not blow on the game cartridge before sliding it in to the gaming system. Seeing how the makers decide to put everything together is clever and watching all the pieces come together is downright satisfying.

Lego Nintendo Entertainment System

“I love that you’ll randomly just chuckle to yourself as you put it together,” Kaitlyn commented as I worked on it on the couch. It was delightful. I rationed out the bags, putting together 2-3 every night until it was done in about a week.

In reality, I know my Lego interests are less weird and more like a typical millennial, DINK (dual income no kids), or just-regular-person-having-fun pastime. But it really has taken me a minute to accept that I still love Legos, and maybe, consequently, take myself just a little less seriously. I guess maybe it’s my turn to start asking Kaitlyn, “What would you do if I filled an entire room with Legos?” How the tables have turned.

I want to know who the person was who thought “tell about your most embarrassing moment” was an appropriate team building exercise. Can we collectively re-evaluate this decision? First, how do I comb through the hall of stored cringey memories and choose the worst one? There isn’t a Dewey Decimal system for this shit. I don’t rank them as they happen and put them in their corresponding aisles – I’m too busy tormenting myself with the agony of the residual discomfort (which, when possible, I make worse than the actual moment). We don’t need to go opening up old perseverations or revealing how small and ordinary something can be for me to find it embarrassing. Ain’t nobody got time to explain how a look, a pause, or a suggestion can still be classified as an emotionally scarring experience. Mark this as the beginning of the movement to never ask this question.

But while we’re here and I brought it up, you better believe I’m going to drag you through one with me. Gird your anxious loins.

I have One Friend at work – we started at the same time and she’s just like me except in outspoken extrovert form. So really she’s nothing like me but we’re both in the LGBT group and she’s the only person I regularly talk to. She actually participates in the wider work community though and she planned an event for National Coming Out Day - pub trivia - an event that combines absolutely all of my weaknesses. As Kaitlyn aptly asked, “Why did you sign up for it? You don’t know anything.” We’ll look past the insult to my total intelligence and look at the kernel of truth she intended – I know absolutely no trivia.

You know how Tig Notaro has that show Under a Rock where she doesn’t know celebrities? That’s me, except with trivia. While my brain is on constant analysis of the world and society and psychology and the meaning of life, I’m terrible with facts. I can rock the hell out of an existential crisis but ask me to play Trivial Pursuit and it all falls apart. I use Google purely to learn how to do things, not to learn more information about random stuff. I perpetually gloss over all things history and don’t really have any sense of exactly when things happened in time. The amount of trivia I can spout off can be counted on one hand. At one point, Kaitlyn paused one of our conversations to ask, “You do know basic biology, right?” That’s the aura of knowledge I exude into the world. While with other things in life you can fake it ‘til you make it, trivia is something you either know or you don’t. Either that or you have enough other trivia knowledge to be able to make some kind of reasonable guess.

So why the hell did I put myself in this situation? 1) I can’t not support One Friend and 2) the prizes were gift cards to the company swag store.

I’ve never gotten over my love of free swag. In college I realized, “I’ll do anything for a free t-shirt,” which is as desperate as it sounds but at a school like BYU means wild things like participating in the world’s largest water balloon fight. What I should’ve said is, “It takes a free t-shirt to get me to do any social activity.” Fast forward 15 years and this is an area of immaturity I haven’t outgrown.

It’s enough to get me to commit. One Friend was obviously busy hosting this event so I signed up as a solo player to get randomly matched with another team. I figured anyone who signed up would have stronger trivia skills – surely there were enough people to compensate for my lack of knowledge and could carry us on the road to victory. That or there had to be participation prizes, right?

The announcement for the event had the note that even though it was for National Coming Out day, it’d be general trivia, as could be found in the regular Trivial Pursuit categories. I spent two hours before the virtual event frantically googling sample trivia questions, hoping to somehow compensate for 30 years of lack of knowledge in 120 minutes. 95% of the questions I read I didn’t know the answer to, nor did I recognize the names or have any place to file away dates and numbers in my mind to possibly retrieve them later. I knew my efforts were futile but I hoped there would happen to be a couple questions I knew the answer to. Okay, one. I just wanted to know the answer to one question.

The way virtual trivia works is the whole group starts off in the main Zoom room where the host reads the question and then you’re broken off into breakout rooms for 5 minutes to discuss and submit your answers. To start, we all joined our rooms to practice the setup just to make sure we were all in the right place. Teams had been divided out evenly, but it turns out two of the people in my group didn’t show up (50% of my safety net!). If there's a singular moment where I knew without a doubt this whole thing was a grave mistake, this is the one. There were only two others, and one about as soft spoken as me. What’s worse is that they were both part of my larger team – in that terrible spot of not being comfortable around them but still definitely going to be interacting with them fairly regularly in the future. Immediately I felt the gravity of my mistake and more than a dozen times considered the option of just flat out leaving the call with no explanation.

We started into the quiz questions and it was exactly what I had expected . . . and yet so much worse. I knew 2% of the questions but it turns out they were all LGBTQIA+ related. So I guess the posting was accurate in that it wasn’t exclusively about “coming out” but I felt so deceived. Never once in my googling had I added LGBT to the search. Again, I feel like this perfectly summarizes my trivia prowess.

What’s probably the worst part is that I was the token gay in my group. I was the sole community representative, these are MY PEOPLE, and I still tanked. It was also kind of this unspoken thing that I should be the one to carry the team. Even in the best of circumstances I can’t handle that kind of pressure.

It was an hour and a half of repeated acknowledgement that I know nothing mingled with the incredibly awkward small talk that surrounds making blatant guesses in the dark. I really hate not knowing things and looking like a fool and it was exactly that. Let me repeat. . .for 90 minutes.

“What kind of questions did they ask?” Kaitlyn asked when she got home after I had already sent her a slew of in-the-moment-panic-texts. By that point I had already blocked most of them out – the details are irrelevant – but here’s a few just to give you the flavor.

  1. Label each of the twelve LGBTQIA+ flags – I knew 3 and couldn’t even muster all 12 possible options. 0/9 for my guesses.

  2. Where was the first pride parade? My coworker got it (New York) after correcting me that it was definitely NOT San Francisco and I was dumb for thinking it possibly could be (emphasis hers, insult mine). 0/21

  3. When did the APA remove homosexuality as a disorder? The one I most confidently (and pessimistically) incorrectly guessed was the oldest date, 2001. We had even moved to multiple choice at this point. 0/45

  4. Identify the artist and song based on 5 second song clips (I got the only one that had the song title as the opening lyrics). 1/89

The only questions I confidently got correct were about Ellen DeGeneres and David Rose in Schitt’s Creek. Feels on brand.

Needless to say, our team came in last, scoring little more than half of the points of the winning team. And no, there were no participation or worst scoring team prizes. All I walked away with was another cringey memory to add to the embarrassment pile and hours of residual social anxiety (including all that came back in writing this). No wonder I don’t have any mental space for trivia. This library’s already full.

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