Oh, I Said "Thank You" Alright

comments: 15

My sincerest intentions together with my sophisticated pretensions resulted in a deadly cocktail of emotionally explosive gibberish, as well as an enormous lump in my throat as we all stood uncomfortably and silently and I blubbered, "The . . . book. . . ." I held it out for her to sign with a bright orange pen (which thankfully didn't have any Hello Kittys on it, further reducing me).

"Thank you," I said, then: "BAM!" That was the sound of my head exploding a la Andrae of Project Runway as I disintegrated into a fit of unintelligible gibberish/sobbing life-story, not very unlike the time I was benched during my 7th-grade presentation on Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso, the first word of which (naturally, "Alicia") launched me into a geyser-force torrent of nervous giggles that at first were funny and then just embarrassing and then full-on loonified, as my teacher admonished me to "breathe," "breathe," and "look at the clock." Shamefully, I took my seat and continued to shudder with my head down on the desk. Well, this was much like that (in my opinion, though I've been assured by my witness that I am, as usual, exaggerating).

It is a frustrating though countless-times-proven fact that when something is important to me, I will, with remarkable consistency, hurl myself into such a frenzy of nerves and longing that the encounter itself results in a borderline medical emergency, as I have an emotional and public seizure at the moment of contact. Andy looked on in horror as I told Marilynne Robinson my life story in the four seconds of awkward silence following the "thank you," ending with the "I loved college!" to which she could only reply kindly, "Uh huh!" Strangely, I don't think she was flattered by the part where I shakily announced that she had inspired me to not be a writer. That was when she started looking around the room. And I had thought all this time that she understood me!

Oh my God. Chalk me up another night of shame and mortification. How did I not see this coming. I can't even put a photo on this one; thank goodness the evidence is only burned into my brain (though I did spend a sleepness night shaving off the corners as I replayed events enough times as to render them smooth and bland, sighing at 2 a.m. with a final, "Oh, who cares anyway." Of course.) Andy reassured me that a sanitized, composed encounter wouldn't have been . . . memorable . . . at all to M.R. in the same way that my head spinning around might be, and said with his usual wisdom, "Look, hon, I'm sure she's seen worse. You can't write a book like that and expect it not to be an emotional experience for people." So, in true Alicia fashion, I've utterly bought into his version of me and my behavior, and move forward from this point on in contented resignation, however deluded. The reception was full of much older, very-well-dressed people, and then frizzy me, clutching my tattered paperback. I was shocked not to see anyone else carrying a book, as well as to see M.R. standing almost alone at the edge of the room. I could say I just wanted her to know that someone cared. . . .

Oh yeah, and the lecture itself. Speaking to a full house, she was engaging and philosophical and challenging in every way. We had patron seats (yes, we know people), in the first row, and could see her rubbing her foot against the back of her leg every time she got to a part in her text that was particularly abstract/intense. It was an amazing, provoking, and inspiring evening, and I hope I don't ever forget it.

I just read this aloud to Andy and he said, "Why don't you put a picture from The Exorcist up there?"


oh, honey. i have so very much BEEN there, every inch of it. short of the spewed split green pea soup that was surely next, too. the babbling, the unstoppable giggling, the feeling that you are the only one in the room comPLETEly out of control. i feel your pain.
but hey - you did it. you were THERE. and she WILL remember that she had a lifelong impact on you, and isn't that what you tried to (and did) convey? xx

Oh, I'm laughing and crying at the same time as I read your post! It is so very human; we've ALL been there. I remember accompanying Andy on a French Horn solo over 25 year ago and losing my place in the very first measure......with poor Andy trying to cover up my goofy finger mistakes and panicky red face with his shaky horn sounds and sparkly eyes. Just when I want to be so very cool and collected, it never fails that I am the most foolish....and it doesn't even get better as one gets older. I was thinking about the two of you all evening....happy to know you were doing something wonderful together.

I'm a stranger to this blog - but have to jump in. To tell someone that they changed your life is wonderful - no matter how you told them. I regret not saying "thank you" to authors, etc., who don't know me but made a difference. Better to have spoken up in a silly way than to have left quietly!

Just gotta say, that Andy of yours is a gem.

I've been in your shoes- even down to the replaying of the conversation over and over in my mind at night. I have to say though, it makes for a great entry. :)

I've been there too. I like to think of myself as a composed person, but that part is just in my head because when I need to talk with someone I don't know well, I go all giggly and unintelligible. Especially if I know that that kind of behavior wouldn't be recognized for what it is, pure nerves.

It's great that you did it, whatever the outcome. Just like the bumper sticker says, speak out even if your voice shakes!

amanda button says: January 20, 2006 at 11:41 AM

Oh, my....I behaved just the SAME when the artist Brian Froud came to my town for a book signing. On top of my humiliating babbling about how much his art has moved me and touched my life, my todlder was in my arms yelling "GOBLINS! GOBLINS MAMA!!! What a lovely picture we must have painted. I like to think that they secretly love us nut-job fans when we wear our hearts so visibly on our sleeves :)

Thanks for sharing...It's nice to read somone else's less than perfect experience, when my life is so full of them.

Would it upset you to say that I don't even know who you are talking about? :) It was a great story but sorry it happened to you. Mortification is awful isn't it?

Alicia - Stop and think...maybe you touched a raw nerve in MR...maybe, just maybe, she was too scared to engage you in such raw emotion. I haven't read the book yet, but from what I can glean, she is a very sensitive, intensly feeling person too and perhaps she cannot deal with such emotion in person, only on the page. Maybe she was speechless, scared, nervous to be there, pouring out her words in public.

I think that anyone like her, like you, like me and everyone else who has been in your shoes, anyone who feels things so deeply, understands what happened. Most times I just hold it all in so that I don't choke up, blither, stumble over my words and thoughts. You were the brave one. I admire you for that.

Never posted here, but yeah. That's why I don't go out in public very often.
Forget the angst. Yours probably was the only *real* comment she got all night. And maybe with that encouragement she'll write more.
Heck, write her a letter and explain.

Isn't it amazing, how someone we don't know truly touches our lives? I did the same thing to a musician one time. I still was thrilled that I spoke to him, even though he looked at me like I was an alien. They are people just like us and I'm sure have had the same experience, in one way or another. Let it go. Just think how you would feel if you hadn't said anything.

I have so been there, even when I swore up anbd down that this time I would keep myself in check. I think my worst experience, though, was when I knbocked Majel Barrett's glasses off her head. She was very nice, but I know that hurt. Thankfully, they didn't break!

Oh I said something incredibly, scathingly, climb-down-into-your-pants-to-hide stupid to Alice Walker at a book signing once. It was about ten years ago, and fortunately I have lost enough brain cells that I can't remember what it was I said. But I remember very clearly the long awkward pause and thinking "yeah, okay, so hey, god? you wanna hit me with a bolt of lightning for being a horrible little prat all my life? this would be a GREAT time."

Oh, I don't know if you'll get my comment with me posting way back here but I was trying to remember where I came in (2006 or 2007 maybe) but I found this and couldn't stop laughing. I hadn't laughed that hard in a long time. possibly as a teenager with my brother karaoke singing at 3am to queen and mariah carey. I have felt that way so many times that it almost doesn't make me feel completely stupid anymore. I feel that way sometimes when I post here or email you I imagine you are falling asleep after the second or third paragraph. hee hee. I am so glad you have all the archives. I always find something great going back.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


post a comment

About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com