In my head I am Dorothy Parker. Wise cracking and fearless. I have brave, pithy conversations in front of the bathroom mirror, filled with wit and bravura. My head is filled with one-sided conversations in which I shine, brilliantly. I would love to meet Head Me. I would love to BE Head Me. She has all the good lines, all the smart comebacks. She can make a point. Head me wouldn't be flummoxed by dry cleaners. Living alone has made it worse, but I was always pretty prone; I have been led to understand that it can be an alarming thing for the other party who tries to have an actual conversation with you, when you have been arguing with them for the past half hour - and winning, needless to say - in your head. I live in my head, and it's terribly busy in there. It's why I write, I suppose.
There isn't a trace of Head Me when I actually open my mouth in the company of other human beings, needless to say. In the company of strangers I can barely manage a handful of strangled pleasantries. Then I blush, nuclear, teenage pink. I'm particularly bad at asking questions. Some inner dowager duchess, or possibly 18th century Japanese nobleman, thinks that it's indelicate to ask people questions. What if you put them on the spot? What if you inadvertently touch some nerve? OH THE EMBARASSMENT. I would have to throw myself on my sword if I accidentally asked someone something that made them uncomfortable. Thus I appear boorish and self-centred, because I can never work up the courage to, for instance, ask someone where they live (what if they just got evicted? What if they are homeless? What if what if what if?).
In more serious conversations, with people I know, particularly when I want to communicate something important, I tend to resort to going mute. There will be some perfectly formulated sentence in my head, that I have been honing and refining for hours. I will have brooded and practised it to perfection. But when the moment comes, and I am standing with the person in question, I will just stare, much like the brainless weepette does to me at 6 at point blank range every morning, willing them to mind read. There have been times when have quite literally felt words stick in my throat. If I can Just. Think. Harder... No. It never works. Noone can read my mind.
This is foremost in my mind at the moment, because the effortlessly gracious and kind Mrs Trefusis has invited me to a lovely party type event which will be huge fun. But at which I will have to speak to lots of strangers. Ask them questions. Put them at ease. Yeah. She is absolutely magnificent at this. I am like someone's surly teenage son in comparison. We have been musing today on what concentration, quantity and type of alcohol I will need to perform, without lapsing into gibbering incoherence. She favours whisky, I'm more inclined to vodka. Two of whatever it is will be plenty. I would really really like to prove to myself I am capable of this. What do you reckon? Can I do it? Or will she have to rescue me from a catatonic ball of shame on the floor of the ladies at the end of the evening? I'll tell you next week.