So Tuesday night, I’m at my local pub where I’m a semi-regular participant at the open mic there. I’m third in the batting order, and when it’s my turn, I play my five songs, and acquit myself in a positive manner that doesn’t have me internally self-flagellating for the next three days. This is more pleasing than usual, due to the fact that allergies have made me a bit froggy and I’m afeared that my voice is going to crack any second like that of a lad newly initiated into the joys of puberty. I can see I’ve got the crowd (if 15 people can be called a “crowd”) hooked; they’re listening intently, and are generous with the applause and the praise as I finish my set and make my way back to my red velvet seat to put my guitar away and, finally, order some dinner. I congratulate myself that while it wasn’t a perfect set (because it never is), any mistakes I made were my secret and any funky wavering of my voice seems to have been either unnoticed or immediately forgiven by my auditors. I’m pleased with myself, truth be told. All and all, things are good.
So I’m sitting in my booth, waiting for the waiter to come back around to take my order for my usual Sprite and shepherd’s pie, and a lady who performed before me comes over and proceeds to say many nice things about my singing, which I always appreciate. Because I’m a performer, and any performer who tells you they don’t perform for kudos is a damn liar. People who don’t care about that crap don’t force themselves to fight past the stage fright, the nerves for hours before you get to the stage, and the ridiculous number of pre-show trips to the bathroom, to play in front of strangers. They play at home in their rooms by themselves, like sane people.
At this point, someone else has begun to play, so I don’t think anything of it when my new fan leans in, because I assume she’s doing so so I can hear her speaking over the music. And I don’t mind that, because I am slowly going deaf, and it is often hard for me to hear people talking, especially with other noise competing.
But I am completely surprised when she punctuates her praise with a kiss on my cheek. It was very chaste, and quick, but it was unquestionably a kiss. And then she walks back to her table with some parting words, and my saying “thanks” again for her compliments, wondering what the hell just happened.
A stranger just kissed me.
Who does that?
I mean, sure, I’ve been out in public and seen beautiful people that I indulge in a 5-second fantasy of being bold enough to walk up to and kissing them, smiling, and walking away. (Doesn’t everyone?) But I would never do it.
Because who does that? Nobody. It’s just not done.
Now I suppose it’s possible that, as a Scandinavian Midwesterner, especially one who came into her artsy-ness relatively late in life, the issue may well be just that casual intimate physical contact is entirely foreign to me. It was never a part of my cultural wiring. By way of illustration, I offer a joke that only those of you who know people of my tribe will get:
How do you know if a Finn is an extrovert?
He looks at the other guy’s shoes when he’s talking.
That is to say, I didn’t hug other non-related adults until I was nearly 30 and had become friends with a nice gay couple who hugged everyone as a standard greeting. It took some getting used to, but I decided it was nice and I continue to do it with my friends; I’m happy to hug people I know don’t mind being hugged. But if I don’t know you well enough to know if you’re a hugger, I will err on the side of respecting maximum personal space until such time as I manage to ascertain that information, or our friendship has evolved enough that such boundaries, if they ever existed, have dissolved. So maybe it’s a cultural difference, but still…kissing a stranger on a cheek? I don’t think they even do that in Europe.
And then I think about the fact that they’re pushing the Contagion trailers hard tonight on ESPN, which is on every screen in the pub. I’ve seen at least 10 commercials for it in the two hours I’ve been there, and still have another hour to go. If it were true, if there were a virus like that, that lady could’ve just killed me! And I won’t even know it for three days!
I mean, other than that, she seemed like a nice person. But honestly, I still don’t know what to make of it. Clearly, I must consider the possibility that my artistry and charisma as a performer are far more powerful than I’ve heretofore imagined. I may have to consider wearing eye protection on stage, lest I be inadvertently blinded by an enthusiastically flung pair of panties.
But seriously…who does that?