18 September 2008

The day the dopes came over

Years and years ago when I used to live with my friend Tootin' Sammy, we got a new roommate named Carrie Jean. Carrie Jean's brother and her boyfriend, who were best friends, used to come over to our place a lot and spend time. We loved Carrie Jean. We loved her guys too, but I have to tell you that as university English department wunderkinder their esoteric literary debates got a little chewy for Sammy and me. It's not that they were smarter than we were (oh, of course not!), or that she and I loved books any less (we liked to eat them for lunch!), it's just that we we weren't up on the erudite criticism theories of the day, and frankly, we were frequently bored and/or intimidated when the brainy mud-wrestling began. Such is the twisted perspective of youth.

It just so happened that I grew up on Steve Martin humor (and I'm certainly none the better for it), and one day Sammy and I broke out my old worn paperback of Cruel Shoes to entertain ourselves in low-brow fashion. We laughed ourselves silly over one story in particular which, at the time, seemed to fit our situation perfectly. So you won't waste your time looking it up I'll give you the slightly edited version here. It's quite short.

The Day the Dopes Came Over
by Steve Martin

I was sitting at home, minding my own business, when my doorbell rang. "Who's there?" I shouted. "We don't know," came the reply. I immediately knew the dopes had come over.

I opened the door and invited them in. I was happy to have company even if they were a bunch of dopes.

"Well, what brings you over this way?" I queried.




"Yup," they said.

"Would you like some coffee?" I asked.

"Gol," said one dope, "how long have we been here?"

"About two minutes."

"Gol, we should have left hours ago!" And they packed up some of my things and lumbered out.

"Goodbye, Dopes!" I shouted.

They turned to me and shouted back, "Goodbye, you big idiot!"

See? You have to be young and giddy to really appreciate this kind of humor properly.

I forgot to mention that I had sort of a crush on Carrie Jean's brother. And Sammy thought her boyfriend looked like a Greek god. That may or may not be significant to the subtext.

Anyway. Sammy and I often talked about how foolish we felt when the boys came over and got going with their intellectual lit-speak and seemed to be trying to engage (impress?) us. Sammy would occasionally try to give it a whirl, being an English major herself, and no small thinker, but it was always the same—crash and burn.

So, from the point of our Steve Martin binge onward, Sammy and I gleefully and secretly referred to the boys as the Dopes. Don't ask me why. We said "yup" to each other a lot while the visitors were present and holding court, and I'm afraid we stopped trying to keep up with them altogether. The two of us were pointedly—there's no other word for it—dopey. It was a highly stupid but very effective coping technique, and we enjoyed the boys' stopovers so much more.

The reason all of this comes to mind and seems the least (very least) bit blog-worthy is that in a little while Rob and I will be having dinner with some people that I often feel shy around. These are nice people, but . . . well, it's just that old intimidation complex again. I still wrestle with it occasionally, even though I know I ought to be done forever with it. Suggestions?

You needn't worry that I will act like a dope though. I will do my best not to say ain't, so as not to offend the sensibilities of my dinnermate who is a very proper and cultured lady, a writer and also the widow of one. Likewise, I will mind my manners. The musicians, however, operatic and classical, might be tougher for me to negotiate, and so I have prepared myself this afternoon by watching this funny video. It made me laugh, helped me relax, and get things into perspective. Hey, Steve Martin's not my only influence; I grew up on Mozart too. Tonight when I begin to choke on my curry because I feel I'm somehow not quite good enough, I will think of this piece and smile:

Wish me good luck!

UPDATE! The evening went just fine, and I didn't even have to rely on the manualist's version of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik to ease my nerves. Hurray!


sue-donym said...

I have never known you to be anything but elegant. You go out there and be the wonderful, amazing you and all will be well.

wendy said...

I'm with Sue--what she said.

Also, another thought, "Perfect love casteth out all fear." You could pray for love of them and to feel God's love.

What's that They Might Be Giants song? Whistling In The Dark:

There's only one thing that I know how to do well
And I've often been told that you only can do
What you know how to do well
And that's be you,
Be what you're like,
Be like yourself . . .

Geo said...

Ladies, you are hired for the cheering squad! Great suggestions, and just exactly what I tried to do tonight. Thanks for your sweet comments!

b. said...

I'm too late, I'm sure....but....
I completely agree with sue-d.

Debra said...

In situations like these I let myself off the hook with the thought, "well, I can't expected to be well versed in EVERY subject can I?"

compulsive writer said...

Bright, elegant, radiant, polished, thoughtful...I could go on and one.

Geo said...

Well, hey, I was hoping you folks would laugh with me. I wasn't banking on all this great reinforcement, but I'll take it. Thanks a lot, ladies!

Debra, I'm making decent strides in that direction. I'm so much better than I used to be at that kind of self-talk . . . and I do actually enjoy laughing at myself as an adult. That used to be pretty hard for me. Now that I'm older it's so much easier to recognize and appreciate the absurd in myself and others. And like Wendy said, prayers for a greater capacity to love really help a lot.

I considered introducing the opera singer tonight to my new favorite version of this bit of Mozart opera, but I guess that really would have been awkward!

Lois said...

What I really want to know is, did you do any cat juggling afterwards?

anna said...

oh i laughed and laughed. my imagination kind of mixed it in with the delicious and it was a gut busting treat!

Anonymous said...

It's "Goodbye you big fucking idiot!

Anonymous said...

I saw the Martin and Martin show this year in 2017.
Steve Martin and Martin Short trading barbs.

And Steve and his kickass Bluegrass band was equally fantastic