You know how sometimes you’ll think about something completely random that happened years ago and then can’t stop thinking about it? Time for a story, everyone.
When I was in high school I was painfully awkward and shy, and the times that I wasn’t shy the awkward took over and tended to make everything just weird. Like a cluster of weird.
So the choir I was in went on a trip to perform at the Dizzy Gillespie Jazz Festival upstate in a town called Cheraw. Everything was great about performing and listening to the music, seeing the town.
The motel we stayed at was an Executive Inn. Being naïve high schoolers, we all gleefully believed up to the drive into the motel parking lot that we were in for some sweet digs. This hotel was awful. The water came out of the shower brown in our room (and purple in our neighbors’), there were lots of unoccupied rooms with no doors and the interior was like a colorblind guy threw up what he thought Bollywood looked like. With bad 80’s carpet.
But that’s not the story here. The real story comes our last night in Cheraw, when the chaperones and our director all decided to take us out on a Jazz Crawl going from one bar patio to another.
Now here’s where Awkward-Fueled Not-Shy Gabby comes in. I was so excited by all of the music that I wanted to dance. Now one of my closer friends was a little reluctant so I was vocally encouraging her loudly over the music to dance with me. You know, just “come on! Come dance! It’ll be fun!” Usual awkward people stuff.
Seeing my disappointment this grown man (probably late 40s) approaches me (15 at the time) and asks me to dance with him.
Now Shy-Awkward Gabby came crashing back, the Gabby that had a really hard time saying no to people, especially adults. So even though I was terrified, because he smelled like alcohol and I wasn’t sure if he was drunk, or an angry drunk, I meekly said yes and swing danced the rest of the song with him. He was a perfect gentleman of course, but I was mortified. I looked right at my friends and mouthed “HELP” but they must have thought I was joking around.
Now everyone was laughing when I came to sit down, shaken entirely to my core with fear. It took a few minutes for anyone to notice I wasn’t laughing at all. My director came over chuckling to reassure me that I was “very polite” and he “had his eye on me the whole time.”
Back then I was nothing but furious. I wanted to vomit and scream and it took me until I got in bed that night to stop shaking. Today I can look back and not feel as angry, sometimes I even find it a little humorous. But as a very small 15 year old who had never defended herself it was awful. I don’t know if I’ve been able to 100% grasp how not one chaperone stopped the situation, and how not one of my friends at the time tried to help me.
If there are any young women (and men too) who are ever in any kind of situation like this, please know that even if you’re shy, you have every right to just say no and walk away. You don’t owe anyone any excuses, and you have control over what you do.
Now to end on a slightly lighter note, let’s return to the Executive Inn.
We were sitting on the bed watching something on the tv when we heard yelling and then a really loud CRASH. We all rolled onto the floor and flattened ourselves immediately. One of the girls crawled and slithered over to the window to investigate, looking like something like a crawling starfish. We couldn’t stop laughing. It was extremely dark so she couldn’t see anything. The next morning, however, we were getting on the bus to go home when we saw one of the bottom floor windows has been entirely shattered.
And that’s the sketchiest field trip I’ve ever been on, and we went to D.C. my senior year. Woo!