“JUST GO!!!!!!!! You will be in a sea of fans and will not be considered a dork or a stalker. You’ll regret it if you skip it because of your self imposed and uncontrollable insecurities and I won’t want to hear you complain about not going after the fact. (This e-mail is sent from the bottom of my heart. ♥ )”
This is the message that my friend/sister-in-law Karen sent me, giving me the nudge I’d need to go to Jen Lancaster’s book signing alone.
I’m not a big fan of alone. Maybe it’s because I grew up as an only child. I have step siblings and my awesome sister (half-sister, but I don’t think of her that way), but none of them grew up in the house with me. My step-siblings were twelve and fourteen years older than me. My little sister was nine years younger than me. So I grew up alone. I’ve lived alone and enjoyed it, but I prefer to do things with somebody else. Maybe it’s because I love to share. I want to be able to turn to somebody and say ‘hey, did you see that?’ or ‘you have to taste this, it’s incredible!’
So going to a book signing alone was daunting. Also, it was in D.C. I just started working in D.C. a few months ago and I never really go out. The farthest I’ve ventured was down a few floors to the crappy deli. I won’t be making that mistake again. There’s a pizza place too, but not compelling enough to get me off my ass and down the elevator.
When I realized that I’d have to go alone if I wanted to meet Jen Lancaster, I was terrified. I was going to have to get through D.C. That alone was bad enough. I’d have to find parking or take the Metro, neither of which I really wanted to do. Plus I’d have to be around a bunch of people I don’t know before meeting somebody whose books and attitude have had a profound effect on me. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could do it.
Having an idea of my personality ‘quirks’ (you say neuroses, I say quirks…), Karen kept reminding me of the event. How did she know I was likely to bail at the last minute?I think she has special powers. (called observation, some would say)
The amount of prep-work I did for this book signing is ridiculous. I was so nervous and I realized I hadn’t shopped for anything fashion or style related in about four years. (the same age as my son…coincidence? Not at all.)
The day of the book signing, I was a bundle of nerves. I wanted my hair and makeup to be perfect. I was stressing over the color of my nails, which ended up looking kind of adolescent rather than sophisticated. I was upset that my pants weren’t nicer…better fabric…better quality. They were a Tar-jay special that I’d gotten for a cruise my family took earlier in the year. My wardrobe is so bare these days, it was a struggle to find a nice-looking outfit. My taste in shoes is impeccable, the one saving grace I have style-wise. If all else failed, at least I knew my shoes would look fantastic. I checked myself out in the ladies’ room mirror and decided I’d pass muster. Then I looked down at my feet. Brown goes with everything. Well-made, stylish brown shoes can complete an outfit. Unfortunately, they do not complete an outfit that is primarily black. I panicked. I looked ridiculous. On top of that, my feet were killing me. As it turns out, there’s a good reason you shouldn’t buy shoes that are too big for you, no matter how cute they are.
I limped the eight or so blocks it took for me to get to Macy’s. By the time I entered the cool, dark, welcoming building, my feet were throbbing and I wanted to cry. That feeling only lasted a minute, though. As my eyes adjusted to the low-light inside, I realized I was standing smack in front of the shoe section. My favorite friends were right there, waiting for me. Enzo!Etienne! Bandolino and Nine West!I was in heaven. I shuffled over to start looking at the shoes, knowing all I needed was a cute pair of black shoes. I found what I was looking for, after only one sadly false start with a shoe they didn’t carry in my size (bye-bye Etienne!).
An hour later (hey, who can shop for less than an hour? Really?) I stepped out of the store more confident in my looks and able to take a step without wincing.
I made my way to Barnes and Noble and almost squealed when I saw the “Jen Lancaster book-signing My Fair Lazy ” sign. I stood in line for my wrist-band (you need one of these because they call you in groups of 25, based on your bracelet number, to get your book signed), bought an extra book for my mom, and headed up to the second floor where the action was.
Here is where the magic began. I was desperate for something to eat, having eschewed lunch in favor of makeup and hair and nails. I ordered this fabulous looking pepperoni and mozzarella pretzel sandwich-thing and an iced coffee. A pleasant young man handed me my sandwich and I started to head towards the condiment area when the unthinkable happened. In slow motion, I watched my sandwich slide out of the little brown bag and onto the floor. The entire thing landed with a dull splat sound. I could still smell the delicious mixture of pizza in a pretzel. My hand was still warm, as was the bag that once held my sandwich. My face fell. So typical. So me. I am the world’s largest klutz. I picked up the remnants of my sandwich (my dignity still limping along somewhere a few blocks back) and threw it in the trash. Just then, a girl who had been waiting next to me spoke.
“You should ask for another one”
Oh, no, um, I really couldnt’ do that… I mean… It was my fault…
At this point I’m pretty sure I’m mumbling.
“So what, ask for one. It was an accident. Here, you know what…stay right where you are for a sec…I’m going to ask him for one.”
And you know what? Against my protests, she did. And she was so cool about it, I couldn’t even feel embarrassed anymore. I thanked her and told her I could never have done that because I’m so shy. She said it didn’t show. I was stunned. Really?It didn’t show?Because that’s me all over. I am so afraid of talking to new people and making an ass of myself. I’m afraid of rejection and looking stupid and being totally out of place. But just for a moment I thought “hey, maybe I don’t have to feel this way after all…”
I got the new sandwich and sat down and some amazing things happened. I saw someone coming toward my table. And I spoke to her. On my own.Without her speaking first. I told her I loved her hair. I made her day!She said she had been having a terrible hair day and she really needed that.
My confidence boosted, I moved along to the area where Jen Lancaster was going to read and do the Q&A. I was standing by this girl and we actually made small talk. Me!My chest felt all fluttery. It was almost like being on a first date with myself!
Just then, the girl said ‘oooh, here she comes!’ I contained my stupid child-like ‘squee’ that wanted to escape and just beamed from ear to ear, clapping along with everyone else.
Wow! Jen Lancaster looks just like I expected her to look. She has this infectious smile and she just puts the entire room at ease immediately. She looks totally cute and put-together. And what in the hell was happening to me? Why was I getting choked up? It was then that I started to realize that she had become an inspiration to me. She was confident and smart and writing for a living. She saw flaws in herself and instead of moping about them, she took action to fix what she didn’t like. This is exactly the kind of person I want to be!
Not to mention I have wanted to write since I was eight. And here she was…doing it.
I listened to the reading and laughed at the funny parts and got teary-eyed a few more times (WTF is up with me?) I clapped when she was finished and tried to avoid eye-contact with her as she passed me to go to the signing area. The last thing I wanted was for her to see some stupid fan with tears in her eyes trying to avoid ruining her makeup.
I waited for a while and finally went up when it was my turn to get my books signed. I told them my name and they gave Jen my books. The first one was the galley I got for the review. It was my first official galley and my first review on my blog. I walked up to Jen and she smiled and I think she said hi…that’s when tears sprang up in my eyes and I mumbled:
“You’re my hero.”
Then I blushed and choked back the lump in my throat. She was all “totally not worthy” and I’m all “ohhh yes you are…” and then I couldn’t even explain why because I was all stupid and choked up.
She asked where I got the galley and I told her that she had been my first review. She asked if it was good and I laughed saying it was fantastic.
She told me to keep doing what I do…said publishers would be happy to send me galleys/review copies, and said it was nice to meet me.
I think I mumbled something else, but I don’t know what. I’m pretty sure I floated all the way down to the first floor and out onto the street.
I immediately called my mom to tell her how awesome it went. I would have called Karen, but I knew she had plans (duh, that’s why I was by myself!) I felt so great! I felt like I had accomplished something huge. And you know…to me, I did! I overcame every social fear I had because meeting someone I respect and admire meant more to me than my fear.
The whole drive home (speaking of which, I walked to the signing, thankyouverymuch. No parking for me and no Metro with crazy people who want to steal my iPod) Ahem. The whole drive home I felt high. I was playing my girl-power music (Fighter and Beautiful by Christina Aguilera, yo!) I was on top of my world.
That night made me realize that I need to start doing more things for myself. I need to take time to be alone. I need to spend some time and effort on myself.
I also need to write a letter to Jen Lancaster. I need to tell her why she’s my hero. I’m not just some stupid stalker-fan-girl. She is the kind of person I’ve wanted to be and her books gave me inspiration. She is out there doing what I want to do. And now I’m going to do it too.