Naturally, the writing went out of the window at the chance to meet the Mysterious Girlfriend. I slammed my lap top shut and dashed to the car, whizzing up the street to pick them up.
It was a spectacularly awkward car journey which, thankfully, only lasted about six minutes. I asked the requisite couple of questions, got the requisite replies, then stalled.
The Rower sat next to me in the front seat looking mortified every time I opened my mouth. I turned the radio on, and un-self-consciously sang along, just a bit, as he continued to look mortified. We finished the journey to Neil Young and awkward silences.
And yet, I have just looked out my kitchen window to the swimming pool, where The Rower and the Mysterious Girlfriend are engaged in lively conversation. In fact, I have never seen my son so animated. He is moving his head and waving his arms as he discourses on who-knows-what (I can’t go anywhere near the window to try and eavesdrop for fear of being spotted), and it is like some other person has temporarily inhabited my somewhat shy, reticent teenager.
Looking at my son right now I would think him an extrovert, even though I know that is absolutely not the case. He is his mother’s son, complete with deep introversion. He is so happy on his own that when he attended a music school and they printed a program with all the kids in it, spontaneously giving them nicknames that were surprisingly apt, they called him “The Lone Wolf”.
I am something of a lone wolf myself. I like people enormously, but only the people I like. I am also cripplingly shy, which no-one believes, because I am enormously outgoing amongst people with whom I am comfortable, and can easily stand up in front of a room full of hundreds of people to give a keynote speech that would lead you to think I am the most confident woman you have ever met.
But send me into a cocktail party filled with strangers, or, worse, a school concert, my body tenses up, my words dry up, and although I plaster a smile on my face as if I am a warm, approachable, friendly person (which I am), I am convinced everyone looking at me can see it is a fake smile, so no-one talks to me, which compounds the shyness.
I am an expert at pretending to be busy on my iPhone. I am an expert at staring into the distance with an engaged, distracted look on my face, as if I am plotting my next three novels instead of wishing I were anywhere else but here.
My son has perfected my engaged, distracted look, but all hail the Mysterious Girlfriend for making him feel comfortable enough to open up and talk to someone, even if it’s not his mother.
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