Small Stories for a Big World

I have a new boss. When his supervisor brought him around to meet everyone, I was sitting at my desk picking at one of my fingernails.

I hardly ever pick at my fingernails. If I had known they were going to come walking up behind me at that particular moment, I certainly would have been doing something more writer-like, say, typing really fast. Before I stood up to shake his hand, I might have paused to pull out a handkerchief and wipe the sweat off of my brow.

But, no, there I was, looking as unproductive as it’s possible to look when your job is interviewing people and writing stories. When I told the fingernail story to people later, they laughed in sympathy.

A few days later, I was walking by my new boss when he said, “Do you mean to be wearing your sweater backward?”


I stopped and pulled off the sweater. Sure enough, the V was in the back rather than the front where it belonged.

It crossed my mind to say something along the lines of, “You must be wondering what you have gotten into.” Instead, I said, “Thanks for pointing that out.”

I thought it was best not to mention that that just a few days earlier, I had discovered that, for the first time ever as far as I remember, I had put on my boxer shorts backward.

Garnet and Sparkle Girl and Doobins already knew about the boxer shorts. They thought that was pretty funny. When I told them about the sweater, they added it to their lists of wacky things that Kim does. If Garnet also wondered whether she needed to start worrying about a husband who appeared to be turning into Backwards Man, she kept it to herself.

A good thing about the fingernail and sweater incidents is that, at some level, they enabled me to relax around my new boss. I certainly no longer had to worry about trying to impress.

Over the years, I have learned that, sometimes, a little embarrassment can be a good thing. On a trip with a friend many years ago, I got locked in a garage and ended up spending the night there. Although there’s a longer story there, the pertinent part is, some months later, I met the sister of the friend. I liked his sister right away and was busy trying to impress her when this odd look crossed her face, and she said, “Ooohhh! You’re the one who spent the night locked in the garage.”

Clearly, my chances of impressing her were nonexistent. So I just went back to being my everyday self. She ended up becoming my girlfriend. I don’t know whether giving up worrying about impressing her helped my cause, but I always liked to think so.

A friend once told me about his first date with the woman who ended up becoming his wife. He really liked her, so he took her to a posh restaurant and ordered one exotic course and wine after another. When the check came, he reached into his back pocket only to discover that he had forgotten his wallet.

She had to pay. As embarrassing as it was at the time, he, too, saw it as a good thing in the long-term because that he had nowhere to go but up after that.

I’m just hoping that the backward boxer shorts and V-necked sweater are it for a while. I think Garnet might have a hard time explaining away another foray into Backwards World as nothing to worry about. I know I would.

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