Just say Hi, Anjelica...Huston?
How do you feel when you are alone? Are you self-conscious and painfully aware that you are friendless? Do you imagine people are wondering why you are just standing there by yourself? Do your attempts to look like a thoughtful, independent professional-rather than a dateless wonder, seem artificial and make you cringe? Perhaps the following true stories will change the way you approach uncomfortable moments.
On the eve of my twelfth birthday, while on a glorious Florida vacation, my oldest brother, Jim, observed me at the local teen club staring at my toes and writhing in self conscious agony. I, unfortunately, was completely ignored by the rest of the joyful group of kids.
He asked, "What's the matter, Fatsinello?" (I was so skinny that calling me Fats was a big brother joke.) Ha Ha.
With a sigh, I replied, "Nothing."
Jim, with his typical insight, said, "Go find the loneliest looking person in the room, just walk up to them and say "Hi." He nodded in the direction of a young girl sipping a Coke at a distant table.
"Go say Hi," he commanded.
The walk to her table was heart pounding in anticipation of total public humiliation, having been set-up a million times before by my three brothers for their comedic entertainment.
The girl starred at me like a frightened rabbit and her rigid head twisted. I chocked out a lame,"Hi."
Like a double rainbow after a dark storm, her smile was gorgeous. Her shoulders dropped, she laughed and gushed how she did not know anyone here. I glanced back at Jim, who had on his smug told-you-so expression, but he, too, seemed pleased. The girl and I were best friends for the duration of my Florida vacation and because of her, I had so much fun. With a friend by my side, I came alive, was funnier, more daring, danced at the club and even allowed myself to be semi-hypnotized by the visiting magician.
I had another opportunity to try the "Just say Hi" technique. I was working for Emmy award winning Alexander Singer as his assistant for a Director's Dialogue held at the Director's Guild in Los Angeles. My job consisted of helping during the meetings and nervously inviting directors including Warren Beatty to attend the meetings. I also received a special perk - a single ticket to a workshop on the Queen Mary ocean liner.
I arrived at seven in the morning hoping that I would be discovered by a ship full of directors. I listened to several lectures and watched a few movies and then all the attendees met in the large dining room for lunch. Nearly all the people were men and seemed to know each other well. They quickly grouped together and filled up the tables. I felt self-conscious and a bit like the last one standing during musical chairs. Then, I saw a pretty woman sitting alone at a table close to the podium and I remembered "Just say Hi." She was staring at her place setting and seemed lost in private thought.
"Hi," I offered.
Like awakened, she looked up at me. She was exotically beautiful and her black silky hair shifted as she turned her head. Her slight smile was welcoming and gave me permission to join her. After thirty minutes I had fully recovered from my "last man standing" crisis and she and I chatted easily and intimately as often only two strangers can. She began to reveal to me her concern for her ailing father and she spoke of "Jack" several times. I nodded compassionately, still faking my way since I had no real connection to anyone in the room.
Then the guest speaker was introduced and walked slowly to the podium. He wore a navy blue velour sweat suit and seemed frail and bony. He spoke about his father, Walter, and the experiences of a lifetime of movie making. Many times, John Huston stopped to cough and try to catch his breath. But he would stand up tall and begin again. The audience hung on his every word and the applause was deafening quickly followed by a standing ovation. Mr. Huston waved goodbye and escaped the crowds of directors that swarmed near him to touch his tall frame or shake his trembling hand.
"Come on, let's get out of here," my new friend said.
I followed her tall slender frame down the long corridors deep in the Queen Mary's private floors, away from the noise and crowd with no clue where we were going. She swung open a door to a finely appointed stateroom, where our speaker John Huston sat on the couch, his jacket unzipped to reveal a thin white t-shirt. I instantly knew whom she had been talking about for the past hour. Simultaneously, I broke the spike of my high heel and stumbled into the stateroom. Always one to make a great entrance, I have learned to laugh easily and amuse myself with my otherwise embarrassing moments. We all laughed together as I held up my broken heel.
"Give it to me," said the deep gravelly voice.
Mr. Huston reached out his large hand for my shoe. Here I am, in John Huston's stateroom with his beautiful daughter, Anjelica and the greatest director of our time is fiddling with my shoe. He coughed harder and longer now that he was in private quarters. Anjelica's face showed her every emotion of concern, adoration and heartbreak as her father gasped for his breath. I briefly wondered what an elegant lady like this saw in Jack Nicholson, knowing little about him then except his bad press and the sadness that mentioning his name still caused her. The senior Huston would quickly regroup after his coughing, begin teasing us, sparring, alternating critical comments with show-off funny jabs, harsh in a way that we laughingly ignored and simply enjoyed him. I was missing the workshop but I could have cared less. Amazingly, after several poundings on the coffee table, John Huston even fixed my shoe. Eventually, Mr. Huston said he needed to rest and Anjelica whispered she would see me later.
I joined the group of directors and media in the next workshop. What would any of them have given to be invited into the private world of super star Anjelica Huston and her famous father? To this day, I am surprised that I was. No directors discovered me that day, but I discovered a fascinating man and his daughter. I also learned that when shyness or self-conscious feelings threaten to overwhelm you, just say "Hi" and a new world may open up before you.
Dr. Molly Barrow earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor and educator in private practice. She is the author of the Malia & Teacup children's books, Matchlines for Singles; and Step Parenting Essentials. Dr. Barrow is a relationship expert helping individuals, couples, families, and co-workers improve their relationships and communication skills. Her commentary and advice column, quotes, radio show, interviews, films, and articles are enjoyed worldwide in O Magazine, Psychology Today, MSM.com, Parenting, Morning Blend, Match.com, Progressive Radio Network, New York Times, My Suicide film, KTLA documentary, PBS News, Newsday, and Women’s Health.