On Tuesday, my family and I drove down to Stevensville, MI and visited my cousin and his family. He's a state cop, like my dad was for 25 years, so my dad sees him fairly often. Jeff is 33, and has a wife and two kids. He's exactly where I'd want to be at that age, although it's pretty evident now that I'm setting my sights pretty high there. But I'm happy for him; he's got a great house, a beautiful wife, and a couple of cute kids.
The thing that struck me from the visit is how much Jeff is like my dad. He's charismatic, able to talk with confidence and humor about nearly anything. I was nearly silent the entire visit, and I was struck by how that particular gene - or whatever it is - completely eluded me while hitting both Jeff and my dad hard. To be able to be the center of attention without thinking about it... I just can't do it. I've never been able to. I can't smalltalk for shit, and if I don't know a topic, I pretty much don't feel like my thoughts on it are relevant or even formed enough to share. People usually say what I want to say, or I have a huge fear of interrupting, or something else that prevents me from chiming in. Whatever it is, I'm pretty much silent, and I'm sure people either get the impression that I'm stupid or stuck-up. I'm neither of these. I just can't really talk that well, unless it's about a topic I know well. And these topics aren't limited - I can hold my own on any topic from teaching to baseball to waiting tables to music to movies to the Internet to dogs to wahtever - but these things just never seem to come up in the discussion.
So on the way home, I asked dad: How do you do it? How do you just stand in a room and be able to be the center of attention? He didn't have an answer, instead saying it was because he and Jeff talk all the time. But there's more there. I feel like my father has no neuroses at all, that everything comes easily to him. I'm sure I'm wrong, but from a distance, while a battle wages within my mind trying to figure out what to say, he's never even had to attend such a battle.
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