I met Jenny Lawson tonight. She was super sweet and gave me a bunch of compliments. It felt great and awkward, and everyone was looking at me, so I wanted to run for the exit as soon as it was over. Only that would’ve probably drawn even more attention, so I just decided to walk normally. But then I felt like I was overcompensating and walking too slowly just so I’d look like I was walking at a normal pace, so I sped up a little until I started to feel like I was walking too fast, then I just gave up and looked at the watch I wasn’t wearing so I could pretend I was late for something. By the time I had it all sorted out, I was already back at my car.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before any of this happened, it was just a normal Friday, and I was doing normal Friday things like not cleaning my house. That all changed today though, because I’ve been wrestling all week over whether or not I was going to go to Jenny’s book signing in Houston for Furiously Happy. However, since I’d never been to a book signing before, I didn’t know what to expect. I had it in my mind that it would be a tiny space crammed with people who would all recognize me from my bit in the video I was in for the book trailer, and then I’d have to talk to them and explain my sign (because I’d be holding my sign since part of the reason I was going was to get Jenny to sign my sign), and I just couldn’t handle that sort of pressure.
So instead of not cleaning my house today, I spent most of the morning dusting and sweeping and rearranging my living room with pathological tidiness characteristic of both ’50s TV housewives and lunatic serial killers. I did this because I’d decided to go to the signing, and I was terrified of following through with it.
My Other Questionable Decisions
So I cleaned like a madman until it hit me, and I realized that I was panic cleaning. Which is something I’ve never in my life done before, as I generally feel more comfortable amidst the detritus and refuse of my own filth than I do in any sort of properly maintained and orderly environment. But I was doing it today like I was making up for lost time.
Until, of course, it was time to go. It’s Trey’s weekend with his dad, so instead of waiting for him to drive into town to pick him up at 4:30, we left at 2:30 and met him halfway at the one gas station of a tiny little town called Devers, which is only really notable for the fact that it has exactly one gas station. We met up and said our goodbyes around 3:30, then headed onward to west Houston.
Which should’ve only taken about an hour to get to from where we were, but if you roll into the Houston area around 4:00 on a Friday expecting to get to where you’re going without frustration and heartache, you’re gonna have a bad time.
We had a bad time.
If you’re not familiar with the Houston area, it’s roughly the size of Connecticut. This is not an exaggeration.
Sure, Houston itself isn’t all that big, but nobody actually lives in Houston. They live in the Houston Area, which is made up of all the little suburbs that dot the landscape around the city. It’s basically like a big fallout map from a nuclear explosion, if ground zero were Downtown and the radioactive cloud was just cars. Lots of cars. Everywhere.
With madmen behind the wheel.
We didn’t arrive at Blue Willow Books until around 5:30, after having spent nearly an entire hour driving the last 15 miles. But we managed to get there safely, with me only suffering a few micro heart attacks from swerving assholes and maniac lane cutter-offers. (That’s a real term. No need to look it up.)
Blue Willow Books was, in fact, a tiny space – just as I’d feared. But it was a nifty little bookshop with a lot of character to it, and the reading was going to happen outside, behind the store. So it’d be open air and I could hide in a corner someplace. No problem.
My wife and I (my wife and me? I can never remember the rule) went to the counter and bought a copy of the book, since I hadn’t bothered to buy one earlier. I considered this good manners, since turning up with my own copy of Furiously Happy that I’d bought somewhere else would’ve been like showing up to a friend’s house for dinner with my own hamburger because I wasn’t sure if I’d like whatever they were serving and also if i had friends.
You get the idea.
So we bought a book, got our place in line – we were in Blue Group, which was cool because it’s my favorite color, but also a little less cool because it was the penultimate signing group, which is just a polite way of saying we were just one step away from being dead ass last – and then made our way out back.
There were a whole bunch of white plastic chairs, and my wife picked the 4th row back – which was cool, because I’ve always liked 4 and I have a deep aversion to odd numbers, but also less cool because that left rows 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 behind us. Which meant I was sitting with people to my back, and I hate that.
Seriously, I can’t stand it. For example, when we go to a restaurant, my ideal table is the one in the corner, and my chair is the one on the wall so nobody can sneak up on me. If there’s no corner table, then I take whichever chair gives me the best view of the entrances and exits of the place, so I can keep my eye out.
For what, I have no freaking clue. It’s not like Virgil Sollozzo is going to suddenly creep up and garrote me from behind or anything. I’m not in the mob, and I hardly know any Italians. But it’s still a thing.
By the time things got going, most of the seats were filled, and I was just sitting there uncomfortable as hell, from both the plastic chair of questionable rigidity I was sitting on, and the fact that hundreds of eyeballs were looking at the back of my head.
And I started to feel like Luca Brasi.
I spent most of Jenny’s excellent reading laughing while having my arms crossed in front of me in the universal sign of I AM NOT AT EASE HERE. But even then, I still wasn’t comfortable because I bite my fingernails like any self-respecting neurotic psychopath, and my hands basically look like Snausages. I’m super self-conscious about them, which is a problem when I spend so much of my time with my arms folded across my chest.
I have to either tuck my hands into my elbow holes to hide my secret shame, or ball up my fists and just kind of rest them on my forearms in a way that makes me feel like, for some reason, one of those “wooden indians” you see in old movies but never in real life.
Anyway, Jenny read a couple of chapters from Furiously Happy and everyone laughed at the funny parts and nodded in sage agreement with the serious parts, and it was generally a good time for everyone. But by the time she started the Q&A, the backdrop the bookshop had put up behind her started to make me dizzy.
Something about trying to focus on Jenny with this bright white and blue-dotted tarpaulin behind her just started to confuse my brain, and I had to actively concentrate to keep things in focus as my eyes conspired to trigger a migraine.
So that was fun.
Once the reading was over, it was signing time. But they started with Red, and after I saw the horde of people in just one group, I realized that Blue wasn’t going to come up until much later. They were taking them in the order of something called Roy G. Biv, which I’ve been told has something to do with the order of colors in the rainbow or something, and that I really should’ve learned that in school, only I never did because I was probably off in the special class that day, playing with parachutes and that weird ass plastic thing with a ball in the middle to improve my handwriting.
At any rate, it meant that I had time to kill.
There was an HEB grocery store nearby, so I walked over to pick up some snacks for the wait. On the walk there, I had to pass an AutoZone, where I witnessed a very large, very old man leaning under the hood of his car, with the folded crevices of his upper butt crack just flapping in the breeze. I tried not to stare, but how could I not? It isn’t every day you get to see an origami ass crack.
Anyway, I eventually made it to the HEB and ended up checking out at the register with one bottle of Coca-Cola, some fake HEB Doritos, a caffeine candy bar, and a bag of Skittles. As I dug into my pockets for the last of my cash and counted out change, I realized this is probably the menu of a drunk person. Or possibly a stoned person, although I really only understand the drug culture from afterschool specials and Nancy Reagan PSAs from the ’80s, so I’m just guessing.
By the time I got back to the sitting area for the signing, my wife had Made Friends, and was busy chatting them up about my sign: the sign I’d carefully kept hidden via discrete book placement so nobody could see what was written on it. And here she was, chatting about it. Just like that. Openly. In public. With strangers.
I was mortified. But then they had to start telling me how much they liked it, so it got really awkward and I wanted to crawl into one of the nearby garbage dumpsters to hide.
After they finally left (they were nice, but I hate talking about myself in person…which is weird, because I write about myself all the time), I relocated to a safe area and sandwiched myself between a Volvo and one of the dumpsters while I waited for something to happen. Which is basically just a metaphor for my entire life.
By the time Blue Group came up, we missed it because I wasn’t paying attention. We ended up getting in line with Pink Group, which I’m pretty sure was the last group, instead of the next-to-last one we would’ve been in, if I hadn’t been so busy being awful.
Once we’d realized my mistake, we hopped in line and were eventually ushered back inside the store, where we then began waiting in another line while I looked at a bunch of children’s books to kill time and avoid making eye contact with other humans.
Then, it was my turn.
The lady working the signing table wanted to read my sign, so I showed it to her. Then, she told me I needed to hold it up while she took our picture with Jenny. Which was horrible.
But also wonderful.
I’m not going to say much about what Jenny said to me while she was signing my shit, because it was all way too nice and I’m embarrassed. But the takeaway is that she really loved the Furiously Happy side of my sign, and told me that a lot of other people did, too. Then, she said a bunch more super nice things before signing my sign and writing, “You are my hero.”
Which very nearly wrecked me.
But in a good way.
After we got done with the chatting and the signing, it was picture time. I held up my sign as the nice lady from the bookshop took a few snaps as everyone else in line was LOOKING RIGHT AT ME. And reading my sign.
Like I said: Terrifying.
Knowing me all too well, my wife redirected attention away from me and back onto Jenny by telling her the shape of her eyeglasses temples looked like the Elder Wand, and that she was probably a badass wizard. Or witch. Whichever.
Everyone laughed and I said thank you and goodbye, followed by my aforementioned walk/run/walk to the door.
If you’re thinking about going to one of her signings, all I can say is do it. Even if you have to drive through crazy traffic both ways, do it. Even if you’re socially awkward with an aversion to large groups, do it. Even if you’re a complete weirdo, DO IT.
It’s not scary. It’s uplifting.
As for me, it was hard, but I’m glad I did it. I’m probably going to frame my sign now, assuming I can either scrape up the cash to have it done, or just try to do it myself (and probably end up spending more money to fix it after I inevitably screw it up).
I want to hang it someplace important that I’ll see every day, as a reminder to myself to always stay FURIOUSLY HAPPY.
© 2015 – 2016, Kristian Bland. All rights reserved.