Social Anxiety

Written by Kerry Elizabeth Blickenderfer-Black for her adorable Dylan

6 June, 2013

Kelly was white with shock.  “You don’t understand,” she said in her overly-dramatic, teen-aged way.  Her older sister, Dee, giggled on the couch while Kelly plopped onto the perpendicularly place, overstuffed loveseat with a groan. 

Kelly was invited to lunch by their elderly neighbor, Mrs. McCall, to celebrate Kelly’s graduation from Springdale High School.  An introvert by nature, this lunch date was additionally stressful because after arranging the details of their outing, the cunning Mrs. McCall let it slip that her “attractive” grandson, Dustin, would be joining them to celebrate his graduation from Duquesne University.

“I can’t eat in front of someone I don’t know!” Kelly exclaimed in exasperation when she’d hung up the telephone.  “And what if he is attractive?  I definitely can not eat in front of an attractive someone, especially one that I do not know.”  Dee sighed, privately congratulating Mrs. McCall on achieving what none of her family could, which is break Kelly out of her comfort zone.    With a tight smile stretched across her face, Dee listened as Kelly wondered what she should order, worrying over Mrs. McCall’s financial situation.  “You know that she is going to insist on paying, Dee.  I should not take advantage of her.” 

Dee reasoned that their kind neighbor would not have extended the invitation if she were not prepared for it.  “But what do I order?” Kelly worried, explaining that she surely could not eat a huge messy something, because inevitably she would make a mess.  Dee suggested soup, but Kelly said seriously, “Soup makes my nose run,” which made Dee dissolve into giggles again.

From rebelling stomach to aching head, Kelly imagined many reasons to decline the invitation.  “Dee, she calls me Kylie,” Kelly revealed.  Dee shrugged, pointing out that Mrs. McCall at 85 years of age lived independently, overcoming many challenges including encroaching deafness.  “So what if she gets things a little mixed up.  She is a really nice lady.”  Kelly secretly wondered if she should correct the mispronunciation or if it would be rude to do so.

Kelly further worried about her conversational abilities, about becoming tongue tied, about clumsiness and any other awkwardness that she could imagine.  The possible associated scenarios that played through her mind were the antithesis of every romantic novel that she enjoyed.  She hoped that Mrs. McCall’s grandson was old and homely so that she would not feel the social pressure of attraction.  In her limited experiences with such matters, when she found a man attractive, she was embarrassed by her reactions.

Her legs were leaden when she trudged through the pine tree line that separated their property from the McCall homestead.  Her heart was beating an anxious tune, with her pulse fluttering an awkward dance in her wrist and temples, and she was having a bit of a hard time regulating her breathing.

Social Anxiety, page 2, written by Kerry Elizabeth Blickenderfer Black

Barely reaching the shade of the front porch, petite Mrs. McCall embraced the equally petite Kelly.  Seeing the two thus, it would be easy to imagine they were related.  Mrs. McCall’s pale eyes glittered mischievously as she at looked at Kelly.  “Dustin, dear, this is my neighbor, Kylie, who I have been telling you about,” Mrs. McCall smiled, keeping a surprising strong arm tightly about Kelly, pinning them shoulder to shoulder like mix-matched conjoined twins.

Kelly’s heart sank when she observed that Dustin, tall, with dark, wavy hair, was every bit as attractive as the actor whose looks she most admired, Taylor Lautner.  When he locked his green eyes on hers, Kelly lowered hers and mumbled, “Kelly.  Nice to meet you.”  A brilliant smile only improved Dustin’s appearance, and Kelly fidgeted like a bored toddler, wishing that her sister had given her some excuse to stay at home and avoid this embarrassing meeting.

Dustin held the passenger door of his blue Saturn for his Grandmother after opening the back door for Kelly.  “Such a gentleman, my Dustin,” proclaimed Mrs. McCall with a pointed look over her shoulder at Kelly.  Kelly shuffled her feet, and Dustin chuckled, bending to give his grandmother a kiss on her softly weathered cheek.

They went to a little local chain, Eat N Park, and lunched on fruit salad, sandwiches, and Coca Cola.  Despite her heart palpitations, Kelly experienced no food casualties.  Mrs. McCall regaled them both with pleasant observations and half-remembered experiences.  She recalled her own graduation ceremonies and wished the two young people well, keeping them both engaged in the discussions with a multitude of questions.  Enchanted by what he considered Kelly’s adorable discomfort, Dustin watched from the corners of his green eyes her every move, an agreeable smile on his lips.

When they arrived back at Mrs. McCall’s quaint red brick home, she insisted that Dustin should walk “Kylie” to her front door since she could not come in for coffee.  Kelly tried to insist that she was fine to walk the short distance on her own, but Dustin jokingly chastised, “Now, what on earth are you trying to do, make me lose my Grandmother’s gentleman status?”  She giggled and blushed, and he was further charmed by the quietly witty, self-assuming young lady.

Years later, after increasing comfortable dates, Kelly and Dustin celebrated their nuptials.  There, Dustin made a heartfelt toast to his Grandmother who he called his most appreciative fan, and to his own, precious “Kylie.”Image