So, here’s the thing. I never technically defrauded anyone at Disneyland, but I may or may not have been mistaken for a Make-a-Wish child. I’ve never been sure. As is my approach for so much of life, you, too, will need to ask my mother.
My support network is full of persuasive people. It’s why I end up leaving my house and doing things far more often than I would voluntarily leave the house and do things. Do I regret some of these? Of course. I am full of regrets and anxieties. I, and others like me, struggle to get what I want. But I have the nasty feeling that telepathy as a standard means of communication is a long way into the horizon, so in the meantime, here’s what I’ve learned from assertive people. I’m sure it will be in no way helpful, since the typical step two of my approach to any troublesome situation is Give Up & Accept Your Fate, but hey, I’m working on it.
Disneyland is a prime example. A decade ago, my family stood in the interminable line of the newly opened Toy Story Midway Mania. Waiting in line for a ride is a weird vortex of emotions that usually cycles back to the heat-induced thought, ‘Is this worth it?’ At a certain point, my mom must have decided that no, it isn’t, and she told us to hold her place in line. She vanished into the steaming sunscreen sea, and next I saw her, she was chatting quite amiably to a ride employee who nodded along like he was attending a rally.
Then my mother returned, gestured us forward, and got her family to skip the entire two-hour wait.
To this day, she maintains that “I just asked. I just told him the situation and asked to be let through. There’s no harm in asking.” I don’t buy this nonsense. I have never seen anyone with permission to skip lines, except terminally ill children, hence the Make-a-Wish theory. I was the obvious choice for bait, being an oddly disproportionate girl with a heavy pallor and a permanent expression of mild discomfort. Sometimes people would initiate conversations with me by saying, “Sorry.” Oh, you’d better believe I had weeks to live.
Before and since I have been subject to her maddeningly simple mantra for so many inexplicable situations: “Just ask.” She gets discounts, bonuses, free stuff, insider advice – all that extra-mile, special treatment nonsense I wouldn’t even expect if, say, I walked into a store and an employee stabbed me in the face. It’s her belief that people, in general, want to help you, and will if given the opportunity. Ideal, yes, but also comes with a fundamental flaw: Asking for help is one of the most absurd and difficult tasks in the world. It’s something I do in only the most dire of circumstances, and I don’t dare to flaunt what I perceive to be the rules. If there’s a line, you wait in it. If there are expectations, you follow them. My daily goal is to draw the least attention possible.
I wish I could tell you my life has changed and my mother’s strategy works every time. It doesn’t, at least not for me. The fundamental difference between us is the phrase, “What’s the worst that could happen?” To her, that means request denied and you move the hell on with your life. To me, the potential consequences are quite literally limitless. In my world, every single person has a long memory and a pitying eye.
So how do you manage an excess of concern about embarrassment and disaster? All I can do is force my priorities. Not how do I get through this? but what do I need from today and how do I get it? These statements mark the distinction between desperation and determination. The latter, the strength, presents my fears as surmountable objects in the way of my success, thereby taking away their power.
This isn’t a self-help entry because I have no concrete resolution. Recently I have tried “just asking” more often. Usually it comes out as an apology instead, but at least I took the shot. I would be very happy if I could be more like my mother: self-deprecating, open, optimistic. My personality will be under construction until the day I die, so why not make some effort to be who I want to be?