This could be the start to the most pretentious joke in history.

But actually it was the beginning of a romantic quandary my friend found herself in and as usual, brought to the round table at ladies night after a few drinks.

“So a guy walks in to the museum where I am having a quiet Sunday with my parents and grandma, my uncle from out of town was visiting and it’s the only thing that we all can enjoy on a Sunday afternoon. So as I’m wandering around the exhibit, this tall handsome guy walks along behind me. He walks one way and I walk the other and we essentially orbit each other as we wander from painting to painting throughout the place. We never say anything- but we are clearly aware that the other person exists, and we are both alone and adorable.”

My friend is sharp, witty, funny as hell, and SHY to a fault. I only say that because she just spent an hour with a perfectly delightful dude and didn’t say ANYTHING.

She spent the hour wondering “What should I say?”

And I can’t fault her – this happens to everyone.

WHY DO WE CHOOSE TO DO NOTHING?

1. Fear of the unknown

“What if I say something stupid” is the most overused answer to this question. And it is true. Trying to come up with something to say when you have seemingly nothing in common can be frightening. In my opinion – saying something stupid is a good thing! If he has a sense of humor or any personality at all, he will laugh it off and you swiftly move through and past the awkward ‘hello’ and on to decent conversation.

If you say something strange or your sweet pick-up line doesn’t come out right – you will not die. If he looks at you in disgust and backs away slowly, he probably isn’t the one for you. You need someone who can roll with the weird. Just imagine family dinners and meeting your brother for the first time. awwwwwkward.

If anything it will be a great story – the best girl’s night stories start with the strangest opening lines.

 

2. Fear of what we “know”

You DO know he is tall (check), you know he is handsome, he is well dressed and chooses to be at a museum on a weekend so he must be cultured and likely well educated. I bet he went to a nice (but not hoity-toity) school. I bet he’s had a lot of girlfriends since he’s so great looking- so he must be great in the sack. He dresses really well, which probably means he has a great relationship with his mother or maybe he is the youngest of 3 sisters. He does seem confident in his femininity, you don’t just WEAR those shoes if you’re a dude’s dude. I’ve always had really great relationship with men with sisters, I bet we would be great together. He looks like he could be the one for me. Yup. Soulmates it is.”

The internal dialogue and the fantastical world that we project onto people can be very scary. Movies have taught us that taking that ONE chance on someone we think is cute – will likely result in us meeting our soulmate. Usually in less than 75 minutes. The pressure to say something to someone we don’t know (who we assume is perfect for us in every way) is enough to shut down even the chattiest cathy.

News flash – that guy is not your soul mate. He’s a dude in a museum with a very real life that you know NOTHING about. He is just as nervous as you are to say something, not because he thinks you’re soul mates, but because you’ve been staring at him for 20 minutes without blinking.

Take a deep breathe and give yourself a break.

He is not your soul mate. So just smile and say hi.

3. WAIT – SO WHAT DO YOU SAY?

Here are the 5 things I would have said in that scenario:

  • 1. Have you been to the exhibit upstairs? I’m wondering if it’s worth the trek.
  • 2. It’s nice being here when it’s quiet. I always come on First Friday and never actually see the art. What do you think?
  • 3. The museum is the only place I want to break rules. I just want to step over the yellow line. I have a deep seeded rebel in me. You know?
  • 4. I love coming here and then going to SPACE Gallery – it’s nice to see opposite sides of the art world a block apart. Have you been there?
  • 5. I wish the pamphlet had the real history of the artist – like the “Behind the Music”  for painters. I want to know why he’s so angry and why that one is so sloppy. There’s got to be a great backstory to these paintings. There’s some serious angst. What do you think?