Welcome to The Baffler’s agony corner, YOUR SORRY ASS, where Amber A’Lee Frost dispenses bossy, judgmental advice on how to live your life fairly, kindly, and with good humor. Send us your rants and pleas, please: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Your Sorry Ass,
So there is this really hot guy who works on the same floor of the large office building as I do, but there are so many people working in so many departments, I have no idea who he is. (I assume he’s in the art department or marketing side of things, otherwise I would probably know him.) Anyway, I rarely see him, but today we happened to go on break at the same time. It’s him and me, sitting in the break room, having never met, in deafening silence. Naturally (or neurotically), I’m nervous as hell, sitting there with no lunch (because I always forget to bring something), just fucking around on my phone. He’s quietly reading a book and eating his lunch very hotly, so I’m very conscious of dumb stuff, like how loud I’m breathing, how forcefully I put my water bottle down, my arm placement, etc.
FYI, where I live it’s still pretty chilly right now, and I work with a bunch of crypt keepers who are always freezing and keep the heat cranked. My employer also just instituted some dumb, modest “don’t show your ankles” dress code, so I’m wearing a ton of layers. So finally, after a half an hour of this sweaty anxiety, my break is over, and I get up. My dumb brain is running through a million questions, like “Ok, uh, do I say, ‘Have a good day,’ or do I just smile and glance at him, or do I just exit and not be weird?” Eventually, I decide to just smile and leave quietly, but when I get up and start walking away, I’m about two steps away from the table before noticing that in full, unobstructed view, there is a huge swamp ass stain on my chair. On display—essentially a puddle, the exact size and shape of my large ass. I cannot say for sure whether he saw it or not, but it would have been difficult to miss.
So my question is: Do I kill him, or do I kill myself?
My Swampy Ass
First of all, dear reader, you are a beautiful Fragrant Water Lily. The Nymphaea odorata, which flourishes in the swamps, is delicate in appearance—with a radial arrangement of petals ranging from alabaster to electric pink—yet also hearty and resilient. When weather is warm (or the body active) you emit only the sweetest of scents, and yes, you might glisten with a dewy luster. These are your charms, not your faults!
But just in case you find yourself unable to sing the body electric, my tea and sympathy are as follows:
If there is one single thing any human being should be empathetic about, it is the undignified comportment of our meat machines.
First off, it’s just highly unlikely that this book-reading, lunch-eating hotman noticed at all. Personally, I don’t make a habit of checking recently emptied seats, even though I live in New York City, which means I probably should. But even if he did, your best bet is to assume this man is capable of relating to his fellow humans, which brings me to point two.
The most significant attributes of bodies are their pervasiveness and their poor quality. By this I mean that everyone has a body, and that not a single one consistently operates as desired. Bodies are generally troublesome, embarrassing machinery; they rumble and lurch and smell and excrete and malfunction and break down—eventually forever. Swampy, I’m not trying to drag you into an acceptance of your own mortality here—I’m just saying that if there is one single thing any decent human being should be empathetic about, it is the undignified comportment of our barely-out-of-beta-testing meat machines.
Presume the capacity for compassion in the man—it’s a better world to live in. As for next steps, may I recommend considering a bold gesture?
You said you don’t see this guy very often—that’s good. That means if he’s terrible, he should be easy to avoid. You are likely to run into him again eventually, so why not plan ahead? Personally, I have always made a point of talking to extremely attractive people, for reasons both carnal and altruistic (the ratio of those two motivations is unimportant, I assure you). It’s cliché but true that intimidatingly good-looking people are often avoided by mere mortals, and you’d be shocked how well fearless and friendly charm can appeal to the inhumanly beautiful. This is true regardless of whether you possess a less conventional beauty, or any aesthetic handicap that might result from a highly restrictive office dress code.
Look, you’ve already got an obvious opening topic that could very well lead to a conversation! As a dutiful daughter of the Midwest, I am well aware of East Coast disdain for Middle American “small talk,” but I’ve found that when you’re trying to chat up a pretty new man, the weather is often the easiest “hello there” at your disposal.
“Man, it is so hot in here!” has a nice ring to it. When delivered with a cheery smile, it’s good-natured, yet it still retains a tinge of distress. It’s a gesture of collusion, an invite to mutual kvetching: Who could resist? Provided that he responds in a fashion akin to what any decently socialized human would, you can move on to introductions: “I’m Swampy, I work at [X].” I don’t need to micromanage you here—I’m 100 percent sure you know how to carry on a conversation, with questions and answers and observations and sentiments and jokes. Judging by the self-effacing humor of your letter, you’re absolutely brimming with friendly charm—it appears to be coming out of your pores!
You’ve got nothing to lose, my Water Lily! As Whitman would say, “The body itself balks account.” Enjoy yours.
And maybe talk to someone about the thermostat. Just a thought.