I’m not a very good bullshitter, and I never have been.
Let’s back up to the summer after my high school graduation, when I was more shy and even worse at bullshitting than I am now. My friend Tim had been invited to attend a big fancy grown up party so I offered to be his date since he wasn’t eager about going alone and I figured it’d offer me a chance to go somewhere fancy.
Tim had received the invitation by way of a side job he’d worked, something to do with his then budding film and entertainment aspirations. All I can recall of the actual job was that he’d spent a lot of time turning flat cardboard into boxes, but it somehow landed him an invitation to one of the mansions in the richer part of the city where the business magnates and oil money gravitated. Picture gated compounds, private tennis courts, indoor swimming pools, and the like. To put this in perspective, the home I lived in at the time with my parents and my sister was all of 1,188 square feet and it most certainly did not feature a swimming pool.
The afternoon of the party, Tim picked me up in his old Honda and we wove through the increasingly affluent neighborhoods until we found the address. The first thing I noticed: the driveway was the length of my street block. The second thing I noticed was the fact that the hosts had hired a valet service at their home. Tim handed over the keys and we marched on into the house, er, mansion. I vaguely recall some of the decoration, the art-for-art’s-sake very expensive kind of abstract stuff that even with all my art history and painting classes I couldn’t understand. I remember the fancy Hors d’oeuvres, all different kinds. I’m certain there was alcohol, but I was still pretty shy about that type of thing back then so I wouldn’t have touched it. Tim had socializing to do, so we’d wander separate ways then meet up occasionally throughout the event. In the meantime I explored the house, the multi-level balcony that overlooked the sprawling backyard, and all the fancy food, taking it all in and feeling very grown up.
In fact, I was so grown up that there weren’t any other guests there my own age. The only other non-adult there was the baby I found sitting in a car carrier beneath the second kitchen’s island. The first time I saw the child there I figured it was a temporary arrangement, but as the fancy finger foods kept beckoning me back again and again I noticed that the child remained there and no one else seemed to notice or express concern about it. That type of thing would have never happened in my family, but then again, not a lot goes unnoticed when you’ve got four people, two big dogs, and a cat living in 1,188 square feet of space.
All of the party guests seemed to be engrossed in their own discussions. Katharine Hepburn had recently passed away, which was the first topic of the night. There were groups of people in every corner, wailing about dear Katharine and waxing rhapsodic about her achievements. I didn’t know much about Katharine Hepburn other than the fact that she starred–alongside dear ol’ “Bumpy Gocart”– in that movie I’d watched several times, The African Queen. The party guests, on the other hand, were all close friends with the recently deceased, and they were eager to let everyone know about it, over, and over, and over. The kitchen island orphan and I went unnoticed, most likely because we were both clearly too young to enter the competition of who might have known dear ol’ “Kate” best.
Mixed into all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the dearly departed, there was a fun sprinkling of conversation about film, most of which went over my head. The occasion for the party was a recent local film festival, so everyone was spun up over the recent releases and eager to critique each one. Thanks to my then-boyfriend who was always showing up with one obscure or otherwise bizarre film or another for us to watch, I could count myself among the Donnie Darko fans but my movie knowledge was mostly limited to the major releases, so of course I had no idea what all the fancy people at this party were talking about. They raved on and on about various film styles, comparing, criticizing, and praising this or that. “That screenplay is so Avant-garde, darling!” “Relax, I left the baby under the kitchen island where the hired help can find him, darling!”
When someone finally noticed me floating around the party, a small group of film buffs took it upon themselves to quiz me about my affiliations and accomplishments. I was still fairly shy at that age, so I surprised myself by telling them I’d created a screen play: Little Bo Peep, film noir. I was afraid to say much because I felt out of place and feared outing myself, so this was my attempt to make a relevant joke while keeping it short and sweet.
I waited for laughter, but instead I was met with very languidly delivered enthusiasm for my project. “Oh what a marvelous idea, dear! It’s so nouveau!” It was as though I’d found myself trapped in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel full of maddeningly insipid characters all lounging about, drinking and calling strangers by pet names! Struggling to hide my laughter, I quickly excused myself so I could check on that poor forgotten baby and remark at the stunt I’d just unintentionally pulled.
As it turns out, sometimes I can be a bullshitter if the circumstance is Avant-garde enough to push me to it, darling. Now be a dear and pour me some more champagne, would you?