That is what he called me. This buddy of mine. It came about while playing darts at a party. I had been off the road staying with friend #3 in city #3; my home turf. I agreed to tag along one evening to a BBQ. I knew there would be food and drink, and about three people I would know. OK, sure, why not. Feed me, provide me beverages, I can handle that. Free, I can handle that, too. Not driving? Bonus.
For this story to make sense, I should describe myself a little more. I am an introvert. As a child I was extremely shy. Being an introvert was part of the mix, but so was being raised in an active alcoholic home and having no self-esteem. I never spoke up, never volunteered in class, hated being called on in any setting. I actually took a lesser grade in class to avoid a presentation. The irony is I am now a very confident and skilled presenter who can handle an auditorium full and I am unafraid to speak up in nearly any setting. Go figure.
Given my nature, I tend to avoid shmoozing, large parties, or highly social situations. I throw parties so I have something to do that does not involve socializing or small talk or meeting hoards of new people. I like to play games or serve food or something. Doing ANYTHING besides hanging out and just talking. That is really hard for me and I suck. Introvert.
Back to the party. My friend was milling about touching base with the folks she did know and talking to ones she did not. EXTROVERT! I had a drink in my hand, made friends with the snack table, and walked around. I really did not engage much. Oh, one more thing, I have RBF. Resting Bitch Face. Yeah, when I am not smiling and when I am thinking or focused I look pissed. I look mean and unapproachable. I cannot help it. It is the face God gave me. Whaddya gunna do?
So, back to the party. Blah Blah, everyone seems to know each other except me. Folks were nice and tried, but I do not make it easy. I offered to help clean up, which gave me something to do. After that, one of the three people I knew started playing darts. I asked to join in. That led to my participation in a couple games. Let’s be clear – I do not play darts. I know nothing of the rules, except stay behind the line, and I do not think I have thrown more than ten times in my entire life. But, it was better than just standing around with folks I don’t know. Fast forward and now we have organized games and teams. I was not great, though my team did win the second game. Finally, I was in my comfort zone. Finally I had something to do that was not direct conversation with people I do not know and with whom I have very little, if anything, in common.
We established this was a party, right? Well, as is customary, some folks attend parties to meet someone to date or sleep with. I would have been open to that. Clearly, others were too. As the dart game went on, there was more drinking and eating and folks became more vocal and more flirty. Hey, that is OK with me. I like a nice game of flirt and find the fodder quite fun. I do have pretty strict boundaries, however, unless there is chemistry. I was one of two women playing with six guys. One of the guys got a little friendly with me and that was fun. We played verbal games and sparred a bit.
Side note – here is an inalienable truth about me. I will challenge any man who approaches me. Whether physically, mentally, intellectually, whatever. I have to know he has confidence and is willing and able to stand up to me. Physical is not literal, like a fight, just posturing and fluffing up of proverbial feathers. Tit for tat, exchanges to test the water. I am like that, I usually instigate, and that is my way to get to know someone. They have to make the cut. Well, it was during a couple of these challenges, these flirty and fun exchanges with the men on hand that my buddy, who was observing all of this, popped off and called me a junk yard dog. He said it was a compliment. I have thought about it ever since.
Junk yard dogs (JYD) are mean and tough and protective and live outside and take their job seriously. They tend to be isolated and independent. Ok, I am not always mean but I am the rest. However, once you get to know the JYD, or if you feed them, they are putty in your hands. Yeah, that can be me, too. I think the JYD’s get a bad rap, but I also think most are mistreated by their owners. I get angry and mean when I am mistreated, too. If you treat the JYD well they will treat you well in return. Yup, that rings true. Tough on the outside, when called upon, fierce and good at their job. Running the perimeter of the fence, looking for weak spots. Metaphorically speaking, I do that as well. If I like you, then I will warm up. Yup, that works for me. I am starting to see the resemblance.
I do make it hard to get to know me. I try not to, but my emotional and social capacity is very small and I must carefully ration those resources. That makes me selective and choosey and I will carefully screen that person who may indicate he or she wants more. Not just romantically, but in life or friendship or whatever. You have to make the cut and my course demeanor, sharp tongue, and rough exterior all help me in my process. Literally, this is who I am. I am not interested in changing that because any attempt is disingenuous and bullshit. This is me, deeply me, and I am OK with that. I am also best with one or two people, not a crowd. I prefer meaningful exchanges to random nonsense and time wasters. It is how I am wired, deep down in my DNA. This is me.
I have been told I need to change my rough edges, my need to challenge anyone who wants to get to know me, be kinder, more welcoming. Yeah, no, not going to happen. Simply put, not in my nature. I have, however, found a value to the pilgrim approach. Being a pilgrim allows me to maneuver around in this new life I am building and helps me with random, temporary interactions. The pilgrim is an observer, detached, and I can do that. The pilgrim asks questions and does not expect a fair exchange. The Pilgrim keeps a distance. But, I was not a pilgrim in that setting. I was open to something different, something more. When not a Pilgrim, Michelle the person shows up. She can be giving and kind and loyal and witty and fun. She likes equal exchange and intimate conversation. She can also be harsh and condescending and dismissive and fierce. Just like a junk yard dog. Patrolling my turf, protecting that which is mine (or me in this case), ready to chase the ball if thrown. Go too far and you may lose an arm or a leg. You may get bit. Junk yard dog. That is what he called me.