I’m Nobody! Who Are You?

If you’re like me, one day you might be at a conference trying to promote a book you haven’t sold yet, and Katha Pollitt will be sitting behind you, and your friend and social behavior coach will say you can totally approach her, so you’ll say “Ms. Pollitt?” And then you’ll fucking freeze up like a moron. You’ll see the alarm in your coach’s eyes. You’ll manage to stammer out to Katha Pollitt that you like her work and that you were introduced to her through her poetry, and then she’ll ask who you are, and you will say, before you can even think: “I’m nobody.”

The expression on your coach’s face will read, “Mayday! Mayday!” She’ll physically nudge you, directing you with her eyes to correct this misstep (and that she might have to let you go as a client because you’re not making satisfactory progress and your chances of ever engaging in normal social behavior are nil). You’ll fumble for a business card and spill out your actual name along with your raison d’être à ce congrès. Katha Pollitt will listen and be super nice, and then it will all be over, and you’ll sit down and be proud of yourself for a few seconds before saying “Wait—did I just introduce myself as nobody?”

Maybe Katha Pollitt thought you were making a clever reference to an Emily Dickinson poem, you’ll reassure yourself. Or to Odysseus tricking Polyphemus, even though you hadn’t previously tried to blind her with a red-hot stake. Or maybe she thought you were suffering from really low self-esteem, which is actually closer to the truth.

If you’re like me.

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