I recently had a “Twist and Shout” experience. I twisted my ankle, and then I shouted. Well, really, it was shriller than that. More of a banshee shrieking through a mouthful of live frogs sort of sound.
Since I twist my ankle on a semesterly basis, you could call me accident-prone. But if you did, before you could shake a lamb twice, I’d be walking over to make your lips puffy the good old-fashioned way — with my fist. But don’t worry: I’d probably trip on the way, so you’d have a good head start.
It’s so humiliating to be a klutz. At the beginning of freshman year, while striding along High Street with a bunch of people I desperately wanted to make a decent impression upon, my ribs got up close and personal with a parking meter. On the way to “The Mothman Prophecies,” I took a sucker punch from the third floor of the Bingham stairwell. I never had a chance. In front of my entire middle school Spanish class I knocked myself out with a door being opened by, well, me.
Once I walked through a screen door — my grandmother found this so funny that she fell backwards out of her chair and somersaulted down our hosts’ backyard, stopping about two feet short of the ocean. Once when I was little I got my head stuck in the sleeve of my nightgown with the green hippopotami on it and fell down the stairs. When I landed, my mom rushed over — to laugh in my sleeve-covered face.
I broke my nose on the back of my ex-best friend’s head during flag football. I cracked my kneecap falling out of bed. I jumped off a desk to reach a basketball stuck in the net without really thinking about how much it was going to suck coming back down. I actually received a “Needs Improvement” in motor skills in preschool.
There are many more memories I could share with you, but I wouldn’t want you to laugh your appendix off or anything. That pleasure is reserved for those who have actually witnessed my pratfalls. Perhaps the worst part is trying to explain why I’m walking around in February in flip-flops with an ankle the size of my left breast.
The klutz has three options: lie, tell the truth or run away. If you have an ankle larger than your mammary glands, the running option is eliminated. So you could go with …
“I’m from Nome, Alaska. This is a friggin’ heat wave,” followed by, “Oh, the ankle? It’s an old World Cup injury.”
Or you could tell the truth.
Such as, “I got into a brawl with a pothole. The pothole won,” or, “The curb came out of nowhere. Apparently, they’re putting them by all the sidewalks now.”
Of course, these will vary with the part of your body afflicted. I actually think broken bones and head injuries are better, because you can always blame sports/saving someone’s life.
Like, let’s say, you have a concussion with an ugly and obvious abrasion on your forehead. Don’t tell people you fell off your bike when you rode unblinkingly into a tree branch. The snot from their snorting will get all over your shirt (trust me, I have had many shirts ruined by others’ phlegmy responses to my stories of ridiculous accidents).
Say, instead, that you shoved a small child out of the way of oncoming traffic. The car missed you, but you ate a little gravel. Or, if you’re trying to impress someone of the opposite sex, say a stranger was taking your picture, and the flash blinded you just as you were turning the corner.
There’s no shame in being a walking disaster. The shame is in not being able to use it to your advantage.
There are few ways to explain how one falls up the stairs. And you can’t joke your way out of crippling a stranger with the handle of your suitcase. But sometimes it’s okay to lose your balance — girls in the movies and on television are always losing their balance and landing in the well-sculpted arms of Prince Charming. Knowing me, I’d probably take him down in the ensuing avalanche.
Yet, I still have faith. Faith in the romantic power of tangled limbs and clumsy navigation of streets in heeled shoes, faith in the clairvoyance of screenwriters who know you can’t fall in love without falling, screenwriters who would never be so cruel as to write so godd*mn many fairy tale fates for clumsy heroines if it weren’t conceivably, possibly, probably, maybe definitely something that can happen to you and me, too.
So this Valentine’s Day, when you’re walking the streets of New Haven, drunk and alone, and you stumble in the proximity of that guy from that seminar with the bedroom eyes, forget posture and poise. Take a dive. You can be your own wingperson. Whoever said the first step in a real relationship is communication was clearly listening to the voices in her head too much. As far as I’m concerned, what you need is physical contact, and having Mr. Bedroom Eyes be your own personal crutch is a hell of a step — well, in our case, stagger — in the right direction.
Katherine Stevens is the new Meg Ryan — but smarter and a better writer.