OPINION: Flamingos, Flamenco and Fish that are Pink: Doing the Tongue-Tied Tango

“These fish look like flamingos,” I said, trying to make small talk, failing miserably. I was leaning on the counter waiting for the nice lady behind the medical office reception desk to process my paperwork.

She nodded offhandedly, prompting me to sign away my life and all liability. I felt at the very least, a swag bag or complimentary coffee should have been included.

“I mean the color,” I said. “They’re so…pink.”

Her eyes smiled at me like, clearly you could stand to get out more. “I saw them once in Miami,” she said. “Don’t get me started…such an experience. The costumes, the lights. Sign here, too.”

Costumes? Lights? What kind of fish were these? I glanced at the man on my left like, are you getting this? Should we alert someone? Only later, to the tune of a week and change while nursing the baby and/or a glass of Pinot (I’m a great mom, you can hold your applause) did I realize she was talking about a dance troupe and not a school of fish.

Three layers of mask, a morning of fasting and the need for my latte in an IV drip had left me with flamingos on my tongue and flamencos in her ears.

Small talk, it’s never been my strong suit but coupled with the muddled mask, I’m doing the tongue-tied tango lately. (If anyone knows the coordinates for that chatty girl with the bad jokes I lost last March or the name of a good etiquette school for stay-at-home moms with bunker syndrome, it goes without saying, I have a swag bag with your name on it.)

Patient registrars, flamenco dancers…they all leave me floundering, gasping for words that don’t come, wondering what kinds of costumes are suitable for pink aquarium fish.

But it’s not just the doctor’s office or the fact that perhaps barium contrast in neon yellow isn’t exactly the most appetizing cocktail at nine in the morning; since the pandemic hit, my social ineptitude reaches to the far ends of the ocean and beyond–or at least to Stop and Shop, where I only go under duress but lately more often because having all my Peapod items in stock is apparently about as common as finding a traje de flamenco and Córdoba hat sized for a Moonrise Pink Tetra.

Every time I make my exit, leaving the fluorescent lights and human interaction behind, (read: I am closely bonded with the self-checkout), I feel like the opening scene in Living with Yourself where Paul Rudd emerges from the earth, wrapped in plastic, eager for oxygen, set to The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” (of course because no other song is even remotely appropriate for my mildly concerning daymare).

I’m not a hot mess; I’m scorching, hotter than those flamenco dancers under the lights and perhaps a steamy getaway to the Ibiza Islands. (Jon: Are you reading this? Can you rob a bank?)

I’m not sure what the proper attire would be for said getaway but I’m really hoping sweatpants are the new bikinis. Yes, that was me in a feature presentation of “Girl Scout Cookies Gone Wild.” My cookie coma is warm and comforting, like a heated blanket or that shower I never want to get out of because, Calgon, take me away.

There’s no better escape (other than a trip to Classically Cate’s, I’m infatuated with her window display) than getting lost under the showerhead and suddenly you’re transported off the coast of Spain and, boy does that two-dollar bottle of shampoo and razor really feel like a heady reprieve from all that small talk you didn’t have the wherewithal to make in the first place because you forgot that fish don’t generally do cosplay and fluorescent lights and neon CT scan drinks don’t do a girl any service, especially when followed by an entire box of Girl Scout cookies.

I’m swimming upstream here, without a flotation device, without a net, without a thing to say because nothing even remotely normal comes to mind while I’m scrolling through my phone, looking at pictures of exotic trips I will likely never take, healthy meals I will likely never cook, workouts, and oh look….Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Paul Rudd.

How about One Thing You Know For Sure About Your Phone? It’s always listening. But I can tell you I’m not, even when it looks like I am, even when I pretend to be. This year has left me in a long-term relationship with my Samsung Galaxy, for which I have tremendously mixed feelings mostly on account of his unpredictable nature and inability to commit. That, and he’s not so easily turned on these days…sweet talk, small talk. I’m not much for it. I’m better on paper, doing comedy from my car.

Humans, they scare me. Hey, what do a fish and a flamenco dancer have in common? They’re both good with a little salsa. But please, don’t get me started on the flamingos.

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.