The boxes we are

A random post on my stalker feed brings me back of the last party

“Are you single?” It’s the second time at the party, Alex has asked that. The internal dialog is now in fine form.

This is San Francisco, shouldn’t you ask if I’m gay first?, “Stop trying to fill out my social networking registration page, Alex”

Somewhat less emphatically: “You are single?!” Then slightly more emphatically: “Terry is single”—as if repetition makes it true.

I’m in a relationship with my Nikon and it’s complicated. “My status is not some box you can check off,” I retort.

“Wait, you are single, aren’t you?” decidedly less emphatically.

That’s thrice! Damn Canon photogs! “You couldn’t even shoot my D3.” I laugh.

“Terry is single,” Alex declares to anyone who was interested. (Nobody was.)

Nelson Muntz voice: “Ha ha!” Maybe if you were a Nikon-toting hottie, I’d have given you a straight answer.

Party photography Q&A tree

Now, in my defense, when it comes to that senseless brand war, I have to represent. But I admit that it was a bit harsh, especially since, as an event photographer himself, he must get asked my most-despised geek-party conversation starter an awful lot: “Who are you with?” (i.e. “Who are you shooting for so I know if I should do a posedown.”)

We hates it, my precious, yes we do.

Coincidentally, just that day, I devised a customer support answer tree to turn this question into a lethal conversation-killer:

Party photography Q&A tree: “Who you with?”

…then give them that dismissive look, like they just said something incredibly stupid.

Of course, sometimes the question comes out differently:

Party photography Q&A tree: “Who do you shoot for?”

These are still in beta.

If they persist, the next question will inevitably be “Are you a [professional] photographer?”

At this point, it’s best to fess up: “No, I’m an overpaid software architect.” Then, if they look like they might be an engineer, give them that look that says, “C’mon, I just dare you to use ‘Ruby’ and ‘scalability’ in the same sentence—I’m so ready to throw down right now.”

Let’s face it, most questions we ask are crass. People want to put you in a box, and I don’t want to be there…

…and, besides, I’m not really into Pokémon.

The boxes you are (to me)

Then I realized, I do the same thing.

What happened earlier, in the same party:

I’ve had a bit too much Bud Light and am talking to T— and S—: “I found everyone falls into two categories: those taller than me, and those not.”

T— is the former; S— is the latter. They both laugh anyway.

I’m deadly serious. The laughter gives me pause and I remembered what happened earlier. An amendment was order: “Unless they’re about my height and they decide to wear heels, that really fucks me up.”

(not) Some witty banter

Even earlier, in the same party:

Someone I don’t recognize, recognizes me. “Aubs?” Oh shit, what if she isn’t. She’ll think I’m asking who her doctor is. “Uhh, Aubrey?”

“Either is fine.”

Whew! I guessed right. “I haven’t seen you since [I crashed your friend’s birthday party.]”

“Yeah, that’s right!”

Hmm—less than a week, why didn’t I recognize her? No, haircut seems the same. Oh! that’s it! “Hey are you wearing flats?”

[Ensuing discussion of fashion is immediately forgotten, proving that I’m still a straight guy.]

Every other time, I’ve been talking to her chin, (No, not there!) So this is what she looks like? Nice eyes. Oh, I think she’s done talking about shoes. I better say something. “…because normally you’re really tall.”

“I’m five feet and…[some discussion of actual height and other stuff that I’m sure will help Alex fill in those checkboxes, but I couldn’t pay attention because I hadn’t yet sampled the free alcohol.]”

“Well, I gotta find that keg. See you around.”

Pretty boring, I know. But in my defense, there was no Poppy Jasper there—just Bud Light and box wine.

My favorite grammatical mood

Believe it or not, that was about the largest exchange of words I’ve ever had with her. All previous discussions with Aubs’s chin were pretty much confined to my favorite grammatical mood to use at parties: the Passive Aggressive Imperative. I’m sure you know…

“Hey! Hello, my name’s Terry!” Translation: Tell me your name.

“Let’s take a picture!” Translation: Stand still and smile…because I just ran out of interesting things to say.

Daisy and Aubrey

Daisy and Aubrey
111 Minna, South of Market, San Francisco, California

Nikon D3, 24-70mm f/2.8G, SB-800
1/40 sec @ f/2.8, iso 5000, 24mm (24mm)

Yeah, it look like she’s shorter than me—but then you realize that I’m using the camera live-view to hold it way above my head. That’s why live-view was invented, by the way. So that short Asian photographers can pretend they’re giants.

“You’re not in frame.” Translation: Stand closer together. I need that blackmail shot.

“Let’s try that again!” Translation: Stand still and smile…again. I still haven’t thought of anything interesting…and apparently there’s a Ballmer Peak for photography, too.

“Do you have a business card?” Translation: Give me your e-mail…so I can stalk you.

“Hey, have you met ____?” grab some random person at the party No translation, except possibly, I’m leaving now to find the open bar. Then spend rest of night fiddling with iPhone acting unapproachable.

So, relatively speaking, I was a positively “sparkling conversationalist” at the party.

…Just Tell? There’s nothing to tell.

So back to that post.

She has a point in her article.

But the point of this article is to remind her: that behind every twitter is a story—an interesting story that 140 characters can’t describe; that behind every smile is a person—not just a pretty face; that we are not some boxes—to be checked or leave unchecked; that we are and will always be more than the sum of our tweets.

Because if that is all I am, well, then you can just check this box right now:

So remember, dear reader, the social network will never contain you—that angsty, conversation-killing, wonderful you—and neither, for that matter, can a conversation.

Now I can return to my iPhone, turn it ON, and twitter this post. Maybe, if I do it right, I can make Aubrey’s boyfriend jealous…

…or at least her chin’s boyfriend.

6 thoughts on “The boxes we are

  1. @gene Great seeing you that day!

    ObGrammarSlam: You’re Canon’s …what…

    To paraphrase Bart Simpson: Good old apostrophe…Nothing beats the apostrophe.

    [Edit: Did I just do that: mix up “you’re” and “your?” Darn midnight commenting! 😀

    I cou’d be smart like-her, Punctuation , is? fun!
    —Charlie, Flowers for Algernon


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