Socially Challenged
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My boys take after me in the fact that they’re somewhat socially challenged—which is the politically correct way of saying “shy and nerdy.” But that doesn’t stop them from asking me for advice. I guess they must think I’m old and wise. Okay, I’m old—but wise might be stretching it a bit.

My youngest son, Joshua, for instance, hates it when a professor asks the class to form groups. He’d rather have the instructor appoint everyone to a group. The last time this happened, Josh skipped chemistry labs for the entire semester, earning himself academic probation and a pathetic GPA. Ouch! Mom to the rescue!

When the conversation comes up on a trip to Best Buy, Joshua gives me a frustrated look and says, “My classmates look at me like they’d rather cut me into small pieces, use me in a freaky chemistry demonstration, then stuff the rest of me in a bio-hazard bag. Most everyone is so stuck up or downright scary.”

“Just pick a group,” I say. “Most of them probably feel like you do anyway.

“Ma, it’s not that simple.”

My older son, Benjamin, joins in from the backseat of the car: “Well, find the person who’s standing around looking clueless and scared out of his skin, and join him.”

Joshua makes a disgusted sound. “That would be me, Ben.”

Somehow, I don’t think Ben and I helped—and I definitely didn’t help with the pretty young sales person, Erica, who seemed to keep making excuses to end up in the same aisle as Ben and Josh, though they didn’t have a clue that she might’ve found one or both of them attractive. Then again, maybe she just wanted to keep her job by being super-friendly and helpful to the customers.

Bubbly and friendly Erica smiles a lot. My jaw hurts just looking at her. She’s definitely cute, though. However, her smile wattage goes down somewhat when she glances at me, so I duck down another aisle. To Erica’s frustration, my boys dive in right behind me. Then she gets a brilliant idea and accidentally knocks over a display of new movie releases.

An avalanche of crashing movies registers with everyone in the store—except for Ben, who has his hands shoved in his pockets as he stares into space, lost in world where he doesn’t have to worry about how to pick up pretty girls.

Josh freezes, no doubt thinking, Should I help her? What if she doesn’t want my help? What if she thinks I’m a total loser?

I turn away and smother a laugh.

Erica giggles and says, “The store is out to get me.”

Josh mumbles something and stoops to help her clean up the mess in painful silence.

They rise at the same time, and Erica thanks him, her smile slipping a little.

Ben still finds thin air interesting.

At the checkout counter, Erica makes one last effort to score with one of my boys. She writes her name on the receipt and asks Joshua to go online and rate Best Buy’s customer service performance. She makes a point of circling her name twice. Maybe she’s hoping that he’ll ask for her number. I’m surprised that she isn’t bold enough to write it down after the movie exhibit incident—but a gal can only toss out so many hints without giving up. After all, I’ve heard that the sea is stocked with plenty of fish—she can easily cast her line elsewhere.

Ben pretends to find a USB cable interesting, while Joshua stares at the counter and mumbles something about being sure to do that. Though she’s getting nowhere fast, Erica graces us with one more gleaming smile.

Back in the car, Josh says, “Oh, man, she was so pretty. I felt like a total idiot geek around her.”

“You most certainly didn’t give off any ‘I’m interested’ vibes,” I say.

He stares out the windshield. “Why couldn’t I come up with a witty reply to ‘the store is out to get me’ comment? Ma, what could I have said?”

“How about ‘Maybe I should hang around and protect you till your shift ends’?”

Josh stares at me in horror. “I can’t say that to a girl. That’s just dumb, Ma.”

I shrug and laugh. “As long as he’s not giving off creepy vibes, I’d find it cute and charming if a guy said that to me.”

His expression grows even more horrific. “What planet are you from?”

“Venus—according to John Gray.”

“Huh?” Josh shoots me a blank stare.

“Actually, that’s a pretty good response,” Ben says with a laugh. “I think I’ll use it next time I’m confronted with a good-looking klutzy girl.”

Josh looks at Ben in the rearview mirror. “Ben, you’re an idiot. She was probably interested in you and not me, and you just stood around with your finger up your nose like a big dumb ass. At least I helped her, but she was probably thinking, No, not him…him.”

Ben and I burst into laughter.

“Seriously, Ma, how could I have let her know I was interested?”

“For one, it probably didn’t help that you looked like you were about to throw up. Smile next time. Just don’t smile like a serial killer who’s found his next victim—and don’t come on too strong. You may want to visit Best Buy several times before asking her out.”

“Girls don’t like to be hit on at work,” Ben chips in.

“Depends on what she’s looking at. If he’s drop-dead gorgeous, she probably wouldn’t mind,” I say. “I wouldn’t anyway.”

“That knocks me and Ben out.” Josh bangs his head on the steering wheel in frustration. “I know what the problem is; I was with my big brother and mother. You guys cramp my style.” He cranks the car. “Next time, I’m going in alone.”

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