De-Shreked at the First Lady

Published 7:30 pm Thursday, April 29, 2010

Photo assignments are funny at a newspaper. I never know what I might be asked to go photograph.

Of course, being the manly man that I am, I’ve been asked mainly to cover the really manly happenings around town. You know, things like auditions for “Peter Pan,” the rehearsals for the play “Oliver!,” and let us not forget the manliest of them all, the ultra-masculine Sugarplum Tea.

Though I kid about how manly those events are, my point is that I’ve been on a streak of getting sent to places where I stand out so much you could literally see me on a map on Google Earth, complete with beads of forehead sweat and nervous fidgeting.

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Among the latest and greatest of these events where a man might not be completely comfortable, was the auction and fashion show put on last Thursday at the First Lady to benefit the Suffolk Humane Society.

As soon as I walked through the door, I felt a combination of splendor and awkwardness. And while many have made the comparison in the past, I’ve never felt more like Shrek than when in the company of such charming, petite southern belles and a lot of the city’s finest citizens.

Add to that the fact I wasn’t aware that I would be attending the event and felt a little underdressed for a fashion show. I started to feel like I was back on the line in the cafeteria on pizza day and the last slices of pizza were rapidly disappearing, and the back-up entrée is liver and onions … I was all sweaty palms and anxiety.

Luckily, whenever I get that feeling, I tend to go the opposite way of most people. Instead of clamming up and sinking back in a corner, I began roaming around a little and getting to know some names and faces. Because it’s my rule in life to never be nervous around people I know. So if I don’t know people, I make it a point to get to know them.

Upon making that decision, I was reminded of and treated to something most southern men hold near and dear — the charisma and gentility of southern women. From the moment I arrived, I was greeted with smiling faces and kind words (mostly about my dieting), inviting me in to the evening’s activities.

By the end of the evening, I felt less like Shrek among the townfolk and more like a welcomed guest — still not quite a gentleman — at a function for a good cause. That’s the sort of the transformation that only the magical elixir of Southern charm can bring about.

So thank you to Kay Hurley, Ashley and Tammy Hill, Lindsey Corter, Rebecca Keeling, and all the other women at the event who engaged me in conversation and made a man feel a bit more comfortable and a little less obvious at such a cultured event.

And may I just say that if charm could be converted to dollars, the Suffolk Humane Society would be well funded for a long time to come.

Thanks again.