Shelley Widhalm

Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

“Kindergarten Crybaby”

In Communication secrets, Finding friends, Separation Anxiety, Shyness on August 28, 2011 at 7:00 am

Though I don’t have children, I’ve had the chance to witness the first day of kindergarten a few times as a reporter for my hometown newspaper.

Every time I cover the separation anxiety between parents and their five-year-olds, I’m reminded of my own “trauma.” I didn’t just cry on the first day of school, I screamed and clung to my mother for the first week – but I got over it and turned my tears into dreading the end of the school year and having to say goodbye to my teachers.

In my hometown, school for students in grades K-5 started on Wednesday. A staff photographer and I went to a kindergarten class to search for crying children. The photographer found a father trying to comfort his son, who buried his face against his father’s chest.

Once inside the classroom, the boy huddled against the wall near his desk, wrapping his arms around his knees, continuing his crying jag for the 45 minutes we were there.

I tried to get a quote from the 5-year-old, but despite my investigative efforts, he wasn’t about to talk, not even when the photographer commented on his new shoes.

The boy, I figured, might have had a case of separation anxiety, just like I did.

I don’t know the cause of his, but mine derived from my shyness. Shyness can result from the fear of entering a new situation, in contrast to familiarity with the known that provides safety and comfort.

New to the school world, I felt anxious about finding friends and not having anyone to play with at recess. I was hesitant to talk. I made little eye contact. And I felt insecure and unlikable.

My “friend” across the street who went to another school called me “kindergarten crybaby,” and if I had been more confident, I would have said “no thanks” to her meanness.

As an adult, I can get teary eyed next to the crying kindergartners, but I know I have turned it all around to the point where I really can’t say I’m shy. There are few situations where I feel uncomfortable. I know how to start a conversation. And I can look people in the eye.


The Bad Boy-Bad Dog Connection

In Shyness on August 21, 2011 at 6:10 pm

What do bad boys and bad dogs have in common?

Let’s start with the bad boy dilemma that can be epitomized by James Dean in a leather jacket with a cigarette hanging from his mouth. Give me moody eyes, chiseled cheekbones and ripped muscles with unresolved childhood issues, a penchant for the drink and some mark of rebellion from rule breaking to avoiding 9-to-5 responsibility.

Being with the bad boy is a rollercoaster ride with your arms up and a scream as you plummet into a twisting tunnel that rocks your body along the curve of insecurity. He’s a challenge, a thrill, a mystery until that jarring stop at the end of the ride signaling his rejection.

I read an online article this week exploring why females like bad boys. One of the conclusions the writer had was that women like to fix things. I agree to a point in that the bad boy presents a challenge to get through to his emotional core. But I really don’t have a clue how, even though, embarrassingly enough, I’ve tried.

I’ve dated a few bad boys, because I wanted to be with their good looks, thinking that if this epitome of maleness can like me than I must be worth something. I used to think: What better way to prove your self worth than to get a hot guy with issues to straighten his act and adore you as a result?

But it was all castles in the air.

My dating history boils down to this bad boy chase of dating moody, drink-guzzling, non-communicative, commitment-phobic men. In other words, it was a big waste of time.

But hold on. Now instead of dating bad boys, I’ve got this bad dog to change. My 9-pound miniature dachshund looks sweet and cute, but she’s got issues. It started with her barking from my second-story patio at the big dog passersby. To get her to stop, I snap my finger three times, glare into her eyes and say, “No bark.” But then another dog comes by and she returns to barking.

Or we’ll sit outside at a coffee shop patio table, where Zoey, deciding the circle around our table is her territory, has a penchant for barking at the big dogs. They give her a look like “Are you kidding?” or they bark back with their owners pulling on their leashes.

Zoey’s become more aggressive over the summer months with jaws snapping and paws flying about as I hold her in the air by her harness. The culmination was this weekend when she and Sophie, her “best dog friend” who she hasn’t seen in months, spent a weekend together.

Sophie tried to play with Zoey’s toys and Zoey barked at her. I told her, “NO!” “Bad dog,” and the like and put her in three timeouts. She didn’t stop her bad behavior.

My sweet little puppy who I took through Puppy Kindergarten and Intermediate training and read a half-dozen dog behavior and training books to raise has me doubting my ability to tame the bad boy or bad girl in any creature, whether man or dog.

I feel like I’m at the beginning of my teenage angst but instead of trying to figure out the mysteries of men, I’m trying to figure out my dog.


Losing My Shyness Identity

In Shyness, Talking on August 14, 2011 at 7:00 am

I’m a bit disappointed that I keep hearing from my friends, real and virtual, that the word I’ve been using to describe myself may be inaccurate.

I thought I was shy. A wallflower. A misfit.

I considered my name Shelley to be perfect, because I hid out in a shell, insecure of what to do or say, afraid to take risks and scared of getting hurt.

I gave my Shyness Challenge one year, but it’s only been seven months of half-heartedly setting up challenges and following through on most of the time, such as going to a bar by myself, modeling in a fashion show and reading my poetry on stage.

One challenge that I have not carried out is to talk to the hottest guy in a bar, or along those lines, starting a conversation with a man who I think is interesting.

That’s because I’m afraid I’ll look like: 1. a dork, 2. desperate, or 3. boring.

Yep, I’ll have to get over that. So my challenge isn’t over.

As my friend, Tim Byrnes, said to me Tuesday evening over coffee, “Anyone who can address being shy in a public place, well, that isn’t shy.”

Oh, okay.

A writer friend of mine said she doesn’t see me as shy but as funny and vibrant. Another friend said I shouldn’t be labeling myself as shy.

Add the fact that I don’t even feel shy most of the time.

I go to work and interview lots of people, more worried that I will forget to ask a question and leave out an important fact than about the impression I’m making. I find that I engage in multiple conversations every day with coworkers, interviewees, friends and people I encounter as I work and play.

Someone who is shy is inhibited in talking with others, being in large groups and taking chances.

That’s not me.

A shy person is distrustful or wary.

That’s not me either.

Being shy is avoiding whatever is the cause of the anxious feelings.

I don’t do that either.

But I do avoid my cool New York City-style walkup like the plague. It may be the coolest apartment in town (in my opinion), but I want to get out and about and live and not stay home doing loner activities.

I like being around people and engaging with them. Call it postmodern shyness where the state of being shy is a slippery thing that, most of the time, is not associated with my identity.


Now what am I going to do?

Shyness Revelations

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2011 at 7:02 am

There’s a connection between tattoos, Facebook and shyness that has to do with concealment.

I’ll start with tattoos (granted I do not have one, but I do have a belly-button ring, indicating that I am a slight but inactive rebel).

Tattoos used to be associated with bikers, head bangers and tough guys, but in the last few years, they’ve become as common as wearing earrings.

They make a statement, be it personal, political or religious. They leave a mark. And they tell a story.

The storytelling is similar to what happens with Facebook. Put in your profile, tell a little bit about your likes and dislikes and post photos of whatever describes you, your interests and what you’re doing.

It’s a big Here I Am world kind of deal.

Tattoos cover up the real person underneath, as does having a Facebook page to socialize, Facebook sets up a scant biography to replace the personal stories that arise out of face-to-face dialogue.

It’s not a matter of three-dimension life but of a face looking at a monitor, click, clicking toward connectivity.

I admit I get suckered into social networking as I check out wall postings on a daily basis. I want to find out the gossip. I want to communicate with my friends who live elsewhere. And I want attention from Likes, posts and pokes.

But, to me, it doesn’t feel real.

As do tattoos – they don’t mark a rebel anymore, just a trend.

As I heard one person call them, tattoos are mainstream.

So, here’s where the shyness factor comes in. It’s easier to hide out behind a book, a Facebook page or even a tattoo than to step out into real life and take chances. You have to be in your real skin with your real self out there, instead of in the ether world.

With shyness, you can carry around the label, as if tattooed on your heart, not realizing that to connect you have to remove the ink and take chances, lots of them.

Even if they scare you. Or break you. At least until you see that it’s better to risk than to lose.

With Facebook, the only rejection is a de-friend.

In real life, it’s more complicated and painful.