Cover

Panic and awe

After a two-year hiatus, SANDRA SHAMAS ponders a return to the world of dinner dates

February 14 2005
Cover

Panic and awe

After a two-year hiatus, SANDRA SHAMAS ponders a return to the world of dinner dates

February 14 2005

Panic and awe

Cover

She still meets men in the country; at times they arrive at her door, gun in hand

After a two-year hiatus, SANDRA SHAMAS ponders a return to the world of dinner dates

COME FOR DINNER, Jill said. “You don’t have to marry the guy, just sit with us at dinner, and work on your conversation skills.” We laugh. “That’s not funny!” I say, but it is. The truth that we both know is, I am shy. And if I’m attracted to someone, my ability to generate dialogue goes Sahara.

Emptiness and space. I observe this vacancy with a combination of awe and panic. Panic because this shouldn’t be happening to me, I speak for a living! I am so happy to stand in front of thousands for a couple of hours and hold forth. I’m even quite at ease when I forget a line or where I am in the show, because when that happens, I just tell the truth. “Ladies and gentlemen, I know there’s more to say, I just wish I knew what it was!”

Then there’s the awe.

The tiny tickertape that runs across my forehead usually supplies witty, charming conversation. It now reads: duhhhhhhhhh. The rest of my being has also started to scramble on the inside. I notice with a touch of alarm that my heart seems louder than usual. I’m not accustomed to feeling this way—heart a little fast, mind blank yet racing at the same time. Fascinating. Survivor brain kicks in: “Look away! Regroup, damn it! What have I got?” Nothing. Suddenly, I’m at a loss to make even small talk. Weather, politics, sex, bullshit, anything. Gone. It’s like I just landed on the planet, and this is my first contact of the third kind. Now, from what I can gather by how people are looking at me, on the outside this inner con-

fusion looks like

disapproval. My features are impassive, my brow slightly furrowed, and there is an in-

tensity behind my eyes because the inside of my head is about to implode. It’s a feeling of shock, of being caught in the headlights of my own attraction.

I still haven’t said yes to dinner, and Jill hasn’t forgotten. “Besides, you asked me if I knew any single men, and to keep you in mind, and we haven’t seen you since we’ve been back. Look, he’s a friend, he’s divorced and he’s a lovely man. Didn’t you say your

I'M AT A loss to

make even small talk. It’s like I just landed on the planet, and this is my first contact of the third kind.

little hiatus from men was over, and you wanted to start meeting people?”

Little hiatus of two years. You know when you see a distinct pattern in your life that isn’t any fun, and you keep doing it, because you don’t know what else to do? For me, that notso-fun pattern was called relationships. I’d had enough of not enough. And while a lot of things came under the heading of not enough, fun in a relationship was at the top of the list. For me, the following sentence has always held great truth, especially in relationships: “You get who you are, not what you want.” If I wanted to have more fun with someone, I had to set about becoming that very thing.

For two years, I devoted myself to figuring out what I thought was fun, and then having at it. Turns out, fun for me is anything from chopping wood for a fire to rock climbing. If I rented a Western movie, I’d cook chuckwagon food and wear my cowboy boots. Ya!! Summer hours were spent loving gardening, and winter fun meant shovelling off the pond for an outdoor skate. And finally, at the age of 45,1 learned how to swim. Water, the final frontier, and so much fun.

Living in the country means being far, far away from people. Don’t get me wrong, I still meet men on occasion. Just the other day, a man came right to my door, seemingly out of nowhere, because when I looked past him to see where his car was, there was none in sight. “Can I help you?” He said, “Yeah, I want to ask you a question. Can I walk around your yard, and shoot any rabbits if I see them?” “What?” “Yeah, do you mind if I walk around your property and shoot some rabbits if I see them?” “No, no shooting rabbits.” He turned around, shrugged his shoulders, and went back to wherever he came from. Others of his sort have come, wanting to shoot the geese, or clear-cut the woodlot. “What a handsome stand of maples you have,” said one smiling logger. I was flattered, at least before I studied his business card, ’cause you gotta admit, it’s not everyday a woman gets complimented on her hardwood.

“So, what’s it going to be?” Jill’s wanting an answer. “Dinner on Saturday with good food and charming people, or the start of your shut-in years?” More laughing. “I’d love to be there, I know it’ll be a lot of fun.” And that’s all that matters to me.

Writer-performer and wannabe farmer Sandra Shamas is busy this time of year searching through seed catalogues for heritage tomatoes for her home outside Toronto