I went on a mission trip to Hungary one summer in high school. I went with an independent mission agency that recruits all over the United States, and we were a crazy group. Only one of the other students had ever met me before, so I didn’t have any particular reputation. I’m not sure why the group got this impression, but they called me “the sweetheart” at first. Everyone made comments about me being so sweet and ladylike. It was an interesting change from being the Shakespeare nerd everyone was afraid to argue with in Sunday School, but it threw me for a loop.
“Aw, she’s here. How are you, sweetie?” my small group leader said. And then I realized she was talking to me.
“You’re just so adorable,” my friend Kevin* said every morning. I was used to guys whispering that I was intimidating, intense, or just plain scary. “Adorable” did not compute.
“Those glasses are so cute. You look like a little mouse or something.” No. Just… no. I still hate those glasses.
The whole gang was obviously suffering from hallucinatory delusions. It couldn’t last. The impulsive awkward me was going to smack them in the face (perhaps literally) sooner or later.
Pizza Hut in Hungary is actually a fairly fancy restaurant. The one near our dorm was several stories tall and had decor more like a Chili’s. The pizza wasn’t bad, so we ate there about once a week. One time our group leader ordered us pizza and a few batches of barbecue wings. We dug in, trading sarcastic jokes and movie quotes. The pizza had a lot of tomato sauce on it, and I felt some end up on my cheek.
Oh well, I thought to myself. I’ll get it after this next bite. Then Henry* snorted with laughter and pointed at me.
“Dude, you have pizza all over you,” he said. I rolled my eyes.
“Aw, cute little Laura!” Kevin laughed.
Cute? Little? Excuse me? I was indignant, but my mouth was full of pizza.
“You eat like a three-year-old,” Henry said, handing me a napkin.
Something snapped. I looked down at the plate that had previously held the chicken wings. I swallowed my pizza and raised one eyebrow at Henry across the table.
“I’ll show you how a three-year-old eats,” I said. I reached into the mess of oil, barbecue sauce, and chicken skin, and smeared a huge glob all around my mouth. I went back for another glob and covered my chin and nose.
“What is wrong with you, woman?” Henry yelled. He actually jumped out of his chair.
“You are completely insane!” Kevin said.
“I can’t believe you just did that!” Henry said, flailing like an octopus.
“Are you even a girl?” someone asked from the next table over.
“That was insane. And awesome. And insane!” Kevin said with a mix of approval and fear on his face.
“You said I eat like a three-year-old!” I said, an evil grin beneath the sticky mess on my face. “So I did.”
It took awhile for the group to recover from the shock, but the one guy who knew me before the trip gave me a knowing look and a wink. I was “the crazy one” for the rest of the five weeks. And I got a wicked case of acne.
Moral of the story: Barbecue sauce is not a good facial mask.
*Henry and Kevin are pseudonyms.