Dateland: The Buffer
Hollywood produces many big-budget movies about superheroes. These generally focus on men who have been bitten by radioactive spiders; or deeply misunderstood men with troubled pasts and a taste for vengeance; or male robots who transform into other robots. Well, readers, it’s time for the film industry and it’s drooling, adolescent minions to turn its attention to a real superhero—Me! That’s right! I’m the Buffer!
My superhero skill is buffing. I know. I know. This sounds vaguely like the skill set of a low-level staffer on a porn movie. But it’s much more exciting.
I’m called into employ my superhero skills by people who are preparing to have a dinner party populated by guests who don’t like each other; or I’m called to brunch with friends being forced to have an obligatory meal with their parents; or when couples have nothing but uncomfortable silence left between them, I’m summoned to draw attention from their failing relationship for the weekend.
Here’s what I do in a nutshell….I march into awkward situations and distract everyone from the bad time they’re having. I change the subject; I laugh loudly at mildly amusing anecdotes; I take an interest in people who are not very interesting and make them feel like they are the most fascinating people in the room.
The secret behind my special buffer powers is that I genuinely believe that everyone has an interesting story to tell. I’m not faking it. I really want to know why your dad decided to go into the insurance industry.
As a result, I get a lot of invitations. I’m almost never asked out for a one-on-one social event, i.e. a work friend won’t ask me to go grab lunch unless their mom is visiting the office. In that event, they’ll collapse in a chair in my office, head hung in preemptive defeat and they’ll beg—beg!!!—me to join them for lunch with their judgmental beast of a mother. And I’ll do so gladly because I love both lunch and mothers. The more beastly, the better.
While my superpowers leave most in a state of grateful awe, there is one mortal who is less than impressed. That mortal is my girlfriend.
The sad truth is that my girlfriend does not like people. Here is a direct quote after dragging her along on one too many buffer assignments this past weekend: “I don’t like people.” She’d be perfectly content if I reserved my buffering powers for our annual visits with her family. She feels that when too many people rely on my powers, they get diluted and, therefore, I do not satisfactorily protect her.
“I need you to be a shiny object to distract them from me,” she complains. “But you’re too dull from overuse.”
I’m sure Lois Lane had the same complaints about Superman. He probably felt that family vacations were his time to recharge, not battle his own evil familial forces.
I made a promise after last weekend that I’d pass up buffering assignments for the next few weeks. But then I got a call on my special buffer line: it’s a good friend’s mother’s 80th birthday. Several members of the family are not speaking to each other. She is counting on me to be at the party to help create an appearance that everyone is getting along.
Of course, I accept the assignment. But then I glance sheepishly at my girlfriend for permission. “Just remember that we’re going to see my family in a month. You better keep a big reserve of buffering for that trip. If not, don’t expect to be buffed by me anytime soon.”