When I was in my early 20s, boys made me nervous. This would have surprised them because I didn't look or sound nervous. But they made me nervous all the same. Walking up to a stranger my own age to ask for directions was almost impossible. I was really that self-conscious inside, no matter how composed I looked on the outside. I survived pro-life activism because I didn't usually have to speak to strangers; I just held my sign.
So I know perfectly well how hard this Talking to Boys thing can be. And I would never have learned to do it if I had not adjusted my thinking about myself and about boys. I don't know what your elementary school days were like, but socially speaking, mine were atrocious. They ended with four years of slut-shaming (as it is now called) for some of the girls and ugly-shaming for others, including me. Some girls were targeted for groping--and the boys would gang together and fall on the chosen girl like rugby players on a ball--and when I finally complained to the male principal, he told me "Boys will be boys."
I know I have told you all this before, but it's a natural response to trauma: the traumatized relate the experience again and again. Fourteen years after I left that school, my therapist tried to convince me that "sexual experimentation" was normal and healthy for children, but I could not sign on. First, Christian children are called to purity like everyone else. Second, the "sexual experimentation" of my schoolyard was public, violent and hateful. One little girl was called "whore" almost every day, and I was called "ugly" almost every day. For the record, it was better to be "ugly" than a "whore" because, as far as I know, the ugly went untouched.
It was a very long time before I could convince myself that most boys were not like that, or even if they were (although my little brothers weren't), the vast majority of them stopped being like that when they grew up. But I did convince myself. I gained the confidence I should have developed in school through boxing and my first real grown-up job. And when I went to theology school I was surrounded by very good, very bright men. Now, instead of telling me that men are potential rapists, the voice at the back of my head says they are potential Jesuits--which is to say, good men who may or may not be orthodox, and who may or may not go off the rails, but at least they are clever and decent human beings. This view changes only when the strangers reveal that they are not at all like the good and clever men I met at theology school. But, to tell you the truth, so far most of the men I have met in the past five years are rather like them.
If your default position is that men are clever and decent human beings, you will have an easier time talking to them than if your default position is that they are A) potential rapists or B)likely to tell you that you're ugly. This default position is not the final word on any man you meet, of course, but it is a helpful basic orientation towards the world.
We all have basic orientations towards the world. Yours might be that the world is divided into sexually attractive men and sexually unattractive men, and that somehow you always end up talking to the unattractive ones. This is not a helpful stance. In fact, it echoes my schoolyard, where girls were divided into pretties, whores, uglies and, in a unusual cases, friends. If it is your basic orientation that prevents you from conversing easily with men, then you may want to consider changing it. And one way to change it is to temporarily adopt a helpful, imaginary persona, which could be your nation's Ambassador to France.
As your nation's Ambassador to France, you are accomplished, confident, and occupying a position so important that you can afford to be gracious and nice to everyone. If someone is rude to you, then the joke is on them because obviously they do not know that you are the Ambassador to France and therefore their rejection is not worth bothering about.
And that's enough from me today. I'm all tuckered out from the mental journey from elementary school to theology school. Hatred--even the hatred of an ex-child for children who no longer exist*--is so tiring. Thank God for the S.J.
*Any philosophers out there want to address the idea that a child loses existence when he becomes an adult? I'm not sure this is true. It just seems illogical for me to hate people who are now 39+ for what they did when they were 10-14.