Sunday, June 20, 2004

...A Bizarre Form of Social Retardation

My best friend growing up was Manoje. We had one of those extremely close/did everything together/always requested to be on the same Little League and youth basketball teams/slept over at each others houses every weekend/virtually had his own chair at my family's dinner table-type of friendships.

At the end of our 8th grade year Manoje's father received a huge promotion that required him to move his family to Pasadena.

A decade later, as fate would have it, I received a job transfer that brought me down to Southern California myself. In addition to better pay and a snazzier title, an added bonus was that I was going to once again be living in close proximity to my old buddy, Manoje

Though excited to renew our friendship , a conversation I had with Manoje led me to suspect that perhaps some of my friend's social skills had deteriorated in our years apart. When catching up on each other's dating lives, Manoje spent an inordinate amount of time in fond remembrance of Nicole Anderson, who, to his credit, was an absolutely stunning blond. What struck me as odd was that I knew, and Manoje knew I knew, that his entire relationship with Nicole consisted of, with me in tow, attending one movie together. This occurred when we were 13.

But nothing could have prepared me for the strange behavior Manoje would later exhibit when I recruited him to join me as we navigated the Southern California bar and club scene:

#1: Close-Standing

Upon entering a bar or club, Manoje would immediately feel the need to stand as close to me as possibly allowed by physics. By that I mean at all times some part of Manoje's body had to be touching some part of my body. I've paid for lap dances that didn't involve this much touching.

I once had a dog, my beloved Bart, who had a tendency to get overstimulated when let inside the house. The only surefire method of calming him down was to touch him in some way. What was interesting was that you didn't have to pet Bart or rub his stomach to soothe him; literally just some part of you had to be in contact with some part of him. This could be as simple as watching TV with your pinkie toe touching his back.

I found this behavior to be very odd in a dog. I found it even stranger in Manoje.

#2: Disappearance of normal conversation skills

I suppose it was a way of dealing with his nervousness, but the moment we entered a bar or club, Manoje stopped speaking in his regular, normal, everyday voice, and instead chose to do an extended Beavis and Butthead impersonation for the rest of the night.

I can only imagine how cool we must have looked to the rest of the club patrons: Two men, who appeared literally attached at the hip, one of whom was apparantly having a bad attack of Turrets, chanting, "UUUUUH,THIS SUCKS, BEAVIS...BARE ASS ON TV!!!...I AM CORNHOLIO, I NEED TP FOR MY BUNGHOLE...FIRE! FIRE!...HEY BUTTHEAD..."

I used to theorize that the blame for Manoje's lack of social skills could be laid at the feet of his parents, who pushed him to unheard of lengths academically. I figured he had been so focused on his studies for much of his life that he never had the opportunity to develop his social skills. But that wouldn't explain his younger sister and brother, pushed just as hard (one now a doctor, the other a tennis star at Yale), but who seem to be able to interact with other human beings in a far more normal manner.

Last I heard from Manoje, he had moved back up to Walnut Creek, our old stomping grounds, after a near 13 year absence. I didn't have the heart to tell him Nicole had moved away.
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