I got to be a guest at a Sirlesque photoshoot the other day. Well, I say 'guest'. What I mean is, I was working my shift at the dance studio when the guys came storming up the stairs carrying giant bins of clothes. Dexter sidled over to the desk and made giant puppy-dog eyes at me -- against the majestic backdrop of most of the rest of the troupe whipping their shirts off right in the middle of my lobby -- and asked if I could possibly let them stay a leeeeetle past closing? Because Dex is one of the designated adults, and he had done enough math to realize that there was no way they were going to get through a six-man promo shoot in the hour they had booked.

I'd shown up to work vaguely discouraged with the world. I was hoping to get through two hours of telling people where the yoga classes were before I took the late bus home and went the fuck to sleep to make the day end. I wound up spending my evening with half a dozen highly-attractive, half-dressed guys, who were steadily getting more and more naked for the photographer. Whenever they ran out of things to take off, they changed outfits and repeated the process. Nothing makes you re-think the dreariness of the universe quite like watching a grown man run around a dance studio in an ensemble composed entirely of red underpants, a luchador mask, enameled scale mail gauntlets, and a makeshift cape tied around his neck. That wasn't even part of the shoot -- Ricky just got bored while in wardrobe. This is apparently such a common occurrence with him that nobody else even looked up when he tore past.

Such is my life.

I told them that if someone gave me a lift home instead of making me walk back to Somerville in the middle of the night, I didn't care when they left. This immediately made me everyone's favorite person. I was showered with thanks and what I think was the promise of dinner, although I'm not entirely sure that was serious or collectable. Some men shout 'I love you' in the middle of sex; Dexter may just offer Italian food when in the throes of the kind of joy that comes with the realization that he doesn't have to herd the other five cats around at Warp 9. Not a clue.

I have absolutely no idea why the lot of them like me. Don't get me wrong, I've got the basic self-esteem stuff covered -- I'm a worthwhile human, I have a number of personality traits that are often seen as friendly and interesting, &c. I'm just the one thing I'm far too invested in and know far too much about to ever accurately see from a stranger's viewpoint. I find this irritating at the best of times, and it's especially annoying here, because I spend about half of my time with them prodding them in the brains with a stick to see what comes out. You can't just flail wildly at that sort of thing, piñata-style. It's rude. You're trying to precision-poke out the bits of candy you want, missing all the crap gumballs, with the stick held behind your back. And your eyes closed. While not hitting the other partygoers. Doing this with social interaction without necessarily having a clear idea of how the other person perceives you is difficult, is what I'm saying.

Two of them think my efforts are entertaining, and I'm betting a third would if he thought about it for five seconds, which he probably hasn't, as he is often busy fighting crime boredom as El Armadillo. It's an interesting situation. I do this stuff constantly, but most of the time, nobody has any idea what I'm up to, much less that I'm doing any of it on purpose. I've learned the hard way that it's not usually a good idea to just flat-out tell them, either; once you've told people that you're watching what they do, they tend to implode in a cloud of self-consciousness.

I'd say Dale figured out what I was up to without being told, but 'figured it out' implies that he had to sit down and slot together clues until it became clear; I think he just recognized the pattern on sight. Dale is exceptionally good at this, quite possibly better than I am, and he'd be frightening if he weren't also one of the most forthright people I've ever met in my life. He's even more blunt than I am. I find it charming. He must make narcissists piss themselves in terror.

(Note that I have no idea if any of them read this thing. Possibly; it's linked to from my Facebook. In that case: Hi, Dale! I'm taking your advice, although probably not in the way you intended.)

My working hypothesis is that Dale and Ricky ended up friends because at some point Dale sat down and did the same thing to Ricky that he's been doing to me lately -- which is to say, in the friendliest possible fashion, "That's a lovely public personality you have! What's underneath it?" I've told Ricky a number of things about the insides of his own brain by this point, and not only is he intriguingly unsurprised that I'm guessing, he's also unsurprised that I'm guessing right. If this isn't a novel thing to Ricky, then either he does it himself, or he's had it done to him a lot. That's an OR, not an XOR; it could well be both.

Given that Ricky has a whacking great case of both genius and attention deficit OMG SQUIRREL!, I can't imagine that most people track him very well without extensive explanations. And indeed, for all that he can be very loudly social most of the time, he is also rather quiet about what he's actually thinking unless specifically asked. It is the kind of strategic silence I associate with people who have been given an extensive collection of blank looks over the course of their lives. I have no idea if I'm any better at following him than anyone else is, but I'm probably better equipped than most to do it by paying attention and piecing it together, rather than having to wait around until I could guess from history. I've also no idea what he thinks of my efforts, although I assume if I annoyed him he'd quit telling me things.

I got to watch some of them rehearse choreography while others were finishing their photos. Quite fascinating; I wish I had video footage. Their dance and theater experience varies pretty widely. Dexter actually can dance, to the point where I must conclude that either he's had formal training, or he spent his entire adolescence standing in front of his bedroom mirror pretending to be Lance Bass. The rest of them are awesomely idiosyncratic in how they pick it up.

Dale watches the mirror and steals body language from the leader, which is also how he does his acting -- there's a Buffy-themed number in one of their geek shows where he does a shockingly good James-Marsters-as-Spike. His face is fully visible in that one, and it still took me a minute to figure out which one it was. God help me if he ever does any character pieces involving a mask.

Ricky has spent the past twenty-odd years of his life teaching himself how to fidget in elaborate patterns without stepping on other people, so while he can't always keep track of his brain, he can almost always locate all of his hands and feet. Plus he can count to eight.

Jack has to get the basic flow down and then add all the stop-lock steps. He doesn't want to let go of his momentum, which makes total sense now that I know he's an aerialist. You want to keep your angular velocity up when you're working on trapeze, or you fall, or at least you fail to flip yourself all the way around and look like kind of a doof when you end up dangling upside down.

If you're curious as to what my precious idjit friends look like, they do have a YouTube channel. They're unfairly hilarious people even when they're wearing their pants.

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