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A few days ago, Julie Nathanson (@Julie_Nathanson) – who I knew back when I was at Tufts University and now follow on Twitter – tweeted, “What’s the word for finally speaking with one of your heroes for the first time and then transmogrifying into floaty, glowing vapor?”
She got a goodly number of responses, including a couple of brutal German agglutinations (German has a word for everything because almost everything can become a single word in German if you want it to), but the slam-dunk final winner was from “J.R.” (@Rammo216): “Oh, you squeevaporated”
Squeevaporated! Such a splendid portmanteau! I trust you know squee, but if you don’t, here, read. And of course you know evaporate; it comes from Latin e ‘out’ (as in e pluribus unum and such words as erect and eject) plus vapor ‘steam’ (I mean, I’m sure you know what vapor is, but it was the same kind of thing in Latin, OK?). So you evaporate, but instead of just eeevaporating you’re squeevaporating.
It’s so true, too: There are people who have done so much and so well – and often with such renown – that we can’t help but idolize them, and we are entirely gaga if we get to meet them. They aren’t even always famous, but they’re famous to us. (And sometimes they really are famous.)
I have this experience nearly every time I go to a conference; someone I’ve heard of and admired for a long time, and perhaps even interacted with a little online, is there in the flesh, and meeting them is so intoxicating to me that I typically behave awkwardly and inappropriately (OK, yes, I know, that’s not so uncommon for me), and if I don’t alienate them immediately I sometimes even end up spending several hours drinking with them.
Of course they’re human. Everyone is human, and famous people seldom look famous. I was listening to Tracy Bonham’s The Burdens of Being Upright the other day, and in her song “Sharks Can’t Sleep” she sings, “Met a star today. Looked like flesh and bone and tooth decay. But it wasn’t OK.” But the thing is, it kind of is OK. It’s OK that they’re, you know… people. But at the same time, it’s still such a squee moment that it’s not just OK. One good friend of mine who lives just a few floors down in the same building as me is a bestselling novelist. She’s small and, at first, unprepossessing. She occasionally calls me to help her sort out some annoying thing her computer is doing. She’s over 80. And she’s writing another novel. And it amazes me that I know her.
I got to thinking about some of the other notable people I’ve gotten to know at various times in my life. One has two Olympic medals. At least two are touring classical music soloists. One was one of the leading modern dancers in New York and now teaches dance. At least four of them have been in a number of TV series, and one of those four has voiced quite a few animated and video game characters as well. A number of others have achieved much in less glamorous but no less important professions. And I got to know them all…
…before they had done those things.
I knew them in high school and in university. When they hadn’t yet finished becoming them.
I kinda want to retroactively squeevaporate when I think of that.
Well, I do still stay in touch with some of them. And some of the others I at least follow (and perhaps interact with) on Twitter. One of those is TV and video game voice performer Julie Nathanson – who brought us squeevaporation in the first place.