Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Dr Who starlet Jenna-Louise Coleman's shyness is a puzzle that would leave even Dr Who baffled

Jenna-Louise Coleman has "never been on a date"

The Doctor Who actress Jenna-Louise Coleman has "never been on a date" with anyone. Like many things public figures say, this is simultaneously true and untrue. It doesn't mean, as it implies, that the 27-year-old has never gone out with anyone.

She's going out with someone now. But she's never been on a date, as such, as she's too shy for such one-to-one engagements.

I see you spitting out your coffee and explaining: "But she must have met her current beau alone at some point, otherwise how would things ever get started?"

That's a good point well made, despite the coffee stains down my shirt front. And I'm grateful to you, in this shouty age, for keeping the number of question marks down to one.

But the point is a doozy and relates to this irritating habit actors have of appearing on stage to tell you how shy they are. Can't have it both ways. Either you is or you ain't shy.

All right, I suppose there's shyness and shyness. My shyness is the opposite of Ms Coleman's. I love one-to-one meetings with folk. Much of the time I never get a word in edgeways. One of life's listeners, alas.

But I don't get uncomfortable with one. Two, even three, I can manage. Bump it up to four, and I'm out of there.

I don't know exactly what it is, but it's something to do with that moment when all the faces turn towards you. I fear they want to eat me.

Some kind of atavistic fear from deep in the tribal past? Maybe. More realistically, I think it stems from primary school, where my face would go bright red if asked a question in class and all the kids would point and shout: "Beamer!"

No surprise, I suppose, that I grew up to work on my own, communicating to the masses through writing, though I've had my share of hard-to-avoid situations, including a massive press conference where I just had to stand up and ask a question.

But I've never made a speech in my life and have a torrid time turning down invitations, especially for funerals. The Rotary Club, Burns Suppers, political meetings, football fan gatherings, awards (even when the unwilling recipient): all vetoed.

You have to man up to turn things down, but it's the key to a contented life, particularly for the shy. It's your life. And if you're not comfortable in the extrovert world, don't let them get to you.

Head for the hills. Listen to the wind. Talk to the trees. Never mind if someone calls the police. They can't touch you for it. Can't jail you for shyness. Not yet anyway.

I deeply resent house-party invitations as an infringement of my freedom and never hesitate in telling the putative hosts to go jump in a lake. The compulsory sub-text to these commands is something I find deplorable.

I think it must be 10 years since I attended such a blathering gathering and, even then, I exited early via a first-floor bathroom window. I'll never forget the feeling of freedom as I jogged down the street inhaling the night air and worshipping the stars.

So, Jenna-Louise, I feel your pain. But I don't get how you can fear one but love a crowd.

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