Sunday, April 20, 2008

Embiggening the World

Over the past few weeks, I've found myself having a series of interactions that are pretty far outside my comfort zone, all to positive effect:
  1. Via a certain infamous social networking system, I located one of my most favorite people from college and have scheduled a phone conversation with her.
  2. I've had a former student who is now in graduate school email me to talk about a book that she'd been assigned a presentation on. Sick to death of typing, I told her to call me at home so we could chat about it.
  3. I've had a publisher contact me about one of my class blogs and ask me if I would review a book for them.
  4. I know this guy (let's call him Smokey), vaguely through a book project I've worked on. He's someone that I had a great conversation with last summer, but never followed up on. On a whim, I've asked him to discuss the design for my monster seminar in the fall, and now we're carrying on a delightful little correspondence that is exactly what I hoped it would be: smart, funny, and giving me good ideas.
I think I've written, in the past, about the ways that I tend to keep my social circle pretty small. As in, it was my mother, Senor Fluff, Yogini for a good number of years. I think a couple of my colleagues have worked hard to bust me out of that---all to the good (heads up, Dr. Marxy and Frenchie!). Left to my own devices, however, I'm all too often mired in a tiny set of social relations, and drained by interactions with others. Because hanging out with people who don't know you? Socially awkward and painful. High chances that I will say something and make an ass of myself, or they will say something that will make me disappointed. There's a line from a song by The Story that goes "And in the end you choose someone, somewhere/ Others fade from view/ And the world outside your life exhausts you..." Yup. That's it, in a nutshell.

But then I found myself at a soiree at a colleague's house---someone I like very much, and would like to know better---and I found it almost impossible not to talk to him about work---and not even the good things about work (yes, Virginia, they do exist), but the crap business and outrages of work. What else did we really have in common? [It doesn't help that he's a slow talker and I'm a nervous bunny rabbit.] Horrors!! I don't want to be this person, for whom human interaction revolves around work.

So I'm slowly, ever so slowly, venturing out into new pastures (hmmm. bad metaphor? does that make us all cows?). In truth, it scares the beejeesus out of me. It's not like the fear of social awkwardness and disappointment and self-ass-making have gone away. It's just now governed by the idea that the world is a big big place, potentially full of wonder and joy and the quirkiness that makes people fun, and that I've been actively, but unconsciously, engaged in making it very very small for a long time. And that if keep that up, I'll be a wizened, cranky old hag much sooner than I will be otherwise. That's the model that I see in a certain type of academic woman, and one that I'm hell-bent on trying to avoid.

I'll let you know how the experiment goes.

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Blogger Frenchie Foo said...

So funny to "hear" you say this, because you know that I vowed never to befriend anyone else after you, Senor F, Lee, and the T left. I just find it mentally (& to a certain extent physically) exhausting to make new friends. You're right, too, about the weirdness of it all. But I totally agree ... awkward is better than cranky old hag! Keep me posted...

Monday, April 21, 2008 8:54:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

And yet, you continue to make new friends (who may not yet have aliases?); or at least become friendly with the people at your college (other chairs,etc.)? My new thought is that it's about finding friends OUTSIDE the school. How great is that?!! Although, sometimes it smacks of recruiting friends for their Otherness---"well, my friend who's a stockbroker" sounds a bit like "well my friend who's black..."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 7:55:00 AM  
Blogger Frenchie Foo said...

Word, sista!
Why is it never seen as cultural collateral to say "My friend who is a cheap, elitist, white woman"?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 10:01:00 PM  

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