A Dinner Party

Winter is the season of dinner parties. Excuses to get together with people, but stay indoors, dress up in sweaters and sweater dresses and celebrate when the sun sets early and the ever present fog leaves beads on your scarf and colors your nose.

Early evening: Accepting the invitation

It’ll be great to get out of the house. It’s an excuse to dress up, because, why not?

It’ll be fun. I’ll see people and have lively discussion. It’s my chance to be social and energetic and show that I’m a fun person.

I do things. Yes, I do things with people.

Getting ready

What kind of get-together is this? Are we talking full makeup? Or would that be trying too hard?

And what to wear. Is this too much party? Or should I be safe and go with black? Maybe it’s too sad and dark. But black is safe.

I’ll just add some color with my shoes for some fun. Heels aren’t too much. People wear heels to dinner.

Purse. No purse? Purse. Which purse? The everyday one, not too much. And coat. Definitely coat, scarf, gloves.

Okay, ready.

Wait, lipstick. Always lipstick. Yes, done.

Oh, and the champagne. Your one job. The champagne. How could you forget?

And late, of course.

The (late) entrance

Okay, hi. This is a lot of people. I’ll say hi to as many people as possible, and then just happily ignore the others that are difficult to reach. I’ll be introduced eventually. I don’t want to make a whole disturbance now. It’s pretty unlikely that I’ll ever see them again in my life anyway.

This is a nice spot in the room. Just nod and smile. Don’t forget to ask questions. You can talk less that way.

Yeah, I don’t understand half of what’s going on…but that’s fine. You’re the foreign one. You’re not supposed to understand. It’s a nice excuse anyhow, a nice excuse to not talk. I just feel bad that they’re trying so hard to include me. But I can also see them getting tired of that responsibility. Sorry! It’s okay. It’s okay. I can’t fix that right now.

À table

Ah finally, we’re sitting down to dinner. I can just eat. Eating is a valid excuse. It takes ALL of my attention. It does. Taking the right amount of salad from the bowl. Not looking ridiculous that I can’t get lettuce onto my fork and on a successful journey to the mouth. How to make the lettuce not overly large? Yes, that’s right. Be sure to fit the entire piece in or else you’ll look like a dumb rabbit. Dumb in all senses of the word, considering that you can’t engage in conversation like normal person right now. ALL THE ATTENTION. Okay, that’s normal.

Hm, that wasn’t enough food. I’m definitely still hungry. I thought the “I’m American” disclaimer was well-distributed at this point. There’s not really anything much left though. I can’t be the one to take all of the final drippings.

The bread! Thank God for bread. The bread will do it. Eat the bread.

I hope they don’t expect me to have followed the conversation. My brain is tired. It can only translate so much in a prolonged period of time. I also have the jetlag excuse in my pocket. I must have zoned out for the past five minutes at least. Okay, fine. Try again.

This conversation isn’t particularly exciting. Maybe I’m not actually understanding. But I think I am. Would I be having fun if I was with my own friends? Or is this really just a language thing? Or do people just get boring when they get older? Or am I just more disinterested? I think I’d still be bored if it were my own friends. Maybe I’ve been here too long. Maybe that’s all it is. This is probably what it’s like for outsiders to hear my friends and I hanging out. I’m suddenly so sorry for all of those people that have to sit through us…

Bored. Maybe this is why I don’t come to these things. Just smile. More smiling.

Woo! Dessert! This is cause for celebration.

Post hoc

Dinner, check. We have to be leaving soon. There seems to be lots of talk left in them yet. *sigh* I’m exhausted. But I still look nice.

Okay, yes? Yes?! Coats. I can do that. I have all the things. Coats, gloves, purse.

Bisous! Love you all! We should do this again? Yes, of course! Let’s do this again soon!

*door shuts*

SWEET FREEDOM.

Let’s take a walk.

A walk sounds marvelous.

Opinions. And on having them.

Maybe this was only the irrational fear of a 12-year-old, the fear of not having opinions on anything. It came from this idea that I don’t have anything to say because I don’t have thoughts about them and that those non-thoughts form only non-opinions. I don’t say things because I don’t have anything to say. Without an opinion, I don’t have a stake in the conversation, in what’s being put forward as right, as legitimate, as ethical, as the way things should be in the world. I don’t have opinions on anything. This fear hung in the air for a good chunk of my teenage years.

American grade school (and into college) is a place where young people are lauded for their “participation” because this active contribution to the classroom is hailed as the way that people are heard and legitimate and intelligent. These people are the ones that move the discussion forward, that defend their arguments to others, and have influence, and what I’ve heard called “leadership” skills. To voice your opinion and your thoughts on some issue is to be worldly and to “know your stuff.” In other cultures, it’s called being rude, loud, obnoxious, and/or imposing on others. For a long time, I had trouble reconciling these two worlds.

I’ve come to realize that, back then, I was only gathering information, so-called data on truth. It is without doubt that from a young age, I had some kind of obsession with the truth. I struggled with the idea that perhaps, and probably, there is no real truth in the universe. As you can imagine, this made religion a difficult concept for me to grasp. While you could argue that I wasn’t brought up Christian enough to take certain ideas as self-evident, I’d argue that it was in my nature to be skeptical of that which could not be reasonably or definitively proven multiple times over. Rather, it was my acceptance of religion as a value to human society rather than the belief system of any one religion that answered my questions into why it should exist at all.

I had a certain way of speaking. [Some would argue that this sentence should be written in the present: I have a certain way of speaking. Perhaps.] Things had to be worthy. Statements had to be worth the effort of speech. And correspondingly worth the time spent listening to it. Hey, I’ve always been considerate. Speech had to make some worthy contribution – worthy meaning thought-provoking or relevant, adding something new. Why would you spend your time listening to and learning the same things over and over again? You wouldn’t. But perhaps this leads me to make too many assumptions about what other people would find interesting or relevant or new or of value. Maybe it is only an excuse for me to continue gathering information without making my own contribution to that data collection and its synthesis. Maybe the assumption that people see what I see given the same information is too strong. But hey, I’m learning.

This is yet another fear about which my 20-something-year-old self would be able to reassure my 12- and 15- and 17-year-old selves. I have opinions. And strong ones. I have opinions that after 20-odd years of data collection in the form of experiences, anecdotes, media consumption, diversity, culture, and (I hope) continued openness have cultivated. I have things to say and it matters that I say them. Though I remain reserved, these are opinions that I will honestly share while being conservative with who is worthy to hear them. After years of being a woman, I know well when words only fall on deaf ears.

This past month has reminded me of these past fears and more recent realizations, and really in ways that I would have gladly gone without. It reminded me that I am capable of an emotional violence in my opinions and beliefs at a very basic, fundamental level – a driving force that remains hidden if not completely smothered in the day-to-day. And it reminded me again that there is so much more truth to learn. That settling down is not an option. We must instead strive to engage and listen and contribute and find those things that are worthy. That complacency and blind trust is dangerous. And that those with all of the loud opinions may be more empty air than American reverence would make them seem.

Home?

Looking out the airplane window, down onto the moving toyland from my little sister’s Lego set, I can always tell how I feel about a place. Sometimes it’s excitement. Other times, it’s dread. And every once in a while, it’s the warming feeling of home. This one in particular is an interesting feeling, and probably because it seems that the feeling has changed for me in the past year. So much so that it was both at first alarming and exciting and comforting. Alarming in the realization that I may be attached to a place, which has never been the case in the strict sense of knowing that I want to live there, be there. Exciting to be finally figuring it out –  a place that I like to be. Comforting to know that yes, this is home.

But I’ve moved again. A month ago, I moved again. And it won’t be the last time. I recognize now that that feeling of home doesn’t come for every place. In that way, for me, when it happens, it’s noticed. It’s treasured. In another month, I’m going back. But just to visit. I don’t have a room there, a bed, my own window, a place to call my own. I only have a friend’s couch. Will I still call it home? Will that feeling come back? Will it have gone forever, left in a time that I can never re-create or re-build or re-live, only reminisce and remember? Or will it be so overwhelming as to overcome any potential future plans I’ve already made in my head? Will it become a guiding goal to call this place home? Will I be set on striving for something that seems so unreachable and faraway? Which is worse?

I’ll know in a month’s time as I contemplate all the things cut off from the world in my window seat, looking down.

Exposed.

You know the feeling you get after an evening of being hypersocial? The drink helps and the exhilaration heightens and the words flow freely. Oversharing. What I keep for myself most of the time is coming out. My own. The morning is the aftermath. You sit in it, alone. Alone with only your recollection of split seconds here and there, overanalyzing your words and their reactions and what it means for tomorrow.

No? You don’t know that feeling?

Perhaps it’s my introversion showing. The next morning it reemerges, in full recoil. I’m experienced in this cycle by now – the one where I crave social interaction, only to be met with angst afterwards – but I’m no expert. It takes that same rationalization, that same analysis to remind myself that it doesn’t matter. That no one will remember all of the bits and pieces of yourself that you left out there in the open to be judged, stomped on, and known. Not really. Everyone is also wrapped up in their own selves. The baseness of human nature is there to catch you.

I continue through my morning, hoping that I don’t remember every moment of the night before to dwell and analyze. I work to forget. The hangover helps. It helps the not thinking. The energy has been sucked away. Still, I yearn for the next night to erase this one. The next night when I’ll see the same people and I can re-write. Again and again.

The Coupling Constant

I’m at that age. I’m at the age where everyone is coupling up. The age where things are done in couples. It crept up on me. I didn’t realize that this was a new baseline until it was impossible to ignore. I found myself on a long weekend trip of 11 people, five pairs of these 11 were (surprise!) couples. Let me add by saying that one of the sources of entertainment of the weekend was pairing up the lonely lingering one. The Couples were expected to do the entire weekend together. Maybe they normally do anyway. Still, the declared status of togetherness was overwhelming. People now come in pairs.

I found the realization disturbing whether or not you define yourself as being one half of a couple. It’s something that you don’t necessarily realize or care about when it’s just you and the other person. You’re wrapped up in life with this other person. Me and you. I suppose that’s what companionship is taken to mean. But with a group of couples, it seems to morph into something else. Navigation of the social space is different. You’re attached. You’re expected to know one another, complement one another, and present this to the world.

Now, I’m finding it a rarity for people not to be paired up. It’s all too tangible that this is the age where I should expect my peers to have significant others, husbands, and wives, if not families. Too many times in the past month have I already made decidedly wrong assumptions.

“So, you have roommates?”

“No, I have a family.”

“Oh…yeah, those are like roommates…”

It’s a different frame of mind. People come in pairs. Whether it’s the natural course of life, I’m open to debate. Companionship is, of course, a goal from a young age. It’s rooted in humans as the ultra-social species, perhaps even in our wiring for survival. The challenge of it all is maintaining independence and individuality within the couple, even if we’re horribly attached.

Counting Days

I have a breakdown every time I move to a new city, a new place. The past few years have been called my early twenties. Staying in one place is decidedly not in my line of work.

I just moved two days ago. I feel it simmering, threatening to boil over. It’s always the same questions. Why do I do this to myself? Why do I force this upon myself over and over again knowing what’s to come? I was fine before. I was happy before. I could have stayed.

My mind spins, a broken record, repeating these questions even as I know their implications aren’t true. There are reasons that I came. There are reasons that I came here. I had to come. And it’s here that I will find what I’m looking for.

I’m waiting for it to come. The complete breakdown: the tears and hysteria and self-medication. Nothing crazy. Maybe a couple of glasses of wine or maybe some melatonin to sleep it off.

But it doesn’t come this time. Three more days creep by and so far, I’ve kept it at bay. I think I’m almost in the clear.

This isn’t the first time. Having moved seven times in the past few years, I’ve since noticed the pattern. The first few days are my test. The days where I find out what I loved and have left behind, the time and circumstances that I can never get back. Even if I were to go back now, today, or tomorrow, it’s gone. What I’m left with here is the stress, anxiety, excitement, and curiosity of what more of the world there is to discover. But I’m alone.

It’s been two weeks. The breakdown isn’t coming. Maybe I’m getting better at this. Different from the times before, what I notice now is an enduring ache. I work to keep the tears away when I see the Golden Gate, what used to be home. In any case, it’s not what I should call home. It’s not where I grew up. In fact, it was only a year and some change. What right do I have to feel about this place?

Still, I can’t help but think that this might be worse that the sudden outbursts of earlier moves. This one has stayed and I’m not sure how long it will take to treat. For now, I wake up in the morning and go through the motions of my day. For now, I try to fit things into my day that may make me fit into this place. For now, I focus my head on getting through the day to make it until the night, when I come back to my bed.

#Brexistentialism

There’s heartbreak in what happened yesterday. I woke up this morning to a torrent of devastated, incredulous and shell-shocked texts, updates and headlines. A campaign steered by hate and fuelled by fear had won.

Leave.

A text I’d send to someone in response to “I’m wildly bored at this party.” Not the response to a nation-wide referendum on whether a key EU member should divorce from the union after 43 years. The nervousness I felt yesterday was similar to one I felt on October 19th when Canada was deciding whether it was going to be swayed by an embarrassingly xenophobic conservative election campaign. Thankfully, that one went a different way and we had a second bout of Trudeaumania, but now instead all I’m feeling is a bout of #brexistentialism…

I’m not even going to go into the economic consequences of it because well…  the uncertainty and instability alone is enough to have sent markets into the frenzied statistical equivalent of a Picasso painting.

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uhhh. I don’t even know how to process the above.

But that’s not necessarily what’s been teasing my tear ducts all day. It’s the fact that there’s such an agitated undercurrent across the world that entire “democracies” are at the boiling point of being run by bigoted ideology and a sense of othering unlike any I’ve seen before. Who are these people voting with such anger and disdain for people who have been literally driven out of their homes? Global insecurity is darkening the future of entire generations across the world. Meanwhile, the British leave campaign focused on sentiments of inward-looking, myopic nationalism, citing the “lack of English spoken on the streets of London” as a reason for wanting to keep out those left with no place to go. Like a child with too many toys and not enough heart. The real breaking point of the awful campaign came when people seeking refuge were weaponized…

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I mean really… I get angry all over again every time I look at that.

Then there’s the age disparity in voters, which is best explained by this table:

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WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE???

I want to be understanding and realize that many of the voters voting “Leave” are facing their own personal disasters, feeling economically marginalized and discounted in the larger EU framework. But the decision to Leave, doesn’t fix that. All it does is show the rest of the world that America is not the only crazy super power. And that we are all alone in dealing with an increasingly terrifying world.

Britain, you’ve played your Trump card.  

All we can hope for now is that the shock and devastation that’s reverberated across the world from such small thinking will lead to a shift in political processes towards more humanist thinking. Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn after all, right? …