Today at lunch a waitress sat down with my friend and I. We go to this particular restaurant often and are chatty, so we're friends enough to sit together during her break, but not enough to make plans outside of the restaurant.
She told us that she was raped in the past.
Now, this wasn't borne from the victim mentality where people have a tragedy in their past that dominates their identity, and thus must be brought to the surface early in every relationship. We were talking about recovering from events like that, and she matter-of-factly brought it up and talked about how she recovered, without once fishing for pity.
It was pretty amazing. Not because I like talking about rape, but because she was willing to pierce the invisible barrier between people that prevents that sort of social intimacy. I don't have any similarly horrifying experiences in my past, but if I did I would have felt comfortable talking about them with her.
That sort of conversation always inspires me. If you ever want to become better friends, you have to break that barrier at some point. When people beat me to it, I admire them. We think of courage as something like going off into the woods with a sword to fight a baby-eating bear, but in real life, it most often manifests itself as making yourself socially vulnerable. The waitress could have kept quiet, worried that we might thing of her differently.
The breach of over-civility doesn't have to be quite so drastic, either. Last night I was sitting in an otherwise empty Samovar Tea Lounge when a couple sat down at the table across from me. Very quickly it became obvious that it was a first date, probably from online dating. How was it so obvious? Well, for one, their conversation was painfully limited to only the most polite conversations. What do you do? Oh, that's great. Where were you raised? Las Vegas? Wow. Three brothers? Yes, I like tea, too.
Here were two people who were obviously eager enough to connect that they got dressed up a bit, traveled to a tea house, and yet they weren't actually connecting. I had the urge to swoop in, not to try to steal the girl or anything dramatic, but just to talk about real things for a minute or two to try to change the tone of the conversation.
I left before the date was over, but my guess is that they won't see each other again. After all, what did either of them say that might have hooked the other? "Ooh, he grew up in Las Vegas. I HAVE to see him again!" All it would have taken was for one of them to take a small risk and reveal something rather than just saying something. That's not a guarantee of future dates, but it may have improved the chances.
SUPER EXCITING NEWS COMING SOON! Hopefully by Thursday... I already have the post written, just have to wait for it to happen.
Thinking about redesigning the site... any suggestsions other than widening this column (which I will do)?
I finally arrived at the Manchester, New Hampshire airport around nine at night. We fly in there because it takes less time to get to my grandparents house in a Boston suburb from Manchester than it does from the Boston airport. Traffic and all that.
We were supposed to get there at five, but there was so much snow in Manchester that we had to divert to Boston, wait for the snow to pass, and then return to Manchester.
I actually like the delay, though. I love everything about traveling, including being stuck on a plane doing nothing. There's something very pleasant about being totally isolated from the rest of the world.
I hated medical school. Well, that might be an overstating it. I didn't even go to medical school. I hated going out to bars with my wife while she was in medical school because everyone got really drunk and talked about medical school. This was before any of our peers were married and I was the lone spouse. Mostly I drank beer and offered a courteous laugh.
Back then my social muscle wasn't well defined. I didn't know how to talk to people even though I've been talking to people my whole life. I knew how to talk to friends and family but not strangers. Think about our lives, my guess is that 95% of your conversations are with people you know and see regularly. Work, church, family, rinse, and repeat. I was the same way and hated it so it was time to change.
The idea is to get people talking about themselves. People will say anything about their hobbies, interests and history. I once spent five minutes explaining to someone's mother the importance of holding a force when going upwind in ultimate frisbee. Is that Greek to you? It was to her.
I wish I had known these things ten years ago but what in life isn't like that. What do you and I know now that we didn't know then? The answer is everything. All we can do is make sure we don't spend another 10 years making that same mistake.