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.
Photo is my friend Vince from HongKongWong.com (awesome domain, huh?), taken in Panama by Todd.
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)?