Thursday, October 23, 2008

The effect of the behavior of strangers

So I take classes at my gym, and I often see the same people all the time. Generally it's "hi how are you" typical kind of acquaintance relationship sort of thing, but sort times I see a behavior that stands out and it catches my attention. There's a woman who I see a lot who talks a lot to some of the other people in the class but will speak maybe two words to me if I ask her a question or say hello. This time she set up the bike next to me and didn't say word one which is not atypical of someone you've never seen before, but we've seen each other for more than a year, so it felt really weird.

What do I represent to her? She doesn't know me, so it's very likely nothing I've done.
I have no idea of her sexuality so I have no idea if that plays into it at all. I feel like I've walked into a play and haven't been given the lines or even the plot. Forcing the issue wouldn't accomplish anything and this is not a relationship I need at all, but not knowing still bugs me, so I write it here.

It's a good exercise for my ego to realize that I don't have to interact with every single person, and not every person wants to interact with me. Believe it or not I used to be painfully shy, so maybe I'm over compensating by wanting to talk to lots of people. I like commanding attention now and am good talking in front of people.

It's funny what buttons being deliberately ignored pushes for me. Suddenly I was back in Jr High with the popular kids paying no attention to me at all. I write this now as a way to learn to step back and not be so frustrated by it. Let people be who they want to be as long as it's not hurting anyone else.

The other button is the "lonely in a crowd" one. Where you're surrounded by people, but they're not talking. The other day I heard a description of casual carpooling where there is an unspoken rule that people in the carpool do not interact with each other. Sounds like a personal hell for me. I would be running the carpool where everyone talks and heck with conventions. (I don't really have a commute since my work is close, so I've never done it.)

My brother and sister moved out of the house while I was pretty young. I spent a lot of time by myself and it has left me permanently weird about it. I can and do spend time by myself (I often climb by myself as it's hard for me to find someone who hikes or bikes at my pace), but I can only do it for so long and then I start missing Terri, friends, and the dogs.

One reason I love dog agility is that it's so inherently social, but even starting out in that was tough as I didn't know people well. The cool thing about the sport is that you train in classes so you get to know your classmates, and for an agility trial to happen at all, they need a lot of volunteers and most of the jobs involve social interaction. It's a blast.

But I can't help but wonder if there's something I've done to offend this woman. The answer is likely that the only thing I've done is resemble some person or type to her (I can come off a bit "hard core cyclist" sometimes, but she's pretty good at RPM too so I don't know). I need to let this go. Show kindness and give her space, and not try to force anything. This is not about me.

3 comments:

Jennie said...

I've been there. And I think you're right, it has nothing to do with you. She was probably off in her own world and might've snapped out of it if you'd said something, but maybe she needed to be there, yk?

I've found I really like eye contact--it kind of pisses me off to pass someone and look for the eye contact so I can say "Hi" and not get it!

Bob said...

You said "it's not about me". On the contrary! It's all about you: you've created a story about this woman, gone back to your childhood, imagined various possible scenarios, worried about it, etc. She, on the other hand, could have not acknowledged you for any number of reasons, which could vary all over the map. She might have had a bad day, and just wanted to be in her own space, she might not even have noticed you, maybe she feels uncomfortable, for some reason, etc. etc. You really don't know anything about her unless you check it out with her. In the meantime, you get to learn all sorts of interesting things about yourself. As I said: it's all about you!

Ellen said...

Well blogging is certainly one of the more self indulgent things one can do an I use it to talk about things like this. Certainly my response is all about me, but I'm thinking that I should set my ego aside and let her have her space. I have had minimal interactions with her and the results are a hello back and then she moves on which under the circumstances are pretty normal. It was in this instance that in my eyes she seemed to be going out of her way not to talk to me, and it seemed invasive to insist she do. We'll see over time how that plays out.