Monday, March 19, 2007

At the Copa

When I lived in residence during my first year of university, my floor was bisected by a doorway. Even though the door was usually propped open, it created a kind of natural barrier: the five of us who lived to the west of this door developed a friendship marked by our nightly post-supper/pre-studying ritual of playing "Copacabana." (This is one of the things that made university more fun than high school – the increased opportunity for ironic retro-hip Barry Manilow listening.) Friendships in this environment were cemented by location rather than by the careful snubbing of outsiders, and they could be conducted on an order-in rather than a take-out basis: no need for coats and boots or the awkward placing of phone calls – social interaction was, quite literally, at my doorstep.

After graduation, we all moved to opposite ends of the country, meeting every year or so for weddings (a glittering crystal celebration for Italian-born Francesca, a leaf-strewn October ceremony for nature-loving Amanda). Within five years everyone was married off (for the time being at least), which produced a bit of a lull in the annual get-togethers, so we staged a reunion that proved to be memorable for a number of reasons, only one of which was that it was the first time I ever heard the term "vacuum extraction."

Two of my former roommates had recently bought houses, so there was much talk of house prices, mortgage rates, and investments. Other topics of conversation included recipes, military acquaintances, travel anecdotes, and dogs. It wasn’t merely that the incessant small-talk was boring (which it was); the most discouraging part for me was the way an interesting topic might come up briefly – the dirt about marriage, about babies, about teaching a class full of rebellious eighth-graders – and then with a palpable sigh of boredom, someone would intervene to turn the conversation back to mortgage rates. The entire weekend was a slow torture, like trying to speak a foreign language while holding my breath under water. I don't belong here, I kept thinking. I'm not like these people.

One might assume that my friends and I had grown apart, but what struck me most forcibly was how familiar this felt to me, this effort to reshape myself to fit an uncomfortable mold, this need to suppress my natural interests and responses in order to conform to the tastes of the majority. For most of my life, that’s simply what social interaction was. To be sure, I always had one or two friends who belonged to the race that knows Joseph, but in high school two friends are not enough to form the protective posse needed to enter threatening environments like the mall, movie theatre, or school cafeteria. It was always necessary to pay protection money to the Normal People, because the freaks and geeks were both too few in number and too diverse to form a cohesive social group.

The great thing about adulthood is its mobility – nerds like my husband can congregate among their own kind at the local Games Workshop, while nerds like me find themselves taking superfluous arts degrees just for the sake of meeting other similarly disposed former high-school rejects. The internet takes this process a step further, both expanding the field and narrowing it. With a few well-placed search terms, we can find women who speak our language. (It’s no coincidence, I think, that among these women high-school unpopularity seems to function as a kind of secret handshake.) At the local playgroup, I may still feel alienated and alone, but here in the ether, I have found my posse.

Can you handle it if I mention the words "mucous plug"? Will you know what I’m talking about if I compare Starbuck to Captain Janeway? Do you believe it’s possible to be a Christian and read Harry Potter? If I refer to myself as an INFJ will you respond by saying, "Hey! I’m an ENFP!"? Does writing and blog-surfing sound like more fun to you than trading investment tips? Does it strike you as reasonable to use Jane Austen’s novels as a guide to finding the right husband? If I say that having children has persuaded me of the doctrine of Original Sin, will you suppress the urge to report me to the proper authorities?

If you can answer yes to any of the above questions, you are my people. And I’m so glad I’ve finally found you.

44 comments:

slouching mom said...

I'll do better than that: I'll respond, "I'm an INFJ, too!"

Gotta love the personality inventories...

Veronica Mitchell said...

An entire weekend of mortgage rates. shudder

Susanne said...

You know, I never found out that type or read Jane Austen (I ask to be excused from reading Austen because I'm German, does that count?) but the rest of it I totally get. But my best real life friends don't. And on the party we held last weekend I had to consciously steer people's conversations away from things like mortgages. Bla.

I'm so grateful to finally have found my people too.

Great post.

Mad Hatter said...

Ya, and what surpises me is that my people are Germans and witches and Christians and young women and older women. The frustrating bit is that I know I have even more people out there but I am rapidly running out of time to just hang out.

Blog Antagonist said...

Yes to all of the above. Isn't the blogosphere a great place??
Where else can you find such an intelligent, diverse and honest and above all INTERESTING group of women? Not in my neighborhood, that's fer sher.

Beck said...

Hey, I'm an ENFP!
Vacuum-extractor assisted deliveries, eh? Ah, fond memories of The Boy's birth... I can make quite the arguement for the theological soundness of Harry Potter and I am certainly with you on babies being stuffed ardorably full of Original Sin.
My husband reminds me of Henry Tilney, possibly, or Edward Ferrars. I'm never entirely certain.

Karen said...

Amen - I'm not even going to my college reunion, cause it will be all that kind of dull and awkward. I was bad at it then and don't want to try to make it work now.

nomotherearth said...

Is it wrong that I avoid many people from university that I see on the street, but will go to a pub to meet a group of people that I met through blogs, and - ostensibly - "don't know"?

Kindred spirits, all.

metro mama said...

I'm glad to have found you!

bubandpie said...

Susanne - I think being German counts for enough bonus points to outweigh the Austen (and you don't have to actually read Austen to have an opinion about the sanity of using novels as a basis for marital decisions!).

Beck - I can see a certain Edward Ferrars resemblance in my husband, too - but he'd only be Henry Tilney on a bad day.

Mayberry said...

Yes to at least 4 or 5! Want me to tell you about my mucous plug?

Becky said...

I think I can answer yes to all but one of those questions.

I am one of those people who invests in mutual funds and then ceases to care what I'm invested in and how it all works. Maybe that's horrid, but I really can't bring myself to care about those details.

I find it strange how it can be possible to drift so far from one's "friends", but I think it is only with true friends that we can remain close because those are the people who truly know us. Right now, I have two of those friends, and I count myself blessed.

Bon said...

ah, the race that knows Joseph, indeed. you really are an LM Montgomery fan, aren't you?

i knew you deserved more thinking bloggery goodness. :)

and yeh, finding out that somewhere out there are people who value thinking and, even better, talking about the messy stuff like marriage dirt and mucous plugs - and that these people fall all over the spectrum in terms of who they are and where they come from - is good for the soul...however one defines soul.

which is an interesting conversation in itself.

Christina said...

I can talk on any of those subjects save one. I know Captain Janeway, but I don't know Starbuck. In place of that one, though, I know we could discuss Buffy and Angel.

One of my favorite aspects of the virtual world is being able to reach out across the divide of geography and find like-minded individuals. It's the best sorority/fraternity a person could ask for.

Lawyer Mama said...

Hey, I'm an INTJ!

B&P, after I read your posts I always feel like raising my hand and saying "ditto" because you. always. get. it.

I'm married to John Knightly, so I see nothing wrong with using Austen to find a husband.

Kyla said...

Ahh yes. We have found our people. :)

Beck said...

"Ardorably"? I meant ADORABLY.

bubandpie said...

LM - John Knightley the grumpy brother-in-law! This is so fascinating. There really needs to be a quiz, with appropriately postable graphics: "Which Austen Character Are You Married To"?

Mimi said...

Pynchon wants to talk to you about Battlestar Galactica. He's bingeing on Season 2 right now. I don't know what Austen character that makes him, though ... Every time I stick my head in the den something awful is happening to someone flawed. Who is yelling 'Frack'.

My current project is trying to be in the real world more of who I am on my blog. Basically, this involves developing the confidence that I am not the only nerd out there, and that others might like it if I smile at them in public. Or at Starbucks (I'm more coffee than BG oriented in my references ...)

Alpha DogMa said...

B&P I adore you.
You are so much like me, but only way smarter and much deeper and you say/write everything that I'm thinking, but you do it more graciously and with better punctuation.
So it should come as no surprise that the line "the increased opportunity for ironic retro-hip Barry Manilow listening" made me swoon.
Now I shall segue from the Manilow reference to announce: you've been tagged for a muscial meme.

PS - also I too have a futon. Can I truly be a grown up if I don't own a proper 'chesterfield?'

Thailand Gal said...

This is one of the few times I've visited here and, oh, am I ever NOT disappointed! :)

Love this post and relate to it greatly. All the things you mentioned I am familiar with ~ must be I'm a nerd, too. (Knew that)

:)


Peace,

~Chani, INTJ

Jaelithe said...

Ah, now, I would probably say, "Galactica or Pequod?"

We are glad to have found you, too ;)

Mommy-Like Days said...

Hmm, have I ever actually tried to think of M. as an Austen character? Mr. Bingley, perhaps?
I was thinking about what you were saying about boring conversation, and I think most of my life I've confused it with *polite* conversation, that those other interesting topics could be, rude? But most often asking the interesting questions takes some courage--but the payoff is worth the risk.
--It's my birthday, and I'll blog if I want to; at least until M. goes off to volleyball--

Mary G said...

Everything but the acronynms.

Reading the blogs and the comments I feel as if I have found a world in which I actually belong. This was amazing. Thanks!

theflyingmum said...

Sorry to hear that the reunion was less than fun, but a tiny bit envious that you actually had the reunion. It sounds like such a fun thing to do - but then, there is the reality of the situation with its lack of stimulating conversations and Barrry Manilow dancing...

Jenifer G. said...

So true. Yes to all but BG...you know me and sci-fi!

Where else would we be?

CampHillGirl said...

Hello, I'm an INFP who snuck over from borneochica's site and loved the post and totally related. It's so nice to meet kindred spirits wherever. I'm also a Christian who's read most of the Harry Potters and loves Jane Austen.

Mad Hatter said...

B/c you asked: Charles Musgrove. He even played him in a musical version of Persuasion once. This was early in our romance. I should have clued in.

Omaha Mama said...

Love it. I may not relate to some of your references, but I've got my own set and a whole world of things that I'm interested in that I can't discuss in mixed company. My friends in high school used to make fun of me for using "big words". Mostly because they had more than two syllables. I still get together with them annually and still disguise myself ever so slightly.

There's a post in me about even feeling ever so slightly left out in the blogosphere. Mostly because words like blogosphere do not come easily for me. And because I like to use improper grammar and punctuation. And start sentences with and and but and so.

Well...I think this is a great post. Very well done. And so very thought-provoking. More so than my latest on dog pee. ;-)

NotSoSage said...

Exactly. Exactly! I have so much to say on this, I think it's a post...and more.

Thank you.

kgirl said...

me and chris feel like we are always finding couples that are almost our people, but not quite. we're not sure if it's because we're the weirdest people out there, or the most normal. (ha!)

but hey, i will always come back here, so...

flutter said...

I've never felt as embraced as I have by you women, that I have never met.

Isn't it cool?

Becky said...

For those of us less-versed in Austen lit, perhaps you could give us a quick rundown of some of the male characters, and then we could cash in on which one we're married to? :)

Terri B. said...

I'm an INTP, a Christian who has read ALL the Harry Potter books and enjoyed them, love Jane Austen, HATE conversations that revolve around mortgage rates and investment tips, would love to compare Starbuck to Captain Janeway with you sometime, and ... I just feel like I belong here. What a community inspiring post!

marian said...

Ya' lost me on the Starbuck and Captain Janeway reference, but I'm with you on the other points. I'm also an INFJ (though the J factor is so weak that came up P on one occasion).
You know, I could probably discuss mucous plugs, U.S. birthing practice, bleeding nipples, parenting philosphy,Survivor, political philosphy, Brangelina, the African orphan crisis, Dora the Explorer, autism research, poop and scar stories,and so on with fluidity, all in one conversation. Vapid silliness right alongside serious, deeper thought.

As a woman of complexity and diverse thought (though one not always terribly articulate in expressing said complexity and diverse thought), I find it refreshing to be in the company, so to speak, of women who don't make me feel like such an alien creature! Thanks for being there and sharing of yourself.

Alpha DogMa said...

UPDATE: I asked the Omega Man for his Austen Doppelganger. His reply: Mr. Bennett. I'm not talking to him now. And, wisely, he is not talking to me either.

marian said...

Oh, and you pegged it with the phrase "ironic retro-hip Barry Manilow listening!"

bubandpie said...

Becky - I googled "Which Jane Austen Character Are You?" and found a good quiz at Quizilla. (There was one called "Which Jane Austen Character is the Man You Like?" but the answers were weird - they said which JA character you were (with description) and which JA character you should go for (without description), so it wasn't all that useful.) The URL for the Quizilla quiz is really long, but the results can be viewed here:

http://www.quizilla.com/cgi-bin/result/list/list.pl

It's a good quiz - you can take for yourself AND your friends and family! (Though you won't find John Knightley or Charles Musgrove or even Henry Tilney there - the quiz is a bit more mainstream than my readership.)

Angela said...

Thank you for providing intelligent and thoughtful posts, keep on writing.

Beck said...

I've been thinking about this overnight, and have decided to upgrade my husband to Colonel Brandon - he's much more romantic than Edward Ferrars but very, very honourable and dutiful.
Of course, I might be like Mad and actually married to Charles Musgrove. It DOES seem likely, sadly.

Kelly said...

Ditto!

whymommy said...

Great post! I feel at home here on your blog....

Catherine said...

I am actually experiencing affection for this post, I like it so much! What a great description of high school social life, and what a great description of why college social life is better - the bit about location rather than scorning out group members. I was totally not popular in high school! And I'm a Christian and LOVE Harry Potter! And...I'm and INFJ! And I even make conversations grind to a halt by using words like "espitemology" and phrases like "that's a logical fallicy!" (ok, you didn't mention either of those but...I can hope!) :)

The Mad Momma said...

and that is why i live in india yet find something to take back from your blog with every post...