A week or so ago, someone said this thing to me, and now it’s killing me that I can’t remember who it was. He or she was telling me about some time they had just spent with someone new, and with the most plaintive look on their face said, “You know, the whole time I was with them they never asked me one question about myself.” I was immediately fascinated by this remark, so taken aback that when they went on to something else, I missed the opportunity to dig into their meaning. Now I’m wondering, was it said with disappointment? We’re they surprised, or relieved? Because this, oddly, is something I think about a lot. I mean, like a lot. I wonder often if this is a cultural circumstance or a personal one. Are we less interested in others? Are we overly consumed with ourselves? Have we finally given ourselves over to a full-on selfie existence? And is anyone else noticing this phenomenon?
Freak that I am, I’ve had a life-long fascination with humans, and how they operate. Definitely in the bemused scientist sense rather than the nosy neighbor way. I was a people-watcher even as a child. My parents would take us to places where they’d drink the day/night away and try to forget they had kids; their one skill set:). But honestly, I don’t remember ever being bored. I would sit quietly for hours and watch everyone. Somewhere along the way I became convinced I was invisible. For years I continued the same behaviors, although less successfully. Note to self: people don’t like to be stared at. It took me a while to comprehend this. I’m embarrassed to say I have a memory from probably the fifth grade of a group of girls finally turning around and screaming in my face…. something to the effect of stop staring at us, you giant freak. Because yes, I was just standing outside their circle, unabashedly staring and listening to them. As if they were my own personal movie, with absolutely no awareness of how wrong/weird that was. It seems crazy to me now that I was what, 11, before that occurred to me?! Hey, it was SCIENCE, people! But it didn’t stop me, I just became a sneakier watcher. Still am, truth be told.
I wonder constantly what makes people tick. Why do they do the things they do, say what they say? It’s a happy day for me when I get to watch friends in their family setting. Seeing humans in their natural habitat, how much of their behaviors are familial, what are the group dynamics. And all of this information just intrigues me more, raises more questions. Which I then ask. Asking questions is a part of who I am. I’m less rude than my 11 year old self, more careful, but I still want to know. I want to know what you are like inside, what drives you, how did you get this way, what does it feel like to be you…. Geez, I sound horribly pushy and nosy in this, and I don’t think that’s the case. I’m just, well, I’m interested.
And there you have it. That may be the core of my inner freak, my deep and abiding interest in others. And this adds to my already high freak level because it seems to me that most people are not. I’ll be honest, my interest doesn’t always seem to compel me to authentic caring or kindness. I mean, I do try to be kind and caring but I think my success ratings are as mediocre as the next guy’s. Which is to say mildly. I’m more curious, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into any redeeming social value. Actually, I’m probably way less socially valuable, as I also seem to be losing my memory at a rapid pace. I hear constantly from my kids about all the things I forget. My friends are less harsh but I’ve had some soul-searing moments where I discover ways in which I’ve let friends down by failing to remember various plights and/or situations. Interestingly, I’ve yet to forget any party invites, LOL. I know, my friendship skills are beginning to fail, sad to say. If only curiosity counted!
Well, it counts with me. I think in this impersonal culture people are dying to be known. To have meaningful conversations, to get past the superficial. I believe that because of the reaction that I generally get when I do ask questions. I am sensitive to those who do not want to share, but for the most part, people enjoy looking within if invited by someone genuinely intrigued by the discovery process. We live each day in a mad, mad rush, every hour a blur. An interested friend can’t slow time down but they can help take your temperature, and that can sometimes make a huge difference. Of course, not everyone is introspective. But you know what they say about the unexamined life….
Do you wonder about the people in your life? You may know the ones in your inner circle, but how about the next circle? The ones you just met recently, or maybe you’ve known a while but on only the most casual level? Or do you ever feel like even those who know many things about you still don’t know YOU? The you that’s just below the surface, or your back story. I’m not talking excavation crew here, I just mean what goes on in your mind/heart on a regular basis but it never sees the light of day. And maybe how it got there. Think about all those reality shows people watch. They can’t possibly be interested in those lame plots, can they? I wonder if it’s more about watching unobserved, seeing how people run…. I dunno, I could be wrong. I could be the world’s biggest freak, and I’m actually okay with that. But I’ll go first and say this: I do want to be known. Sometimes I physically ache for it. I bet a few others feel the same way. Ask each other questions. Invest your time in knowing someone. Fight against the dying of the light, people.