Open

I was feeling a little sad yesterday as I was waiting for the airport flyer to take me home from dropping my mom off. We’d had a fun couple of days in Wellington (Te Papa, the beach, brunch with Deirdre and Nahum, dinner with Cherie, watching birds on DVD, and more trips to New World than I care to recount) and I was juuust getting used to my mom being around all the time, so it was a bit of a shock saying goodbye. I always get teary when I end a visit with her, no matter which one of us is getting on the plane.

I was listening to music and waiting for the bus when a backpacker girl, who turned out to be American too, asked me if she was in the right place. We got to talking and I ended up walking her to her hostel in town and helping her carry her many bags, because I was a little worried about her trying to huck them down Courtenay Place in the rain. She and I and another girl from the bus made impromptu plans to meet at Fidel’s for dinner, and by the time everything got straightened around it was me, the other American, the Kiwi girl, an Israeli girl, and a British couple. Apparently I have not got over my excitement of being able to show people around–Calin and Ian, who are moving here in April, if you can believe it, are in for a tough couple of weeks when they arrive—and so I was skipping down Cuba Street, going “Here’s where I bellydance! There’s San Francisco Bath House! There’s Midnight Espresso and they have very nice vegan food if you’re into that! There’s Real Groovy, where I should go to get tickets for next Wednesday!”

We ordered various combinations of coffees and dinners and slices of cake and sat around talking about everything you would normally talk about with people you have just met on the bus on the way home from dropping your mom off at the airport: where you’ve been, where you’re going, why you’re traveling, what you like to do. I snarfed down my samosa and heard myself get louder and louder and gesticulate more and more wildly, and start to do something I hate, and that I always do with new people: overshare.

The five women in the group started talking about boys (the one man in the group said, in a very sweet and self-conscious manner, “Well, you can generally rely on women to tell you how they feel about most things…”) and I felt a mighty upwelling of desire to regale the crowd—the members of which I had met literally two hours before—with stupid stories about my oh-so-quirky romantic misadventures. I gave background and contexts. I imitated accents. I stopped short of acting out relevant scenes using the salt shaker and my dessert fork (this time) but by the time I stopped to draw breath the other people at the table, as well as those at the one next to us, were pretty well-versed in my various neurotic tendencies, as well as my predilection for slender arty boys who are about 51% straight and have only enough muscle tone to hoist the bass guitar and fling their hair out of their eyes and who occasionally wear dresses because sometimes a man just likes to feel pretty.

Everyone laughed (with me or at me? Such a fine line) and told their own stories, too, some of which were pretty personal as well. We shook our heads and rolled our eyes and said “I can’t believe that” and had another bite or six of cake. It was a really fun evening for a variety of reasons, mostly because the people I was hanging out with were really cool and because the evening just fell together when I happened to be feeling a little lonely.

On the walk to the bus stop, past all the now-closed Cuba Street shops, I thought some more about what we, as people, I guess, fee like sharing with other people. I am fairly comfortable talking about sex in a rather academic way, or about terrible things I’ve done in relationships, or about times I’ve jello-wrestled or had a stripper in my living room or eaten soap on my green beans. That doesn’t seem personal to me; I’ll talk about that sort of thing, at length, ad nauseam, with just about anyone. Last night one of the people I was sitting with said, with what was either awe or dismay, “It’s great that you’re so open.” She said that she would never talk about emotions so easily, that she would never reveal so much to strangers.

I didn’t realize until I was sitting at the bus stop that it’s easy to be open about things you don’t care about very much, about things that caricature you, about anecdote. My bus was late by twenty minutes and I spent all of them thinking about all the things I never talk about, neither at impromptu dinner parties nor with my best friends nor even in my paper journal, for fear that if I do the world will burst into flames and it will be all my fault. Probably everyone is like that: both closed and open; easily permeable to the outside world up to a certain absolute, un-negotiable point.

This is not a new insight. I don’t know why it should have struck me so strongly last night.

2 comments

  1. You just gave me goosebumps.

    I think about this all the time – how people think I’m so open and confident, when really I’m not – but I haven’t been able to put it into words. Thank god I’m friends with you. You can do it for me.

    You and I, girl, we are storytellers. And most of the best stories are about really embarrassing things. So people think we’re all open and honest when really we’re just going for what gets the most laughs – sex, strippers, jello wrestling. But it’s lonely sometimes to be the entertainer. Especially when people think you’re offering up all of you. You feel as if no one really knows you at all, in a way. And if they really DID know you, well then they wouldn’t like you as much. So we keep it on the funny side, the lighter side, and we hope that we find a friend or two who sees beyond that. Who appreciates that we are funny and goofy and outgoing and self-deprecating, but we’re also something else – usually quieter, more thoughtful – maybe, on a dark and rainy day, even pensive.

    I’ll be that friend to you, if you return the favor.

    Revel in your awesomeness!

  2. It may not be a new insight, but it’s a good one and one that I can definitely stand to be reminded of. Thanks.