Have you ever met people with whom you share an instant sense of veiled hostility for each other? You can’t quite pin down what it is because you have no history with the person, but you can slice the tension between yourselves with a knife. Sometimes it’s mutual dislike, and other times you just feel such antipathy directed at you that you have no choice but to remain coolly distant (but polite). I’ve seriously been trying to understand why these undercurrents exist within relationships. Oh, not because I plan to write a paper on it or anything, no such lofty academic aspirations for me! But because I’ve had a few occasions to experience this and it’s left me feeling quite disconcerted.
Okay, I think you need more details to make a fair assessment. I know someone who we’ll just call Tom for now. Tom thinks he’s hot and cool. Tom is mostly humored by his friends. But with me, Tom doesn’t seem to be relaxed. It almost feels like he wants to prove that he’s extra hot and extra cool. (Tom’s married, knows my husband, and is definitely not hitting on me- in case you were wondering.) He shoots off arrogant one-liners and pretends to be much savvier than he actually is. I can see through it clearly. I don’t know him well enough to ask what the hell he’s playing at. So I play his game, smiling stiffly and making fake conversation. He knows as well as I do that we’re never going to be anything but casual acquaintances-if that. In my last encounter with Tom, he even snubbed me when I made polite conversation.
I wonder why it is we all play these complicated games. I can only think of one reason: insecurity. That and markedly different personality types. Continuing with the same example, I think that Tom is worried that I might upstage him in some way. How I might actually do this, I have no idea. But knowing the kind of person Tom is, I’m pretty sure this is the reason. Why else would we exchange apathetic air-kisses and have painful conversations where we’re just not ourselves?
Tom’s just someone I picked out of a bunch of other similar people because I thought he was an interesting case study. It’s usually women who dominate this group, as you may have experience of. Let’s examine this in detail, shall we?
Experiment: Dress to kill and walk into a room full of preferably unknown women. (You need a minimum of five specimens in order to fully study the range of reactions thus produced.)
Observation: Some eye you up and down brazenly and most unabashedly. Others ignore you completely, refusing to acknowledge your presence. The few that choose to smile and greet you have better manners at least, but less than transparent intentions. You may serve no higher purpose than to be a sounding-board for their misrepresented lives. Occasionally you do meet someone who doesn’t conform to these rules of play and are like a breath of fresh air.
Inference: Women are a complicated breed. Period.
I’ve discovered in recent ages that men too, have these pride-and-prejudice moments with their counterparts. They just pretend to be above it all. (Only after a drawn-out cross-examination worthy of the NYPD do I ever get an inkling of an idea from my husband that he may not actually like someone.)
So, what’s the consensus after all this meandering, you ask me. Well, damned if I know!