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Respectfully yours

What does it mean for you?

Find out what it means to me.

I am alive! I’ve just been cramming activities into this past month and a half to try and put pages behind me, and write some new ones. It’s working, seemingly (I’ll get back to you on that). I started taking improv classes when I moved here as a lark, and eight months later I’m still in it. I even tried out for the local improv troupe, and though I didn’t get in, I felt good about my audition. I’ve been eating lunch with co-workers on a regular basis, instead of at my desk with Facebook / Reddit as my only company.

I’ve even been to a few “new to town” meetups, by myself, which is terrifying until you realize that everyone else present is in the same situation as you: they are new(ish), they don’t know anyone, and they want to make friends. Maybe even with you!

I am navigating new terrain, and – just as with Korea – it’s taking time to figure out the cultural mores of this environs. I don’t feel as though I have found my tribe here yet, or if that even exists in Baltimore. Here, I don’t have a built-in cohort with the same schedule and daily challenges over which to bond. My two work friends? They are very different from me, to the extent that though we share a common language, I have the hardest time understanding.

Today’s lesson: a musing on the word “respectful,” and what that means to people. Does it mean something different to me?

Case in point: my coworker was relating a story about walking her dog with another (male) friend with his dog at a park, when they happened upon a gorgeous (her words) jogger. The jogger noticed that her dog had been injured, and happened to be a veterinary specialist; all the while, the jogger addressed the male friend, even though my friend was the one holding that dog.

My other coworker’s reaction: “aww! How respectful!” She cooed, as though this were the most chivalrous thing.

“I know, right?” said the original coworker, and they swooned together. As is sometimes the case with this crew, I felt a bit like a Martian, or maybe Data trying to parse the emotions blowing up on the deck around him. Respectful?! Was this really swoon-worthy? If it were me, I’d maybe feel a little miffed at being ignored during ‘man talk,’ especially if the talk concerned my dog.

That got me thinking back to last week’s meetup, where I met some lovely people, including an incredibly gorgeous man who did not show any particular interest in me, which I am totally okay with as this keeps any resultant ‘crush’ firmly in the realm of the unattainable.

I had been standing around chatting with him and another couple who had recently moved to Baltimore. I asked if Gorgeous Guy would like a drink. “No thanks, I’m just sticking to water,” he said.

“Ah,” said the other guy. “How respectful!” He went off to the bar, before I had a chance to follow up with “huh? What do you mean by that?” Cause honestly, I have no idea, and am totally intrigued by his choice of words. Is it disrespectful to be drinking at a happy hour themed meetup? Should I not be drinking, if I am to seem respectable? (I guess these two hobbies are often at odds).

Now, I have long suspected that I have some catching up to do in the social department. (Case in point: I am at my sister’s house in my pajamas blogging, instead of doing whatever it is that people do to make friends). I am working on that, but crucial to social development is having, as a baseline, the same definitions of words and general standards of behavior.

Does “respectful” mean something completely different in this world? And if so, have I inadvertently disrespected people by being blissfully unaware of certain rules? Did I just bring meatloaf to a vegan potluck? Is that why nobody’s talking to me?

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One Comment

  1. Prabaker wrote:

    This certainly needs some sociolinguistic analysis. Not quite related but I really suggest you listen to these:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5179188

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5482928

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

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