March 31, 2011


Yesterday I had lunch with a group of friends. Its one of those groups that's a mishmash of: I'm friends with her and that lady is one of her friends so now we're all sorta friends as we end up in the same groups doing things together. Which is fine. Which is always an indicator that it isn't really fine. Fine.

In this particular group is a woman whom I like. She's funny and interesting and independent. However, I get the feeling she doesn't like me. Which is....fine. Its one of those funny situations where I like her enough to not care that she doesn't care for me. Is that odd? I don't expect us to be great friends or really even friends. Acquaintances is fine (ha! "fine"). And this all sounds disjointed so here's a little background.

In this world of expat living, I meet new people (women) all the time. And, frankly, there is that little litmus paper test of "do we click or not?" I don't expect to click with every woman I meet and I don't have to in order to have a good time. Mostly, I'm hoping to meet people with whom to go to lunch, have interesting conversations, hike, play tennis, commiserate about the weather, family, visitors, etc. If I was to meet a new friend with whom I really clicked, that would be an added bonus. And I have met a friend like that! So, yay me. Most women, though, fall into the "hey, great to see you, see you again soon" sort of catagory. Including this woman above.

She is friends with people that I am friends with, however, due to whatever circumstances, has actually done more with this group than I have, thus making them closer. So, where they see each other every week, at least once a week, I see these folks almost on accident or only every few weeks, maybe. Where once I was an insider, I'm now a bit of an outsider. In my real world, I wouldn't really care. But in expat world, where I am trying to build a life and find my place, it feels a bit like 7th grade. Awkward and confusing. So odd to be doing this at the age of 47! I worry I'll still be like this at 77. "Does she like me? Will she care if I move my wheelchair closer to hers? Will they let me play gin rummy with them in the Common Room?" Bah!

Where was I? Okay, we have lunch. She's fine, I'm fine, we all talk and laugh and do the usual commiserating and planning for future get togethers. We exit - four of us - and now - 2 of the women who I would say were my "original" friends hug this woman goodbye - see you soon (tomorrow, in fact! Yay!) and each kinda pat me on the shoulder saying, okay - until next time (whenever that might be). Then this woman is ready to go the opposite direction and looks at me and I can see the struggle on her face. She's just hugged these other two goodbye, so now should she hug me goodbye? And she looks to see any sign that I'm going to hug her. And I watch her face as she goes through all the emotions of, "I don't feel the need to hug this person, we're not close, but I've just hugged these other two women and if I don't hug her how will it look? I guess I'll hug her just to be socially not-awkward..."  And I almost say to her, "Hey - we don't have to hug - its fine." (And these hugs are those little shoulder things you do that's friendlier than shaking hands). But she's decided to hug and so I give her a little hug back and she's on her way.

And I have to kinda laugh at the moment. I would totally hug this person! I like her! But her reticence about liking me or whatever the issue is, means it will always be a little awkward - the greeting and the departing. I have to say - I'm not a big hugger - but when the mood strikes and I'm happy - I'll hug anyone. Its a bit unpredictable, but predictable enough to say that physical contact with most people isn't necessary for me. I do have friends with whom I participate in bone crushing hugs! We kiss and hug and swing from side to side. That would be all of one friend.

I remember a woman who was a family member of an ex-in-law. This woman's hugs were so ferocious that we literally tried to avoid her - she'd grab you by the back of the neck and wrench you in good and hard for full body contact. She'd have a big smile on her face, kiss your cheek, and love love love you! Sensory overload in 3...2...1..

I might write a book on hugging etiquette. When, where, how much body contact, when to advance from handshake to hugging, people who hug even on the first introduction to people who don't ever want to hug, hugging on Facebook and in emails. It would be a coffee table book or in-the-basket-by-the-toilet book. I would interview people about their thoughts on hugging and how they determine who they will hug and if they ever feel pressured to hug someone, or if they hug because its socially expected. Which is, you know, fine.

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