Friday, December 11, 2009

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

Ok, I won't be talking about the Simon Pegg film of the same name...this is more of a personal post today because I believe I managed to alienate a possible new friend last night online. First, I would like to preface this with my attitude with online conversations. I've learned to be friendly, honest, and blunt/clear in my responses to minimize confusions and misunderstandings that pop up in IM conversation, but I've also learned to be on the defensive as far as opinions go. Lets face it, I do not share the conventional opinions of people of my generation in the particular circles that I travel in. In film circles I'm an outcast because I don't care much for Apocalypse Now and I like both versions of Psycho.  In theater school circles I'm an outcast because I held on to my love of musical theater and popular shows.  In politics, I'm more of a moderate (as opposed to how gay men are supposed to think) and so I don't relate much to the inflammatory ones or the conservative ones.  I'm not saying that I'm better that these people, I'm just saying I'm different.  I always have been and I always will be, and I've learned that in most cases I have to defend that difference quite adamantly in order to be taken seriously by anyone in said circle.  Also, I tend to be attracted to men who fall into these circles because I admire intelligence, ambition, and wit (and these people happen to gravitate in the same spheres) and I have lost possible boyfriends in the past due to me being 'different' of mind...so you can understand how I might learn to be constantly on the defensive.

Which brings me to last night.  I was talking to a new guy, The Bloke we'll call him, last night and I had noticed over the past few evenings that conversations had been waning.  Just as I was about to mention it, The Bloke happened to say something along the lines of "Conversations are getting thin here...this doesn't look good."  This was both a confirmation to me that he was sizing me up as a possible date, and that he was getting as frustrated with the slim conversational offerings as I was.  To go off topic for a moment, I've noticed in the past years that I'll meet someone through email and we'll have excellent chemistry in our messages, and then when we move to IM it seems like all the chemistry dries up.  I don't know if its because we want the other person to speak more than us, or to ask us questions about ourselves, but we just freeze up after those first few adrenaline charged online meetings and find ourselves wondering what we ever saw in this person to begin with....and we never even give ourselves the opportunity to really MEET the person!  Anyway, we had reached this point I think and knew it.  So, I think I attempted to rescue the conversation by talking about my day...to give him something to bounce off of.  I mentioned that I had hosted a joint Gay Straight Alliance/Thespian Club meeting in my room so they could watch Rent...and he began to talk about how he hadn't been able to get into it.  So our conversation drifted from that into musical theater and he began to talk about musical films he liked...Damn Yankees and Cabaret...both which I found underwhelming.  So I said so...and then immediately launched into my dissertation on why (remember how I said I've had to really defend myself in the past to be taken seriously) thinking that he would immediately jump on my case about not agreeing.  When I got silence, I attempted a slightly apologetic comment about how I always explain myself, and how people who don't explain why they don't like something very well (something that the elitist gays never seem to feel like THEY have to do) get on my nerves. 

Apparently, I unintentionally scorched him in the manner of Julia Sugarbaker from"Designing Women" and, after receiving his reply on how he felt that differences are natural and don't need explaining, how my thinking I was better because I was good at explanation and debate was offensive, and that our personalities most definitely did NOT match, I realized how elitist and superior I had sounded.  I had unintentionally become one of those gays that always angered me in the past.  It had never occurred to me that he might think "oh, he's got a different opinion than me...cool" and be done with it.  I felt like a fool.  Here is a guy who thinks the way I do about differences in opinion, that they should just be shrugged off, and I nuke him with my big-mouth (in print anyway).  He explained that he didn't think this could go anyway...and so I racked my brain for a way to repair the situation.  I said that I thought that was fair, though its hard to tell before really meeting someone...and then acknowledged my accidental elitism (I tried to explain my position a little, but for the most part I was simply owning that I had been wrong and shouldn't have debated until engaged in battle) and I said that all I could really say to show my humble acknowledgment of wrongdoing was "....oops".  He seemed to like this and laughed a bit...then I went on to explain that I can't debate to save my life in reality.  I have a mental block when I'm speaking between my brain and my mouth, so when someone takes me on offensively I tend to become a babbling idiot.  He laughed and said that I should get over it because I'm a teacher.  I said, well on subjects I know (when I'm on the offensive) I'm fine.  When someone gets in my face about something and I'm on the defensive...(such as when handing out detentions)...I have little recourse but to say "The discussion is over."...which every student knows means the same thing as "Because I said so"...that you are at a loss for words.  He enjoyed this, and I didn't press the matching-up aspect at all after that.  I didn't want him to think that I only changed my tune because I wanted him to like me.  I mainly wanted him to understand that my front shouldn't inform his opinion of me...and if he wants to meet after this its his own decision.  Personally, I think its going to be a miracle for him to ask me now.

Though I'm not sure that I want him to.  Yes, I was in the wrong and I own that...but at the same time, I don't know if I want to be involved with someone who would have a knee jerk reaction to something that was typed in IM, knowing that misunderstandings abound from that kind of conversation.  Of course, if I could erase last night completely, would I still want to meet him?  Yes.  So I don't know if its a big deal or not.  And as I said, you really don't know a person until you've spent time with them in the flesh.  So, I think I've made my decision...I still want to meet The Bloke, because based on what I already know...I think we're more alike than anyone I've met in the past year and chemistry doesn't lie.

The film posting for Day 11 will be up later today.

1 comment:

Jess @ Frugal with a Flourish said...

Very interesting! I think you handled it well ... under the circmstances ... lemme know how it goes!