Tuesday, November 9, 2010

“I Went Drinking with Victor!”

Well, I didn’t go out drinking with Victor. I was told this by Sam this morning as I headed off to class, when he handed me my questionnaire for the Chinese census. Yay! I’ve been ‘censused’ twice this year!

Sam’s declaration gave me pause. Sam, my sponsor, and Victor, my fellow foreign teacher, the only two English speakers on campus and in this part of Wuhan, went out last night… and I wasn’t invited? What’s wrong with this picture?

OK. Before I go on with this, let me declare that in no way do I expect everyone to like me or want to be around me. I’m well aware that there are people all over the world that go out together and don’t check in with me or invite me to go. I’m perfectly OK with that. But, in this closed community, where I spend the majority of my time alone, sequestered in my apartment… the only two people who might provide some relief for my isolation - indeed have expressed concern over it, go out together and don’t invite me?

Let’s think about this. I’ve talked to Sam and Victor both about my frustration at being held prisoner due to being female in a world where females are not supposed to go out alone. They have both expressed concern over it; Victor has even gone so far as to mention that perhaps he should take me around and show me some places where I might make friends. Thus, in my mind, they are both aware of my isolation.

I’m guessing that, being as women can’t go out alone after dark or smoke in public, they probably can’t drink in public, either. Being as Sam and Victor were drinking, they might not have extended an invitation to me because I wouldn’t have been able to partake anyway. That is considerate. But they both know I’m alone, and maybe they could have come by my apartment to have a drink or two? Not that I’m an avid drinker, but they both know I am capable of having a drink; they both witnessed me partaking of beer at that luncheon we had when the school year first started. It would have been hard for them to miss me drinking: I was sitting right between them.

There is also the small factor of age and gender difference. I have at least 10 years on Victor, and I’m old enough to be Sam’s mother. There’s a really good chance that, socially, we would not fit because of our age gap. And, I’m just not a guy. When guys go out drinking, they don’t necessarily want a girl tagging along. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t invited. I can accept that… but shouldn’t we try, first? I just might be a lot of fun to be around.

I keep wondering about this. OK, so they went out together and I wasn’t invited. There is no law that says Sophia must be invited on all outings. But considering my near complete lack of social contact, and their having expressed concern over that, might it not have been a consideration? Maybe not: those who have drinking on their minds seldom make room for anything or anyone else. I can accept that.

What I really don’t understand is why Sam would tell me about it. In the spirit of friendship? To include me, even after the fact? As a confidence? To let me know he wasn’t on his toes to teach today? Did he not think that it would hurt me?

It did hurt me. I instantly felt like that poor child who finds out everyone in the neighborhood went to a party and she's the only one that didn’t get to go. That feeling is intensified because of my near complete isolation here, and the knowledge that Sam and Victor are the closest I come to the possibility of having any social contact in this remote place (besides my computer and all the friends I talk with in the States, that is). Of course, Sam doesn’t know a thing about my background, therefore he couldn’t know it would hurt me. But still, wouldn’t it cross his mind that talking to someone about a deliberate exclusion of that someone would somehow affect him or her?

Honestly, I am really nonplussed over this.

I guess that it doesn’t help that this type of situation has been going on all of my life. More often that I care to count I have felt left out… because of actually being left out. I don’t know why I get left out. Is there something fundamentally un-friendable about me? Am I sending out signals that convey ‘do not disturb’? Is there something I’m doing or not doing that makes people walk a wide path around me?

I have invited Sam to lunch twice and both times he has accepted, and he seemed to enjoy my company. I have knocked on Victor’s door, offered him home made soup and helped him with his drain, so it is not like I never reach out to him, either.

I don’t know.

As I mentioned in the Continuum III post, I came here to try to find the answer to this question. It seems I am no closer to finding it now than I have been in my near half-century on this earth. How can I learn to be social if I’m not invited anywhere or included in anything? Do I always have to forge my own path, and risk rejection – which, incidentally has also been plentiful in my life?

I just don’t know.

In the meantime, the catty part of me hopes both Sam and Victor have nasty hangovers. Serves them right for going out and drinking.

The little girl who just wants to go to the party like everyone else is crying.

I’ll leave you to figure out who is predominant right now.

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