Friday, January 21, 2011

Friendly Permutations

It struck me last Monday -- I was looking over social network updates -- that two certain friends of mine are very similar in essentials.  The thought came to me as I was reading a status update and became momentarily confused as to which person was actually delivering it.  Ordinarily there is no such confusion, because each status update has the writer's name and chosen picture RIGHT THERE, next to it.

However in this case, I must have skipped along or thought I knew who was "speaking".  Sometimes I do get confused who is who; similar color palettes or poses have thrown me off, as well as people who put in pictures of people other than themselves.  (N.B. to people with children: all kids look similar when condensed to smartphone resolution.)

Stop me if you've heard this one... 
the friend of mine is a strong-willed and independent woman who is confident enough that she basically establishes a certain standard for how other women in her social circle behave.  She's got a razor wit and doesn't apologize for being female.  She's third-wave feminist and also takes inordinate pride in some kitchy behavior or collectible.  She's basically out their kicking ass for herself and whomever she respects enough to associate with -- I'm never sure if I fit the bill, but I'm always flattered if I do make the cut.

Not easy to tell who it is, is it?  That description basically describes half the women I know.

(Hmm, I think I may have a type...)

Anyway, I confused what one had said, thinking it was coming from the mouth of someone else.  And it was sort of an epiphany for me, as I'd never stopped to compare them.  Sure, when I break down a generic descriptive list like I did above, I can make them sound very much alike.  I assure you that the description fits both easily.  In spite of that, they're vastly different people who have ended up on very different paths. 

Having said that, elements of both of their lives ring together.  They're both in careers other than where they started, trying to change the world in their own sphere.  They're both happy to be in the company of men, but don't necessarily "need" them, independent as they are (which is a strange thing to say as at least one of the two is married). 

Now, I told you that story to tell you this one...

*** *** ***

I have a good friend whose name definitely isn't Bianca, but that's how I'm going to identify her.  I have known Bianca for a long time and we have an easy friendship.  It's founded on the principles of being really sarcastic unless it's about personal feelings -- then we're REALLY really sarcastic.  [Sheesh!  I *do* have a type.]  She's had much the same success dating that I have, so we always have plenty of things to kvetch about.

Recently, she was in a social situation that allowed her to be observed by another friend, Samantha.  Samantha, who is a lesbian, was very interested in Bianca, based solely on sight and third-party conversation.  When Bianca had left for the evening, Samantha came over to me.

She plucked at my sleeve, eyes watching the disappearing form of Bianca.  "Psst, who was that?" 

I noted who she was referring to and informed her.  "What's she like?" came the follow-up question.

Launching into a recollective list, I thumbed through a few observations.  "She's smart, she's funny, she can be overly sarcastic at inopportune times.  She knows a lot about history, she's interested in technical things, she spends a lot of time listening to music.  She's not very good at meeting new people, but she holds on to the friends she has."

I paused as I totaled what I had just said out loud.  "I suppose she's like the female version of me."

Eyes wide and voice crafty, Samantha said "Reeeeeeaallllllly...  Does she play for my team?"



Samantha's disappointment aside, I couldn't get the image of what I'd just unintentionally said out of my mind later.  She *wasn't* really like me, I told myself.  There were too many parts of her personality that irked me: parts which -- unlike my old expression -- I didn't see in myself.  Elements of her personality that annoyed me were things I'd scrubbed or never let in to begin with. 

It took me a while to think it over, though.  I didn't just dismiss it easily.  Even now, it sort of haunts me.  Thinking about the ways she resembles me is rather off-putting.  It's just a few brief flashes of similarity, but it's enough that I've been on the lookout ever since.  People I know have been unknowingly submitted to a series of silent examinations to see how alike or different they seem to be with relation to my personality. 

I'm pleased to report that nobody is "the female version of me".  As a matter of fact, very few people have more than a glimpse of what I'd consider "me".  I suppose that's sort of the whole point of the matter: we are all different in more ways than we could ever count.  It allows me the chance to step back from situations and say, "this is not how I would have handled it" or "it would do a lot better for me to think like this more often."

A lifetime of learning, they say.  And a probable lifetime to find a snowflake like me, for curiosity's sake more than any other reason.

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