Sunday, July 27, 2008

New people

Since I'm meeting so many new people these days, it's interesting to me the way I react so differently to them. There are several different reactions and today, when I met a new person, I had yet another.

Let's see--when I first met my landlord (husband component), I was a little nervous, but grew comfortable quickly. He and I have good rapport and can easily chat for nearly an hour without a break. It's totally friendly and always pleasant.

I met an American woman for drinks during my first few weeks here. We had no problem talking but I didn't attempt anything too "deep" since I knew she wouldn't "get" me. (Way too many scare quotes for one sentence!) Still, we had a pleasant evening and met some French people and had a good time talking to them--something that wouldn't have happened if I'd been on my own. It was easy because I knew our meeting would be a one-time thing.

Another limited-time thing was the two evenings I spent with the fellow from Norway. I was a tiny bit nervous at first, which lead to excessive chattiness, but since he enjoyed my conversation, I relaxed quickly. We had a good and easy time together.

A little harder was the time I spent with the fellow from the Ivory Coast. It was easy enough to talk to him and I was never nervous. But I got progressively more uncomfortable with him (bad sign!) as it became clear that our intentions were diverging.

I also have a conversation buddy who I've met twice--our conflicting trips out of town are going to make the next meeting a thing of the distant future. I was at ease with him immediately. It helps that he has a girlfriend and so there was no mistaking intentions or hidden agenda.

I'm also very at ease with my new American friends, though I do restrain myself conversationally a bit in order to avoid sucking all the air out of the room. That is, I try to make sure I'm not doing all the talking, which is a danger when I enthusiastically like new people and have been spending a lot of time alone. However, long experience has taught me that I can be a little intense and overwhelming at first and it's best to give people a chance to let me grow on them--the full force of my conversational power can be a treat saved for later on once we're all agreed on being friends. (I highly doubt I've concealed my extreme talkativeness from these new friends, but I may have toned it down slightly.)

See, I thought there might be some difference in my reaction to potentially longer-term versus shorter-term friendships, but now I don't see it. It's more that it's easier to have a good time with someone you don't like quite as well if you know you only have to see them once. That's something I'm much better at than I used to be.

However, I cannot explain my extreme case of nerves and lack (!) of conversation with the fellow I met yesterday afternoon. He's a French guy, professor, a couple of years older than me who put up a craig's list ad for someone to visit museums with. Even though it was in the "men seeking women" section rather than the "strictly platonic" section, it sounded quite platonic in intent. (Good thing too, some of those "men seeking women" postings are downright creepy. Though I have to say the one that proposed combining blog reading with bedroom activities gave me a good belly laugh. I didn't respond. Ahem.)

My response to the museum guy was most definitely in the platonic vein and after two or three emails, we planned to meet for coffee. We found each other easily. He was almost as good looking as his picture (making him good looking but not "lose the power of speech" good looking). He was dressed in typically French style: white blazer and white buck shoes, paired with brown (not too tight) jeans and a lighter brown polo shirt made from shiny woven fabric. I don't get the white shoes (my conversation buddy wore a pair the last time I saw him) but I'm more amused than horrified. Lord knows what he thought of my outfit, which was simply black slacks paired with my bright green "I like trees too" t-shirt. (I'd been wearing blue jeans earlier; the change to the slacks was my concession to French fashion sensibilities.)

Anyway, he wasn't anything other than perfectly polite but I was unreasonably nervous and couldn't get the conversational flow going. I didn't feel crushed out--when that happens I tend to talk more--and I wasn't turned off. We had a perfectly fine and rather platonic talk and we're planning to go to a museum on Monday. Plus, we spent about two hours together and the time went quickly. Since we didn't perfectly agree on all matters of taste, the conversation had some interesting but completely inoffensive give and take. We had a long talk about movies and he said Paris was the best place in the world to see movies. I suggested that New York was very good and he said there was really no comparison. He might be right though I've seen some great obscure stuff in NY over the years--and it helps that I can see non-English language films in NY, while seeing them in Paris is problematic. (They insist on using the French subtitles!)

I don't see him as a romantic prospect, but he has definite friend potential, and you never know about the rest. (I dare say he's not interested since he let me pay for my own coffee--and he did the inviting. I was quick on the draw with the cash, though.)

Perhaps the oddest thing was that when we walked out of the café together, he didn't try to do the two-cheek air-kiss thing and was, in fact, several feet away from me when he said goodbye. Not even Americans stand that far apart to say goodbye. He has spent a lot of time in the States, so perhaps he was trying to give me my space by omitting the kiss. Funny thing, though, my new American friends and I do the kissing thing--even if there are no French people around. Heh.

Well, maybe on Monday I'll be more relaxed. It would be great to have a friend to do some cultural exploring with. We'll see how it goes.

Grateful for: reactions.

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