I’ll be right back ma – I’m going out to go find myself

Posted: March 9, 2010 in Life
Tags: ,

Finding yourself.

Apparently that’s a throwback phrase from the 1960’s.   People used to use it as an excuse for dropping out, leaving their jobs, their spouses, their responsibilities.  Eventually the phrase drew the collective scorn of society, and rightly so.  Seems we’re always looking for reasons to procrastinate, to not take care of business.

Lost in all the scorn was the fact that there are people who truly are unaware of themselves and surely need to find themselves.  Some of them get married way too early, not understanding who they are and what they really want in life.   Sometimes there’s a perfect storm of opportunity, as they marry someone who is equally unaware.    The resulting years of angst, built on a bedrock of ignorance of self and corresponding ignorance of the other guy, is painful to watch.

There’s a bald thin man in my apartment complex who wanders the local neighborhood and building.   About six feet tall, he tends to stoop and peer at you from the tops of his eyes, as if looking at you over a pair of glasses.   His skin is an unhealthy pallor of white and he is usually unshaven.   When he gets on the elevator in his wife-beater shirt, plaid shorts, socks and sandals, he emits a fetid unwashed odour. 

He never smiles, never says “hello”.

This man is God’s gift to the postal girl.   The poor woman comes in every morning to distribute the mail in our lobby mail bins.   And every morning Sallow Man (that’s what we’ll call him) comes down in all his sweaty smelly glory to try to charm her.   It’s fascinating to watch. 

“How are you today?” he’ll say.

“I’m fine.”  Then, with a barely concealed painful expression she’ll offer up the obligatory “and you?”

“Oh I”m fine.  I’m fine.”

He’ll check his watch.  “Bit early today, huh?  Guess it’s too nice out to …uh…..”  And with that he’ll lose his point.

She’ll respond.  “Uh huh.”

“So did you watch the hockey game last night?  Toronto lost again.”

“Um, no.”  She’ll move as fast as she can, dropping the mail in their respective bins.

“I used to play hockey.  Used to play defense.”

“Uh huh.”

“I was never that good though.  They never passed me the puck.”

“Uh huh.”

“Did you ever play hockey?”

“No”

“Oh.  That’s too bad.  It’s a great game.”

Silence.

“So watcha doing after you finish work?”

“Oh I don’t know.  Probably go home to my boyfriend I guess.”

You would think the mention of a boyfriend would kill his efforts.   You would be wrong though.  You see, this routine, with slight variation, repeats itself every day.  

You have to imagine that no one can wander around as he does, without someone saying something at some point.   You don’t get to be his age without having someone telling you what they think of you, in some way or another.   His superior frown is telling:  if at any time anyone complained about him, or told him off, he would take such criticism as a personal attack on his character.  The world doesn’t understand him.  Therefore the world is wrong.

The man has no self-awareness.

He’s not alone though.  He’s just the extreme.  Sallow Man can probably exist like this for the rest of his life, which frankly I find is sad. He may very well be a brilliant person, but we’ll never know. 

There are so many people in my life – friends, family and work mates – who will do what they do because it’s expected of them.  They play the roles society has established for them, and so willingly.  It’s safe; it’s predictable and no one will criticize them.  They’re buying their house and raising a family.  They’ll go to their nine to five jobs and follow a fairly rigid routine.  Safety.  

And then sometimes, something catastrophic will happen.  One of the Stepford spouses will cheat.  They won’t quite be able to tell their spouse why they wandered.  They knew it felt good but have no idea why they did it.  If they’re lucky they’ll get counselling and that will open the door to self-awareness.  The unlucky ones will pretend nothing’s really wrong, and will buckle down harder to go back to that routine.

A little girl will grow up watching her father beat her mother.   Then, when she gets older, she’ll gravitate to abusive men and she won’t be able to tell you or any of her friends why this is so.  What she doesn’t realize or won’t acknowledge is that the abusive boyfriend or husband feels normal to her.  Normal, ironically, equates to safety.

And so there we are again: being safe.  Safety.

I think safety, and normalcy and routine are all over-rated.

Comments
  1. Loree says:

    It is always remarkable to me how many people have zero apparent feedback mechanism. When I don’t want to interact with someone, it’s pretty clear. See me not looking at you? Notice how my part of the “conversation” is getting progressively more abbreviated and flat? Did you notice I was a little rude just then? That my sense of humor is leaning towards the bitch side of sarcastic bitch?

    Yeahno. Didn’t think so.

    Safety and normalcy are overrated, yes, but some days (this one), I do so long for them.

    Like

    • Yes, those subtle hints are fairly obvious to anyone who is socialized and aware. Amazing to encounter someone who doesn’t get it.

      There’s a variation on this when it comes to dating, I think. Some female friends have complained to me that the guy they saw just once and never want to see again just won’t take hints. My response: guys only see primary colours, and similarly are unable or unwilling to take hints. Sometimes you need to be blunt. Some of us (raising hand) really appreciate honesty. That kind of information,offered with a bit of grace (or even sometimes even harshly) provides a communication that is in-yer-face obvious to all, and will serve to deter all but the creepy and dangerous guys.

      Getting back to general awareness: the guy in my story just won’t and will never “get it”.

      “Dude! You’re a mess! You smell, you don’t dress in anything like a social fashion, and you’re just …creepy. No girl will ever want you unless you do something about yourself.”

      Response: “you’re just rude and insecure. Fuck off”

      Uh huh. That’s what I imagine a conversation with him would look like. I have dealt with his personality type before. The most glaring and obvious one was a woman, believe it or not. (Perhaps something for another blog) :)

      Like

  2. Roger's Place says:

    Wolf, I wish you would stop posting stuff about me and my life style.

    I don’t mind if you don’t like the way I look or smell, but do you have to tell the whole world about it? 8)

    It was a good post though.

    Like

    • Uh oh. *grin* Man this *can’t* be about you. I’ve read your writing – you’re nothing like this guy. You’re too aware.

      Glad you enjoyed the post. :)

      Like

    • Nadia Chyme says:

      Hahahahaa! That was soooooooooooooooooooooo not you at all Roger!

      Like

      • Nadia Chyme says:

        Great post Wolfie. I think I did a lot of that — doing what was expected of me. I think it’s only now that I’m breaking free and doing what I want — maybe that’s why I’m going through what I’m going through, but it feels good to be free of all the constraints. I actually feel safer NOW becuase I’m doing what I want to do — before I may have thought I was safe, but I realize now it wasn’t safety at all but fear that kept me doing all the “right” things…

        Hmmm…not sure I’m making much sense. But I bet you know what I mean.

        ~N. (oops, just realized I keep calling you “Wolfie”…not sure why… you don’t seem like a gentle sweet little wolf at all. Actually you seem rather….manly. Real Wolf like! :) )

        Like

        • Hi Nadia.

          Yes, fear seems to me to be the Great Instigator of a lot of what turns out to be some bad habits that a lot of us fall into. It wasn’t until I read Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins that some of the lights in this echo chamber of a skull of mine started turning on. Didn’t realize until then what was wrong, or why I was so miserable. You’ve heard a few of us talk about that book – it’s just a novel, without any pretense of being anything else. Yet, the author wittingly or unwittingly gives the reader a peek into his psyche. Just enough to realize how utterly bizarre our somewhat tortured existence can be, just by virtue of “going with the flow”.

          It’s entirely an upbeat book by the way. You realize a lot of the negative assumptions you’ve made in life only by comparison to the positive nature of his outlook.

          Oh, and wolfie works just as well as wolf. *grin* I answer to both.

          Glad you liked the post!

          Like

          • Nadia Chyme says:

            I’ve ordered my copy of Jitterbug Perfume — I’m embarrassed…. I seem to be the only person on the planet whose never heard of Tom Robbins (although in some ways, that’s not a stretch, I’m kinda simple sometimes..but loveable nonethess!). So, I’m looking forward to my session with Mr. Robbins! And then maybe I’ll have a little more insight into Wolfie’s brain…. and hopefully my own too!

            I didn’t like the post Wolfie, I loved it!

            ~Nadia.

            Like

            • You’ll have to let me know what you think of the book, OK? I’m always intensely interested when someone I know picks it up for the first time. I want so much to talk about his writing style but….it’s better if you come into it cold, just so that you can experience it the way most of us do/did. :)

              Like

              • Nadia Chyme says:

                I will. Promise (I won’t be getting it for a couple of weeks though — I ordered it and it wasn’t in stock. Hmmm..popular book).

                Like

                • contoveros says:

                  I never heard of the book, either. But, if I can get it on sale at Alibris or Amazon.com, I may go for it.

                  A sad but so true post. A slice of life that we usually take for granted, but in the hands of a wordsmith, the humanity in the moments shine through.

                  michael j

                  Like

                  • I hope you do. I think you’ll be blown away by his style of writing. That’s the first thing. And then when you get to the actual content, you’ll be blown away again.

                    That’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it. *grin*

                    In Toronto, you can’t help running into people who are marginalized primarily because of their lack of self-awareness. It *is* sad.

                    Like

                    • Pypre says:

                      Doug, I think Tom Robbins may owe you some royalties, lol. ; )
                      It is a fantastic book. When I read it the first time it was borrowed from the library. My mother got me a copy for Christmas along with one called “Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas”, I have yet to read either of them. My husband did read Jitterbug, though…all but the last 6 or 8 pages, lol.

                      I don’t think I’ve known anyone so unaware of themselves. Well maybe one guy, but he had other issues that made that fact moot really.

                      Poor postal carrier, I wonder if she’s considered rearranging her route. :)

                      I agree with you on safety and normalcy. Brings to mind a lyric from one of my favorite songs, “nothing ventured, nothing gained one of evolution’s cruelest jokes.”

                      It’s funny to me how resistant people are to change, it is constant. I suppose it makes people feel that they have control over something, their routines. And, yes, safe.

                      The song, by the way, is “Change” by Oingo Boingo.

                      Like

                • wolfshades says:

                  So. Nadia. Did you ever get the Jitterbug Perfume book? What did you think?

                  P.S. Tried to get over to your blog but it’s locked down now. I don’t suppose you’re writing a new blog elsewhere?

                  Like

  3. Momma Fargo says:

    LMAO! Love this post! Bravo!

    Like

    • Thank you! – that’s high praise, coming from someone who writes as well as you do. :)

      (For those reading this comment, go check out “The Boogie Man is My Friend” on my blogroll. )

      Like

  4. wordofabe says:

    Your final words ring true…it’s an itch that cries for scratching.

    Like

  5. Nice one! I guess we are all trying to either cope with understanding who we are in this world, what this world is, or how to simply survive…maybe even Sallow Man in his own way….I mean he is trying something, even if failing over and over again….and maybe he wonders why and doesn’t know? Or maybe he is happy in his own world? There are very few ppl I have ever me though that don’t question. The funny thing is: we evolve. Who knows who you’ll be tomorrow?

    Like

    • I agree with you – there’s this feeling that Sallow Man is certainly stuck in a world of his own making, which is why nothing anyone ever says to him will ever make a difference. Maybe for him that’s OK. (Gee, I sounded like Stuart Smiley just then) *grin*

      Like

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