I’ve recently discovered that when I do not understand how something does not work then I can not function. I wouldn’t say that I am catatonic when encountering something new but if I do not understand all the steps in a social ritual then I freeze up with nerves.
I’m not a basket case (well, in comparison to some I know) but I am unable to grasp all the non-verbal rules our culture (well, my culture) has when it comes to interactions. And without the ability to grasp these invisible guidelines I am left trying to guess what to do; think of it as trying to learn a very complicated dance move and knowing that you only have a few of the dance steps in your instructions you are forced to improvise whenever a gap in your instructions come up. During my daily interactions I improvise in three different ways:
- Look down and mumble something resembling a sorry, this usually comes about when a stranger and I are trying to go two different directions and are in each other’s way.
- Go cold, my face freezes into (what I hope is) a mask of unfeeling command and I walk with confidence, incidentally this is usually when I feel the most comfortable.
- Play the fool, I make self-deprecating jokes and laugh and act like I’m six, this usually occurs when I interact with my peers.
I believe that it is this inability to intuitively grasp unspoken rules that makes me want to be an anthropologist. Hell, one could say that my constant search for the reasons behind cultures’ actions has been training me to be an anthropologist my whole life.
The Lady Jane