Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Love You, And....

To say that I'm "kvelling" is probably appropriate, and perhaps even an understatement, but since I have no idea what it means, let's instead say I'm bursting with happiness. 

You will all remember the challenge I laid down to blog comment-er and internet friend "Malka" about writing a guest post.  Well she did it! (See how scary and bossy I can be???)  And not only did she do it, she has nailed the point I was trying (very heavily handed) to make in my last post - but in a sweet, funny and really smart way.

So here it is - my first guest post spot - hopefully not my last, by Esteemed Reader (and writer) "Malka":

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I want to write a sweeping, universal, game-changing post. I want to explain why some people are more open than others; I want to explore what boundaries we all share.

But I don't know "people": my husband is the extrovert with the masters' in social work. Me? I'm just an engineer. But I scored better on verbal than math on every standardized test I ever took, and my mother is an editor who handed me a copy of Jane Eyre when I was in fourth or fifth grade and told me to "read it for the sentence structure." Moreover, I got through the entire first half of Jane Eyre before I laid it aside until junior high, so I have the necessary qualifications to write.

And perhaps, being over-analytical and living in my head as I do, I am even qualified to write about people. But I certainly cannot write sweeping universal truths about all people. Because it was only after high school that I discovered friends, as opposed to acquaintances and family, so I'm rather behind on the learning curve when it comes to how "all people" think and feel. Incidentally, "friends" are when there are 150 people that you know and like well enough, but there is still a subset of those 150 with whom you'd rather share a bus. That select group consists of your friends. Most people have friends, and that is the main reason that loading three buses with 150 girls takes so long. You probably knew this, but that was a life-changing epiphany I had one morning at the age of 18.

As a child, I got along with my classmates, but we didn't have enough in common for me to have any desire to hang out with them outside of school. Books. Books were awesome. People in books didn't want to talk and talk and talk about stuff that bored me. So I read. I wondered with Scout, hated Tom Sawyer with a mighty passion (still do, the jerk: how on earth could he go around with Jim all that time without telling him???), cried with  Billy Coleman, and was scared witless by Dracula. It was awesome. I had unlimited adventures with all sorts of people that I could empathize with, love, and respect. And in my imagination, I never did anything stupid near them, so I could be perfect, and they would appreciate me in all my perfectly human imperfection. So I got my social highs from my family and my books, and that was enough.

Then I went to seminary and met people who were smart and quirky, just like me. I didn't quite realize what had happened until I came back for Shana Bet, alone among the quirkiest and smartest. It didn't occur to me that I might not be as happy without them: I didn't need friends. I had my family on my phone and my copy of Lord of the Rings on my bookshelf. Then suddenly, a week into my second year, I found myself sitting on the steps, crying. I missed my roommate/chavrusa from the year before.

Better to have loved and lost? Ridiculous! This sucked! But I wiped my tears and nose and moved on.

I always got along with people, and I'd simply email my old roommate and that would be that. But then some shana-alephers started hanging out in my apartment (why? how did they find us?), and shortly thereafter I had the epiphany related above. I had friends. This is what people had been talking about for the past 18 years. Oh. Sharing such a fundamental trait with normal people was something of a blow to my ego, but friends... friends were really quite pleasant.


Still, one had to be careful. With friends, just as with all my amenable acquaintances from forever, I still knew to hide myself. We could laugh and chat and do silly stuff. I could admit I was scared of this and incompetent at that, but my essence? That's mine. G-d only knows what would happen if I showed that to another person. They'd know how I'm vulnerable. They would be able to hurt me, to threaten me, to control me. So I hid whatever irrationally presented itself as an Achilles heel, and I was fine. I still do, and I still am. So while I'll show my essence in the safety of Family, I hide it before the danger of Friends/Acquaintances.

Do you remember that third category from my childhood? People from books? Yeah, they're still cool. They understand stuff. Even when I'm stupid, characters are cool with me. I can totally let go in front of characters, who are ultimately only words, and words are beautiful and fun and safe. So these Internet Friends of mine... I am a character constructed entirely of words, and they are characters constructed entirely of words. Beautiful and fun and safe! We are characters to each other, and yet we can magically reach through the Fourth Wall to touch and change each others' lives. And since we reach across with the written word, the Fourth Wall remains a mighty bulwark, protecting us from each other, allowing us to share our essences with a minimum of hurt and no possibility of the Other... the Other... with no chance of the Other doing that horrible scary thing that makes me afraid of people who are fully dimensional, who are more than just words. And that, my Internet Friends, is what makes the Internet the Safest Place of All, as long as it all stays on the Internet and doesn't leap out of the screen and run rampant through my life.

4 comments:

  1. Some of my most beautiful friendships started on the Internet. :)

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  2. I agree with Irina. But...wow...Malka can write!

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  3. She's an ok writer I guess......

    Just kidding just kidding - she's awesome!

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  4. Aw, thanks guys. I happen to know a young lady who met an internet friend and then married him.
    But it ain't how I roll. I think Cym and I have a pretty beautiful friendship (or grotesque, depending on the instant), but I sure as heck don't want it to come out of the computer. That would creep the patooties out of me.

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