I sit down with you and we start the pleasantries of our conversation. This is the part of the conversation where things are a little awkward at first, although I notice how good you are at it. It doesn’t feel very awkward at all — it just feels like a nice start to the conversation.
We order food, and continue talking. I notice, after a point, there’s a lot of me speaking. You’re fascinated in me, or so it would appear, and so I speak for a while longer.
Each time there’s a pause, you ask me another interesting question, and look back at me. It would appear you’re completely absorbed by everything I have to say.
It feels a little bit like I’m being interviewed, which is an unusual experience. I’ve never had someone hanging on my words this way, and we’re talking about my favourite subject (me), so I indulge it for a little while more. It’s nice to feel like someone really cares about what I have to say.
And yet… something feels weird about this whole process. I don’t feel like I’m sitting down with a friend — I really do feel like I’m at a job interview. I’m sitting and responding with answers to the questions, but where are you in all of this?
I’m doing a lot of the speaking. There’s much more food on my plate than there is on your plate. I intentionally take pauses to allow some space to expand in the conversation, but, like a sniper, you pick off those spaces with well-timed questions.
I find myself wondering when you are going to show up in this space.
I get that you bring a great deal of curiosity and fascination with you — that much is obvious. What I wonder is if you use your curiosity and fascination to hide behind everyone in your life, or if this is just with me.
I decide to throw a wrench into the gears of this perfectly scripted television interview we seem to be having, and ask you that question.
Things get awkward and uncomfortable. This isn’t the way the interview is meant to go. You and I talk, you are charming, I feel important, and then we move on. I share a lot about myself, and you stay hidden and safe. There’s no YOU showing up in any of this meeting and that is comfortable and safe.
And here I am, breaking the rules, like a big loafish boor. Or maybe a loaf-fish. Is that a thing? If it is, I’m being a total loaf-fish right now in this moment with you.
I’ve knocked down the safety of the screen you hide behind. Now we get to see what actually happens when you’re visible
You sputter a bit, and respond that you actually are really fascinated by what I have to say and to share, and are just genuinely curious about me. I agree with you — it’s clearly true about you, and it’s part of what is so delightful about spending time with you. We get to feel important and cherished. That’s a great strategy for succeeding in relationship with people.
Provided the only kind of success you are striving for is people feeling important and cherished. But it’s also a great strategy for keeping yourself from ever being seen.
I notice in this moment, I feel much closer to you than I have this entire lunch. The distance has closed in this mutual awkwardness we have created together. Things don’t feel so scripted and put together.
I’d take being with you in your clumsiness and gentle dislike of me (after all, like a total loaf-fish, I did knock down your screen) than I would being the object of fascination any day.
I don’t know where we go from here, and neither do you.
That’s how we know we’ve actually started getting in relationship with each other.