“I don’t want to offend you, but…”

“… I like you. Is that ok?”

A friend revealed last week that he has not yet told a girl that he “really really likes her” after several years of casual friendship and no less than ten recent dates. His reasoning? He knows that she attends church every week. His assumptions, based on this one fact? That a) she is uber-conservative, b) does not believe in sex before marriage, and c) will be offended at his suggestion that they date.

“If you remember,” I yelled at him him loudly, waving my beer in his face, “this sounds exactly like that time that [boyfriend] waited to tell me he was breaking up with me until after I took the GRE because he thought I couldn’t handle all the stress!”1

What is an appropriate way to make affections known to the object of said affections? More generally, what is the best way to inform someone else of a decision you have made that may affect his or her life, without being presumptuous and revealing your own prejudices?2 How does one say “I’m attracted to you” with absolute guarantee that the other party will not take it as objectification? Can we ever believe that “it’s not you, it’s me” will ever indicate complete, honest, self-awareness?3

I got mad at my friend. I was perhaps a little too critical, perhaps projecting my own frustration after hearing so many unclear messages for so long. I told him that he was patronising, and offensive. I told him that he was being ruled by his (definitely sexist) assumptions about her preferences. There is a distinct possibility that she is not interested, I acknowledged, but let’s give her some credit.

No one, I said, should ever be offended by a simple “I like you”.4 If she is, I continued, you owe her the opportunity to explain her own assumptions, prejudices, and circumstances. I walked away from the conversation in a huff, but I was only halfway across the room before I realised that my response was probably just as informed by my opinion of my friend, who I’ve known since the age of nineteen. My own dismissal at his ability to responsibly, and maturely, begin relations with the fairer sex was a result of many years of witnessing his mistakes.

Our wimpy selves often take over before we get the chance to say something that we really mean. Sometimes we end up saying nothing at all, but on occasion, we lash out, blurt, and ramble. Our old uncertainties, morals learned from past experiences, and values transmitted to us from our respective cultures — in other words, all the things that make us the way we are — make us project our assumptions onto others. We can move to new countries, date different demographics, and shop around for new religions or political allegiances, but these factors will still nag.

I’ll give both of us some advice here. Make your own life, with your relationship history, physical insecurities, and yes, your prejudices, your normal. Acknowledge it, deal with it, present it as such, and own it. I’ll go first. I am a thoughtful but somewhat insecure internet blogger who calls herself The Bun.5 I have a fake tooth and weirdly fat fingers. I have a finnicky uterus and the weirdest health problems. I have some trust issues, care too much about what people think, and have serious imposter syndrome. I probably drink too often.

It is a pleasure to meet you. This is my normal, as of May 2016. What is yours?

 

1. I’d actually heard about his decision from another friend as I walked happily towards the campus bar to celebrate my 99th percentile score on the GRE. Funny how things work out. Also, beer.

2. I use the term “prejudice” here rather loosely. I don’t mean it as something that is intended to be negative — rather, an assumption about another person often arises out of one’s desire to protect. But, I’m sure we are all aware, protection can quickly turn into offence when expressed in a patronising way.

3. Long-term readers of this blog will remember that I question every verbal utterance that comes my way. As someone who has been on the receiving end of this speech one too many times, I often wonder about sincerity. More on this later, I hope.

4. Let’s put it another way — how many of us have waited, hoped, and pined to hear these words come out of another’s mouth? How nice it is to know that another individual is willing to put him or herself out there to reveal some (albeit tentative) feelings?

5. Therapists would probably look at this symptom and diagnose several different personality abnormalities from this one fact, including, but not limited to, inflated sense of self-worth, love of being talked about, and obsession with food.

Advertisements

Recreating Lives

When I first moved to Hong Kong, I didn’t have any expectations on how it would go. I didn’t know anything about the city, and quite frankly, I only took the job because nothing else remotely as interesting had panned out1.

When I landed and was picked up by a driver sent by my then boss, I was in (a very sleep deprived 2) awe of just scale of humanity in the city. Up until this point, I don’t think I’d ever stepped foot in a city as vertical as this one 3. I knew no one in this city of 7 million, a sobering idea when I nearly got hit by a bus on my first day because traffic goes the opposite way 4.

Because I had no notions of what to expect, I was able to build a completely new life there with new people, new hobbies, and new interests. The only thing I really wanted to find in Hong Kong were good American craft beers 5.  That was it. This is not to say I wasn’t homesick. I was, for about the first 6 months, but that went away surprisingly quickly.

Moving back to Chicago has been an entirely different beast. From having spent 4 years for school here, I had an expectation of how the city would be like, and it was romanticized in my head as being the place where I first felt at home, where I belonged. I forgot that what made places feel good to me were the people there 6.

I find that I’ve fallen into a trap where I’m trying to recreate the bits I loved about Hong Kong (reliable public transportation, people who were ambitious in some form or another 7 or just did really cool things, gym community, British beers, boyfriend), but nothing is coming together. The CTA is notoriously, conspicuously, and frustratingly slow 8. I’ve made some new friends, but I don’t feel like I’m learning much about anything from them. My current gym is seriously subpar9. Not pining too much for British beers as I’ve found a couple of others that are pretty nice.

And yes, now addressing the boyfriend. Notice how I’ve been silent for quite a way on anything romance related? It’s not that I’m keeping things from you, reader. It’s just that there’s absolutely nothing worthwhile to write about. The dates I’ve been on have been so unremarkable that I have even been unable to spin any sort of remotely interesting story about any of them.

A friend of mine (she shall henceforth be referred to as Burrito Friend because our friendship started by pursuing a top 10 list of best burritos in Chicago 10) remarked a bit offhandedly to me that not everyone can be lucky enough to still be in love with their ex. And that struck me. Maybe it’s true, though it’s been a while since we split up, so it shouldn’t be the case, right? Am I enough of a sap to still be hanging on to this slightly more romantic image of him? Though I suppose it also says a lot that if we ever find ourselves in a similar locale and are both still single, I’d go after him in a heartbeat. Yes, I understand that we wouldn’t be the same people as we were when we were in Hong Kong, but why not try?

The Bun also weighed in on this for me since it threw me for such a loop. She thinks it’s ultimately a good thing that I haven’t demonized him in my own recollection. Though, it’s pretty hard to demonize a cute guy with a British accent who brought me all sorts of food, even when I was in the hospital. He even visited everyday.

Ok, maybe Burrito friend is right. But I should be able to find someone similar in Chicago right? Doesn’t necessarily have to be British or look like he did. I just want someone nice who will bring me food.

1. 4th year for me was weird because when everyone else was going crazy with recruiting, I was putting together an application for the Army’s officer candidate school. That didn’t pan out as I didn’t manage to heal from a nearly torn through tendon in my foot, leaving me scrambling around March and April for a job. The other places I had on site interviews at were completely horrifyingly soul sucking enough that I took a job at a small company I couldn’t find much information on in a city I knew nothing about. That should say something about how I felt about those positions.

2. Contrary to popular belief, I am not completely unflappable. I just prefer not to have many people around when I have my meltdowns. Someone I know once told her girlfriend that she was modeling her lack of expressed negative emotions after me. Anyway, I digress. That flight was super sleep deprived because I was an absolute ball of anxiety during the 12+ plane ride over. I was nervous enough to have gotten sick the second I landed in San Francisco from Dallas to catch the connecting flight over to Hong Kong.

3. Sure Beijing had been more populated, the city was also much more spread out.

4. When I drive back stateside now, I still have to remind myself that I need to drive on the right side of the road. Funny how just 2 and a half years abroad can have such an impact on my life.

5. But then American beers got crazy happy with beers that supposedly are flavored by jasmine tea,  blackcurrant, vanilla or something else equally as heinous for a beer. I now find myself pining for a glass of clear British pale ale.

6. I find that I’m saying I don’t feel particularly strongly about people very often now. But really, if you’re a friend of mine in person and are reading this, you know that isn’t true.

7. I have only met ONE new person in Chicago so far where I had the initial reaction of, “OMG you’re so cool. How can I be more like you?”

8. I have outpaced 3 buses on a certain route while on my bike recently.

9. Everyone there is perfectly nice, which is why I stick around (that and it’s close), but I’m not entirely convinced the coaches know exactly what they’re doing. It’s also a nice place for me to get a much needed ego-trip and feel superior to others.

10. Carbon Live Fire Mexican was the winner. Get the Motherclucker, Stelotes, or Fish named William burrito. Their elotes are also great, as are their flour tortilla chips that come with the guacamole.