Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dissonance

I tucked my hand through my companion's elbow and moved quickly from the room and through a wide doorway into the next gallery, ignoring the graceful groupings of art.

"I'm so confused," I whispered, surrounded by high ceilings and interesting exhibits and a small but milling crowd. "We're colleagues, yes, but also friends! I've been tipsy with him, seen him in pajamas, giggled and talked and shared huge disappointments and thrilling successes. And then...and then I say hello and he acts as though he barely knows me. Like I'm an intrusive near-stranger who dared invade his personal time."

"Well," Doug said, glancing down at me while I frowned, "some people separate their personal from professional lives. It may have been weird for him that you approached him."

"But it was weird for me that he acted that way!" I protested and lapsed into silence as I tried to sort through the wide gap between expectation and reality. I redirected my attention, pleased this was a fourth date and I didn't have to hide every neurosis from poor Doug, and found we enjoyed the same pieces as we traded stories and comments. For the most part.

"People love it or hate it," he concluded after explaining a large piece done in grayscale. I frowned again, standing shoulder to shoulder with him as we looked over the ledge and down upon the canvas.

"It's like a dark vortex of nothingness," I repeated. "And I don't hate it, but..." I paused, cocked my head and stared harder. "No," I corrected myself. "I do kind of hate it. I like color and light and happiness." And beloved colleagues who greet me with equal enthusiasm when we meet in a public place on a rainy Saturday. I even looked nice! My hair shiny and straight, new cashmere cardigan a nice contrast to my blue sweater underneath.

I looked at Doug - you'd like him and I'll ask if I can tell you more about him sometime - and sighed. He'd handled the whole Adam atrocity with an easy grace - guiding me away from additional encounters, offering conversation so I could avoid eye contact when we continued to meet in random galleries. And I had a lovely time - enjoying his company and our surroundings.

The reason it bothered me, I have decided after some sleep and additional obsession, is the mixture of hurt feelings related to that specific moment and confusion over dating in general. Nobody likes rejection, I know, but I seem to take it - even the implication of it - very hard. And as I look at this picture - which I love - and how the curves and light extend backward as far as I can see, I wonder how this momentary but surprising reaction to my presence from a colleague translates into the future and more personal situations.

While having a man interested in me is not unique, it is a rather rare occurrence. And in the past, when I do attract the notice of someone I find somehow wonderful, he always changes his mind. There is always a metaphorical moment where I say, "Hi! How are you? Why haven't you answered my email, you silly goose?" and must blink with pained surprise when he can't make eye contact and shuffles his feet and mumbles words whose meaning is lost behind the overall 'please get away from me and never return' message.

And I do, of course, manage a wounded and inelegant retreat from the situation and person, left to forever wonder what I did. I did ask once, adding to the pathetic reaction I have when rejected, begging for insight into what shifted so I could predict it in future situations, avoiding the stupid shock in addition to the underlying pain that someone I had grown to know and love wanted nothing so much as for that situation to stop. (He, by the way, gave an 'it's not you,' reply that was, if memory serves, quite kind but utterly useless. If it's not me, then what was it? And how do I avoid it happening again?!)

So that's where I'm stuck - as if I'm a chord that's sharp and can't fix it because my instrument is out of tune - and knowing it may not be me, but it affects me too much nonetheless.

Note: This post marks my blogiversary! I have been posting for five years, having pressed publish for the first time on November 13, 2005. And while I'm still not without issues (see above post), I do think I've made remarkable progress, both in writing and in life. So I will thank you for your presence and patience in my life - for offering support and encouragement and gentle suggestions - as I've struggled to grow up. And as I reach to give you a bloggy hug for being so wonderful, do not turn away and pretend you don't know me. It hurts my feelings.

Love,
Katie

11 comments:

hgg said...

Hugs back and congratulations on the blogiversary! I'm still lurking around here even if I don't comment much. Keep the stories coming pretty please!

Anonymous said...

Good managers understand that the people they manage need time away from the organization, and time away from management relationships. He was doing you a favor by greeting you and then allowing you to go about your business without interference. He is not your friend, he knows he is not your friend, and he knows that pretending he is your friend and involving himself in your off-hours social activity would be counter to *your* best interests.

And conversely, he too does have the right to separate his personal life from his professional. Your manager wanting to continue his planned outing to an art museum without getting entangled with a professional colleague is far from an "atrocity".

post-doc said...

HGG - Aw - thank you! I will tell you stories anytime.

"Anonymous" - You know nothing of what constitutes a good manager for me. I would, for example, never (ever ever) work for you. A good manager for me knows his people. And understands that if he's allowed to invade my weekends and evenings and early mornings for work, that if we spend time together socially and trade personal stories, that boundary can be defined for my comfort as well as his and switching the status without warning is difficult.

Additionally, I'm so sick of men like you indicating that hurtful actions are in my best interests and I'm just too simple to realize and appreciate that. I'll respond quite simply so you can understand - Go to Hell. I have no plans to share the story with colleagues or mention it to Adam, and if you'd rather not hear about it, please (and I mean this sincerely), unsubscribe and stop reading.

Brigindo said...

Happy blogaversary and bloggy hugs right back at you.

Excuse me if this is incredibly off-base but could Adam have been uncomfortable because he has feelings for you? I don't necessarily mean romantic feelings, could also be paternal feelings, or big brotherly feelings, or some combination of the three. Perhaps seeing you on a date threw him for a loop? Made him realize your relationship is more complicated than he had thought and he didn't know how to respond? I'm not condoning the behavior but I wonder if he would have reacted the same if you had been out with a girlfriend?

Anonymous said...

Happy blogiversary and many hugs to you, too, Katie! I hope the uncomfortable situation passes quickly. Sounds like you have a good friend in Doug, though!

-soon-to-be

post-doc said...

Brigindo - More hugs for you. Thanks. :)

I like your interpretation more than my own as it means I didn't misinterpret 2+ years of personal, friendly behavior from my boss. And the answer is that I don't know - I would have said there are mutual feelings before yesterday. We tease and laugh and flirt and generally act like good buddies, even though professional boundaries do exist. So, maybe you're right - and even if not, your view makes me think more kindly of him.

Soon-to-be - thank you! You're right - Doug is a sweetheart and I'm quite blessed in knowing amazing people on and offline.

Psycgirl said...

+1 to Bridindo Katie. I think Adam might just have been taken a bit aback. I think it's like when we're in elementary school and we see our teachers in the mall and have to accept that they have lives beyond us!

Happy Anniversary! I can't believe it's been 5 years. time flies!

Girlpostdoc said...

Congratulations on the bloggianniversary. I'm with hgg keep the stories coming - I love hearing about your life - all aspects of it.

Although it's really hard to judge without all the details, I have to agree with Bridindo.

Psych Post Doc said...

Happy Anniversary. I'm just catching up, and I'm thrilled to see how happy you are as of late (not counting the weird interaction with Adam).

I do think Bridindo has a point, from your descriptions of your interactions with Adam it seems as though his protectiveness of you mean that knowing you were dating is a totally different emotional experience for him than experiencing it first hand.

Jenn, PhD said...

Happy blogaversary Katie. I also like Bridindo's take on the situation. Probably just thrown for a loop.... This Doug sounds enchanting, I hope date #5 is soon

Amelie said...

Happy Bloggiversary, and many hugs back to you!
I like Brigindo's point of view. But I've been in your situation, and I know how difficult it may be, even if there are other, better explanations of what (seems to have) happened...
Take care!

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