Duplicity

I find it difficult wearing masks. Metaphorically speaking. I’ve never really worn many actual masks to have an opinion on them.

People don’t always express their emotions, especially the negative ones. One might greet someone with a pleasant smile and a warm handshake only to spit on them once their backs are turned. That’s not something I can do. If I don’t like someone, I try to avoid talking to them or keep the conversations short. I want them to know that we’re not friends without actually insulting them to their face. But I won’t pretend to be their best friend. I suppose I’m not the most politically savvy person around.

Networking’s a big thing, especially here, and I’ve sometimes been told to make friends with unpleasant people because it can help form a connection for future business. I say screw that. Climbing to the top of the corporate ladder doesn’t interest me. I’ll just sit on the middle rung and have a sandwich. As an introvert, I’m very picky about the people that I make friends with and talk to. And ultimately, I’m interested in their value as people rather than the financial or political advantages the can bring me.

That’s just a waste of time. I’d rather focus on forming solid human connections with a handful of people instead of schmoozing with everyone to achieve career ‘success’.

Want My Advice?

You’ve got a problem of some sort? Oh, I know what to do. Just fix it! See? Problem solved!

There are advisors lurking everywhere, just waiting for you to present them an issue they can deliver their opinion on. Are you trying to lose weight? They have the perfect diet plan or fitness regimen to suggest. Looking to buy a house? Their thoughts on real estate are boundless. Unlucky in love? They’ll not only give you relationship advice, but also happily remind you that you’re getting on in years and should settle down soon!

Usually, they skulk around among the distant relatives, the aunts and uncles you only see on special occasions. But they can also take the guise of co-workers or friends of friends. Everyone of them has the keys to a happy life and they’ll gladly hand them to you if you’ll just listen. Like one of my colleagues, or even some colleagues from my previous job. They’ve got very strong opinions on marriage and when people should get married. I’m apparently getting over the hill and should settle down fast. The countdown’s begun, people! One of my former colleagues looked at me like I had antlers sprouting from my nostrils when I suggested that I might not get married till I’m 40. The idea was incomprehensible to him.

I should point out that both of those colleagues are Indian, and marriage is a pretty big deal in Indian culture. It’s basically the ultimate achievement of any young person’s life. If you’re not working hard and raising a family, then what the hell are you doing? Well, I’m writing, reading, drawing and playing video games. Oops.

Also, women should get married before 30. Yep. So says my advisor. It doesn’t apply to men, though. Only women.

I have also been advised, by many people, to take a cab whenever I need to get around, even a short distance. Why would I want to walk anywhere? That’d just be crazy. Never mind that I like walking, and generally prefer it to vehicular travel. But in the Dubai heat? No, no. Take a cab. Even though I’ve grown up here and learned to work around the heat. Apparently everyone else knows better.

Financial planning, career management, even breathing (probably). Any random person around you will have most informed perspective on the matter. Should you even mention the subject in passing, they’ll be all too eager to shower you with advice.

So there you go. If you’re looking to fix your life, just ask the guy next to you. He knows best. And will also probably tell you something dismissive about women because man, some people are just awful.

Uncommunication

I still find myself baffled by the ins and outs of communicating with people sometimes. I’m not sure if it’s just me, or if nobody in the world really understands how conversations should work.

For me, a conversation is simple: it starts off with a greeting, then there is discussion on a specific topic or whatever random ideas come up, and then an ending. Either a formal goodbye or some acknowledgement that the conversation is over. Not so for everyone else, it seems. At least not here.

I have encountered, far more often than I’d like, people who ask me a question, then immediately turn their attention to something else as I’m answering them. It’s all the more frustrating when they decide they’d rather text or check their email than listen to the response that they prompted in the first place. If it’s important, a short ‘Excuse me’ wouldn’t hurt. It’s also why I’m not a fan of personal questions unless the other person seems genuinely interested. I’m not going to tell you about me or my past if you can’t be bothered to pay attention. And don’t even get me started on electronic communication (mainly because I’m going to get started on it myself).

First, we have email. I always start off my emails with ‘Dear …” and end with whatever the appropriate sign off is; my default is ‘Best Regards’. In recent years, I’ve dropped those formalities when emailing close friends and well-known acquaintances, sticking only to the conversation itself. For professional emails though, I still maintain full decorum. But not everyone else does. I often receive emails that just launch right into a discussion, without a greeting to start off. It never feels right.

Even more baffling is the world of texting and instant messaging, where I often find myself involved in a conversation that’s not a priority for the person on the other end. Sometimes messages go unanswered, or a reply comes in two hours later, attempting to ‘seamlessly’ pick up the conversation where it left off. That’s not how I talk to people in real life. Why does that change just because we’re not face to face?

Maybe the world communicates on a different level than I do, or I demand too much engagement from people. Though really, is it too much to ask for a decent conversation where both parties are listening and talking to each other?