So I’m standing and chatting with some people after the service this evening and suddenly this guy (someone I know) greets me with a very happy shout: Meirav! I look at him expectantly, wondering what he’s going to say, and then he says: Happy Easter!!!
and I say: oh….. um…. thank you.
Because I haven’t a clue how I’m supposed to react, I have no idea what sort of response he was expecting (definitely not the one he got, I’m pretty sure about that), I was totally thrown by this greeting because it’s just so… extrovert, I guess… a bit like if I was standing quietly and contemplating a quiet stream and suddenly a big friendly dog came bouncing up to me and licked my face… I can tell that it’s meant as a friendly gesture, but I’m thrown.
Thinking back to that moment, I can see why I was thrown – because when I heard such an excited greeting, I assumed there must be a reason, I assumed he would tell me why he was so excited to see me. I was expecting something like: I’m so glad you made it because… or: I really wanted to ask you… or: I want you to meet this person… I was expecting something that would explain that enthusiastic shout – instead of which all I got was: Happy Easter.
But this feeling of not having a clue how to react in a social situation – this is something that I feel has pretty much always been part of my life. There’s always this sense of: normal people would know how to react, but I don’t. As though most people get issued with this bunch of scripts at some point, pretty early on, and I must have not been standing in the right queue just then, so I don’t have the script, I don’t know what my lines are.
This makes me more reluctant to get into situations where I wouldn’t know what to say, which in turn means I don’t get a lot of practice, which in turn means I don’t have much of a chance of learning… Also, I’m not really very good at going with stuff just because that’s the norm, so even if someone told me that the normal answer to X is Y, I’d probably say: you’re joking! that doesn’t make any sense! I’m not going to say Y just because that’s the standard answer.
Yes, part of the problem is that even when I do know what the script says, I refuse to follow it. Like when I came back from my recent visit home to Israel and someone heard and said “and did you have a lovely time?” – I knew very well that the expected reply was “lovely, thanks”, but I wasn’t going to pretend. I said, “it was quite stressful”, and saw her face fall. But, really, what’s the point of having a conversation if you keep it superficial and full of lies? I’d rather not bother.
Plus, to be honest (which, as you see, is my custom), I was annoyed that she asked that question. I get annoyed at questions which I feel are putting pressure on me to pretend, just so that we could all keep pretending that life is a walk in the park. The question “did you have a lovely time?” sounds to me like pressure to pretend that I did, because that’s what’s expected of you when you’ve been away. Just like “did you have a nice Easter?” – to which the expected answer is in the affirmative. It’s not – as far as I can work out – acceptable in normal society (at least here in the UK) to say: actually I really can’t stand this whole Easter thing/actually going home for a visit is always stressful because my family all hate each other and my aunt Zelda has never forgiven me for poisoning her daughter’s pet rabbit when we were three. (I hasten to clarify that no, I don’t have an aunt by the name of Zelda, nor did I ever poison anyone’s pet rabbit.)
I just have this annoying tendency to say what I think, and to answer questions as though they were actually intended to ask what they sound like they’re asking and not as some kind of code.
The truth is, even if someone were to hand me those scripts on a plate, I’d probably take one look at them and tear them to shreds, throw them on the floor and stamp on them, and then feed them to the dog.