That’s what it feels like. I note distinct differences in how people communicate in the various places I’ve lived. In San Francisco, everything was exagerrated, overstated and intense. It wasn’t just a “bad date,” it was a “horrific, mind numbing excursion into the underbelly of boredom.” It wasn’t a ” great day,” it was “the single most amazing day in the history of incredible days.”
And I exaggerate, because that’s how we talked to each other. Yes some of my friends were understated and several spoke in a rather unvarnished manner. But not in general. We were living fast and talking faster. We needed to communicate the sense of our experiences in a limited time, so we relied on hyperbole to get across what we didn’t have the luxury of time to convey.
This manner of expression worked well with what was innate to me. My entire family speaks in a rather flamboyant manner and I’m no exception. I enjoy a colorful turn of phrase and my manner of speech often sounds as if I’m on the edge of hysteria.
See–even in writing it’s evident.
Now in Chicago–I didn’t spent too much time there and certainly knew few people as deeply as I did in San Francisco, but I did find that Chi had its communication pecularities.
I feel I must admit here, that until the end of our time in Illinois I was hanging around spooky folk, those of the goth variety, for the most part. And we (as I was then and still carry a bit of the goth girl inside me) are a dramatic bunch in general. I had a more varied group of friends in SF, simply from having gone through so much growing up there and having lived there for over 14 years. In Chi, it was much easier to take the shorthand of the culture I knew most recently and hope to integrate there. Thus, until our move to Barrington, we were hip deep in drama every few months.
That said–in Chicago I noted that many things had to be downplayed. Good things were never quite so good, and bad things were to be expected. Reversals of fortune were right around the corner. In general it was a morose group given to frequent outbursts of anger and misunderstanding. Then perhaps a small outpouring of love as fences were mended (in my case they stay unmended to this day, but that is another story). I think some of my trouble had to do with my inability to speak their language. I was given to joyous flights of fancy when reticent statements barely acknowledging a decent turn of luck were what was expected.
For example–I was NOT supposed to express elation at our new home–rather to be quiet about it and folks seemed much more comfortable if I was pointing out the flaws of our place than extoling the virtues. It was obvious I made a large faux pas each time I enjoyed our good fortune, even minutely.
Maybe that had to do with how six months of winter affect a bunch of aging goths, I don’t know. I know it made me more morose, though I never learned to curb my rather silly and garrulous self.
And I will NEVER get the Chicago attitude about winter. It’s like some endurance contest. I hated the endless winter. I know the weather must somehow dictate the general personality of the people. And I was raised in Fayetteville that sometimes has six months of Summer. Very different.
Now, at the end we did meet some folks who, while they were a bit reserved (a couple were very) were rather joyous and cared to express it. My verbal floridity didn’t seem to discomfort them much at all.
And now that we live in Fayetteville, I find myself unable to talk again. I do have an underlying cause which makes me a bit more analytical than normal (god save us, that’s an understatement, I might as well be the offspring of Jung and Buddha with as much time as I spend in my navel)which shall become more obvious in time, however–I am not hallucinating my verbal missteps.
I’m still one to embroider a turn of phrase as if it were a plain white handkerchief and I a bored Victorian housewife. However, that’s a bit more understood here, though less so than San Francisco. Fayetteville is a creative place. This town has more than its share of eccentrics, artists, musicians and general freaks. Which is one reason I am so happy to be back. So my theatrical flair is not quite so noticable.
But it’s still too much. People take time here, there is no rush. You can know a little bit more about a person each time because there *is* time. Everyone is busy, but they still find time to enjoy themselves and the folks around them. There is no rush to know everything immediately. I’m still functioning in a hurry. Perhaps because I have missed these folks and feel like I’m 18 years behind, perhaps because it’s my nature and perhaps because it’s how I became used to communicating. Yes all three. And I still exaggerate a bit too much. I had lunch with a woman I loved much when I was younger and find that I do again. I was remembering some very silly 18 year old times and expressed how horrific this one guy’s apartment was. And truly it was–we all had those apartments, I had several. But my friend pointed out that ‘they would have had better if they could have afforded it.”
And when I replayed the conversation I felt my stomach drop like it did the last time I rode a rollercoaster. Because I wasn’t judging them on any material basis. I wasn’t judging at all. I was shorthanding for ‘oh wow, what we did and what we survived and what we thought was cool and what we had to think was ok, and how young we all were and how fun it was,” or was attempting to in the phrase “oh my god that horrific little apartment, with no door on the bathroom, as when I was toasted I’d fall through the American Flag curtain into the kitchen while I was trying to pee.” And that was not what was communicated.
It’s like when I first stated showing the house to folks here after living in Chicago. I talked about the problems with the place because that’s what you did there. But here everytime I mentioned a problem I was gently refocused to what great light we have, or how big the rooms are or the excellent back yard. Here you look on the bright side just about no matter what. And strangely, though it wasn’t the case when I was a kid, there is more privacy. And not as much too–your neighbors and people at church pay more attention–but then we really just ignored *most* of our nieghbors in SF and Chicago (not all, but 90%) and we never went to church–so your public behavior is more noticable. But–private family and personal things stay that way–not so much involvement from your group of friends.
Was that a function of age and involvement in community or location? I can’t tell quite yet. I suspect mostly the former and some of the latter. Along with the character of the various groups throughout our lives.
There are still some nuances I’m working out and these are all generalizations. Like I said. I had some reserved friends in San Francisco and some happy friends in Chicago. Just generally, this is what I’ve noticed.
I feel the need to insert a caveat here that these are MY experiences. I’m sure many people have a much better view of Chicago than I /we do. We did end up much better than we started. It wasn’t our right place as this seems to be. We’ve still got some settling in to do and there are even more changes on the horizen. Like we’ve had a chance to get used to the most recent changes, but there you go. I’m hoping though that our location doesn’t change again for awhile. I’d like that to cease being an issue.
I’d like to learn the language here. I’d like to stay.