Thursday, February 17, 2011

Suffocating in a Warmer Culture

I saw my school's production of Steel Magnolias tonight. Although it was done extremely well (kudos to the six actresses in the show!) I spent the entire time feeling the same way I did when I watched the movie: suffocated. Gasping for air. Yearning for space. And thinking, I am so glad I don't live there.

I am heavily drawn to colder cultures - big cities. The northeast. I haven't ever been to Europe, but I hear it's largely cold culture, and it's incredibly appealing to me. This probably connects with the fact that I'm extremely introverted and need my space and my privacy to feel loved.

The south, however (and small cities all across America, but especially in the south), are a much warmer culture. Life is centered around relationships, and the opportunities to form relationships are many. Even more so here than in other places, an introvert's relational distance may be seen as unfriendly. You are expected to let people into your life in ways that I am just not all right with.

In the town where Steel Magnolias is set, there are no secrets allowed. In fact, when one character reveals a secret she's been holding onto for a few weeks, everyone is offended that she kept this from them. Everything is discussed. Nothing is held back. And, more than that, the people around push for everything to be discussed.

I understand that this opens opportunities for sharing and all that sort of thing. But to a cold culture introvert, it feels nosy and impolite. I do have a support system. I have people I talk to when I am in need of guidance. Demanding, however wittily and lovingly, to be let into that level of confidence stops being about me and my friendship. If you're not willing to let me have privacy where I need it, you're not really concerned about me, you're concerned about yourself and how left out you feel that I'm not sharing everything with you. In fact, even among my closest friends, there are still things I don't talk about until I'm ready. If you push me to talk about them earlier, I'm going to feel pressured, threatened, and unloved, and I will most likely end up sharing less and less with you.

What some people see as friendly or encouraging, others see as invasive and threatening. Extending the invitation for me to share with you is one thing -- insisting I share with you right here and now is completely different.

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