Tag Archives: I suppose you’ll be going out for dinner with your friends?

Dinners & Sensory Overload

Recently I’ve been to dinner in a restaurant twice. With the first of the two dinners, it was so long time since I’ve tried it last that I thought that maybe dinners are not as bad as I remembered them. However, they are even worse than I remembered.

My husband told me that our neighbour Toby* had invited us out for dinner, and he had said yes, so we were going. We had been talking about inviting the neighbour over for coffee or something for some time. It is nice to have good neighbour relationships, and we like Toby.

Toby is a relaxed, quirky elderly guy who lives by himself and has a bunch of old** cockatoo friends whom he chats with on his balcony in front of our house. I often have a short chat with him and his friends*** in the mornings when I pass by his house during the morning walkies with my dogs.

 
First Dinner

First I didn’t get that the dinner was in a restaurant. When I did, my husband said that he had explained to Toby that I have issues with background noise, so that it had to be a quiet place. It would be somewhere local, close to home. All in all, it sounded like it was going to be OK.

 
Clipart: dinner table in restaurant with a bottle of red wine and a glass on

 
The restaurant turned out to be a local Chinese restaurant in the nearby little low key (some would say white trash) town. There wasn’t any table available when we arrived, so we waited in a nearby pub, all by ourself outside in their beer garden. That was nice.

Then we went to the restaurant and was seated at our table. The noise level was overwhelming. There was the typical relentless cascades of background chatter spiked with sudden high pitched laughter mixed with the massive, irregular murmur of miscellaneous restaurant sounds – Kitchen scramble, cutlery hitting plates et.c – as there are in restaurants.

I wore my usual invisible ear plugs but they weren’t quite effective enough. There was a birthday party with a toddler that kept screaming; a torturous high pitched sound that tore right through the ear plugs and “through marrow & bones”**** at irregular intervals. So I turned on my magic inner sensory shield, and the cacophony of irrelevant noise bounced off my personal space field as if the room was quiet, only letting through what I needed to hear. Just kidding…
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A Circle of Friends

Many TV series, books and movies feature cute and fun everyday dramas of a circle of friends. For example TV series like Beverly Hill 90210, Friends, Ally, and The Big Bang Theory.

 

 
I’m not sure how realistically they portray how it works, but a circle of friends seems like a common expectation for a normal social life. For me, that expectation has caused a lot of agony in the past which still lurk somewhere in the fringes, saying your life is not good enough.

 
What a Circle of Friends Is

My understanding of a circle of friends is a group of friends who all know each other well and typically have known each other for a long time; so they are a bit like a sort of family but not usually family. They are usually within the same age range and socio-economic segment. They hang out together often, maybe almost every day, in regular rendezvous locations such as a specific sofa set-up in a cafe or shared flat. They have shared habits, rituals and history together and know what to expect from each other.

A circle of friends typically comprises 3 to 8 members, who may not all go perfectly well along. Just like in a family, members have to be tolerant of each other across even seemingly incompatible differences and find diplomatic ways to cope with incompatibilities. Contained friction is OK (and fictive contained friction tends to be hilarious). Open serious conflicts and exclusions are not OK, since that would tear apart the group.

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Words that sink me

bottom of ocean, smashed sea urchin shell, mados fish

 
 
My family & the friends questions

Every time around this time of year, which is my birthday, I feel dragged down into a sense of implied failure that I don’t endorse; but which affects me anyway. That isn’t because it is my birthday. It is because of all the well intentioned remarks and questions I get from my family abroad in emails, facebook messages and basically upon any contact with them, along the lines of:

  • I hope you are enjoying your birthday with good friends.
  • So, I suppose you’ll be going out for dinner with your friends?
  • How was your party/dinner? [surprised tone:] You staid home? Why??? Don’t people usually go out and celebrate their [x]’s birthday?

(Typical standard questions asked by my mother and a variety of maternal aunties)

The questions are awkward because I hardly have any friends according to their definition, and I don’t like dinners and parties and rarely go out. I suspect it is their way to say that they don’t think I am a looser; that they think I do have friends and do go out and party. However, I don’t think I am a looser anyway, even if I don’t live up to their idea of a normal social life, so their hopefulness insults me.

 
Definition of friends

The definition of friends, as implied by my family’s inquiries, is: people who are not family but who behave in a family-like manner guided by certain unwritten friendship conventions; who come to visit relatively often and/or vice versa, and who can be drummed together for parties and dinners without it being too awkward. 
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