Thursday, May 04, 2006

So Emotional

“The problem with us,” B says, “is that we don’t feel anything.”

I stare at him blankly.

“We were raised in this way, where…we learned it was wrong to show emotion.”

“So what?” I say through cocked eyebrows, “We should be like one of those people who cry at movies and shit?”

“No, no, not like that. But, we don’t ever think it’s okay to be anything. Sad, angry, happy…” his voice trails off and he shrugs and takes a swig of his beer. “I don’t know. You just gotta see that it’s okay to get affected by shit sometimes.”

This was a few months ago, when B was going through his post-Paris breakup slump.

He has since gone back to being a complete, emotionless, judgmental asshole.

It’s hard to reverse a lifetime of conditioning. Getting the shit kicked outta you as a kid every time you cried. Never hearing the words, “I love you” from your parents after you became old enough to remember them saying them. Hugging my mother good-bye before she left for Japan was the single most awkward experience of the past month.

But don’t get me wrong, I don't see myself sitting in therapy sobbing uncontrollably while strings of snot ooze out of my nose over it anytime soon. Honestly, I find the alternative to be squirm-inducingly corny. Just typing the words "love," "feelings," "heart," "emotions," makes me want to rip my skin off.

All this went to shit during the six months I was in London.

An assortment of grey hair-inducing factors beyond my control turned me into the exact form of blubbering emotional mess that I so often criticize. Kinda like this crazy chick.

The Mistake that followed me to England and promptly dropped me on my ass, exchange rates that immediately morphed my ample savings into a laughable sum, utility bills, exorbitant rent, taxes that tore a hole into my already meager paycheck (those bastards at the UK tax office conveniently "lost" all the paperwork I sent last month to claim them back), asshole coworkers, the frigid responses I got when trying to befriend Londoners. The toll of being alone in a city that seemed to be doing everything in its power to beat all semblance of humanity out of me set in and I folded.

So there I was boo-hoo-hoo-ing over cracking an egg, a coworker I didn't even like leaving to go back to New Zealand, missing the train, forgetting my cell phone, getting yelled at by some asshole at JPMorgan. I cried at work--doomed myself to the title of "that girl." I brooded silently over endless freeze dried pasta dinners, glasses of cheap wine, Council Tax bills. I morphed into a badly written character out of a cheap "Chick Lit" that lonely middle-aged women buy at airport newsstands.

The few friends I managed to make in London developed an impression of me as some sort of overly sensitive "artist," crying into my pint over the state of the Third World.

I expected some residual emotion to cling to my hair upon returning to New York. Anticipated sitting in front of the couch catching up on a lifetime of unappreciated romantic comedies, sniffling at the TV--being a girl. Instead, I reverted immediately back to my cheerful, pessimistic, unaffected, sarcastic self, skipping stoically along my merry emotionless way.

It takes a lot to permanently reverse a lifetime of conditioning.



Anonymous Lolo said...

Okay, honest question for a minute. How much do you think has to do with the korean culture? I'm asking cuz my mom was korean and ... well, I grew up learing how to express anger (rage, really) and mockery. It was a point of pride with me that I could last quite a while when getting my butt whipped without crying out loud and I still make fun of people who weep at the movies.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

Not knowing a thing about your nationality, I'm wondering if you have any regrets about being so closed off to your emotions? Or, is it that in private, you express them and feel them, as we all should, and that in public, you put up the wall? I'm not being judgmental here, I'm truly trying to understand you. :):)

9:55 AM  
Anonymous km said...

I find myself jumping back and forth between "total girly-girl/cry at Hallmark commercials" and "Wizard of Oz tinman-like quality of being heartless"..... especially since I hit the big 2-3 couple years ago. It's strange. I always try to say I'm not bitter over past incidents... but I guess it finds its own way to show. And then sometimes, the lack of being compassionate starts overflowing and I'm fukin tearin at simple things like a Sex and the City episode... or even worse, Friends. (these are supposed to be comedic dammit)

Hmm... maybe it was just that time of the month. =P

5:46 PM  

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