Making Friends with “The Other”

20 Mar

I was reading recently on a blog about how it’s easier to make friends with people with whom ya share common ground. You know, you’re both Baptists, or you both loved Legos as a child. She was talking more about socio-economic status, age, and whatever, but you follow. Legos. So, anyway…

I agree with all that. When I was 22 I was dating a really, really cool girl. She was beautiful, sick-smart, and her parents loved me. The only problem was that she was rich. You’d think that’d be an asset, but I kind of disagree.  She laughed– kindly– that I didn’t own anything by fancy Italian designers. But, oh, at least I wore North Face. Don’t laugh, that was in at the time. And, on a different topic, ugh people who wear North Face not because they’re outdoorsy, but because it’s cool… just stop. You look ridiculous; that s–t clashes with your Gucci, mang. So, anyway, she also thought it was quaint that I did my own laundry. Quaint. Well shhheeeeooot, sweet thang, I ain’t nebber been called that before.

Sometime later I was commenting that I felt awkward not being able to take her to the nice places to which she was accustomed. She laughed, reassured me, and said no worries, “I don’t judge you because you’re poor; you can still be a good person.” That’s word for word, ya know, it stuck in my mind. My first thought was, damn girl, are you trying to tell me most good people are rich? That was something directed at her. The second thought was more damning, it pointed the finger back at me. I had an epiphany. I know, me of all people. There was this “moment of clarity.” Me and my quaint self, I realized I’d been judging her because she had money. And, not just her, I’d judged pretty much everyone on campus who was loaded. I was being prejudiced. Ya wouldn’t have thought, what with my quaint ways, huh.

We didn’t end up lasting, although in an unrelated story, she did ask me to marry her. Saying she was forthright would be an understatement. And, just to toss those stereotypes about Asian women being passive prudes, she was Korean-American.

All this to say, yeah, it’s hard to get close when there’s little common ground. We rarely even approach people when we feel we’ve little in common. What a mistake. Those are probably the people with whom we most need to connect. Even if it’s harder, and especially if it’s harder.

But hey, that doesn’t mean ya need to date them to do it.

And from all this, I don’t know a lot of people who share more than one or two things in common with me. I feel torn between two worlds in two ways. There’s my past living as a man and future as a woman. Then there’s my past with poverty and future with plenty. I can find people who can relate to one transition or the other, but I don’t know anyone who’s dealing with both. Believe it or not, the latter transition is even more rare, if the people I know are any guide. Not a lot of us from the ghetto went to college, or a so-called elite college at that.

Our financial aid motto is, “Elite, not Elitist.” If you ever try to squeeze a dime from them, you’ll know why that’s funny. I have felon parents, was raised on food stamps, and still have plenty of loans. Some private, because public loans wouldn’t cover it. Yeah, not at all elitist. Take mercy on me, I’m quaint.

So, to wrap this all up, to pretend it has continuity, let’s review. It’s easier to be friendly with people with whom we share a lot in common. It’s also important to be friendly with people with whom we don’t share anything in common, even if it’s more difficult. Sometimes, when our struggles seem unique, it’s hard to find people who can relate to more than a piece of what we’re going through. Last, Ivy League finaid sucks the big one.

To end on a positive note, I’m about to go to church. Bet ya didn’t see that one coming.

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Posted by on March 20, 2011 in Uncategorized


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