It is still a struggle for me on how to handle myself in social gatherings with barely familiar people. I was born socially inept. Self-consciousness is heightened when I have to circulate and talk to someone. Apprehension dominates my emotional brain at initial contact with other party goers. What should I say after a hi and introduction? Should I ask what they do? No, it's not appropriate. They might think I will judge them on what they do and not for who they are. How about where they come from? Okay, that would probably be okay. Then what? Oh God, help me! Here they come. Loraine, just smile and listen. Take a deep breathe. It is not life and death. You'll survive.
You will think that working in health care helped me in this aspect of my life. Not really. The thing is when I see patients, I have a specific mission. I know what to ask and what topic of conversation will be -- them. Certainly, I improved over the years. I no longer feel nervous that I over indulge my patient with attention when family member is watching. However, it is different outside of work!
Last weekend, we attended Jason's grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. There were between 150 to 200 people. I never thought that they are so popular. They live in small town of Primghar, IA. I swear, it feels like half of the town was in that church where they celebrated the occasion. My sister-in-law and I were delegated the lemonade duty and due to the humid and hot day, it was a popular nook for the visitors. My sister-in-law told me to just smile and pretend I am working in WalMart. I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb because I was the only non-Caucasian person in the room. Most of Jason's relatives know who I am but most of them are not familiar to me. I think they know me through photographs which were diligently taken by grandparents every time we have get-together. Most of the initial conversations were like this:
"How are you?"
"Fine, how about you?"
"Well, it is nice seeing you," while walking away.
"You too.," feeling relieved.
As the party continues, inhibition waned and I started making better conversation like this:
"You've lost a lot of weight!" I should not have said this.
"About 40 pounds since January."
"How did you do it?"
"Eat differently and exercise 3x a week."
"We should be doing that."
Then the conversation changed to his son in Iraq and I became a better listener as I felt empathetic. I talked to many people there learning more about Jason's grandparents' earlier years. At the end of the day, I was glad I was there.
Iowans in my experience are reserve and careful people. I noticed that in parties they seldom have games. Mostly, get-together is about food and conversation. They know how to pace themselves and not get too excited with strangers (which I do). I will say compared to Filipino gatherings, Iowan gatherings will be considered boring but the longer I live here, I am starting to understand that it is about people and being comfortable in their presence by not trying too hard to please others and not losing yourself.