Social Mode

10 June 2002

Sometimes I look at my fairly happy family and think, "Take that, Tolstoy."

Also, sometimes it occurs to me that I've structured my life so that it is not only socially acceptable but actually considerate and socially desirable for me to offer information on how the sword in the stone legend may have derived from a linguistic error or mistranslation of the word for Saxon. Those times make me pretty happy.

The writing group meeting featured Alec, Avi, and Zed. And me, of course. I got up to Berkeley in time to stop in The Other Change for the July Asimov's, which was a good thing, because I finished the July/August Analog on the train. I almost finished the July Asimov's on the train back, so I have to pick from my piles to read today. I think Tim Powers' The Stress of Her Regard may win, as I have that from the library.

It's nice to be able to ask people what I should read and know that I won't already have read all of their selections. Very nice. I got out my library list to add something to it, and then I asked what else I should read, and Zed and Alec obligingly sat and listed books for me. Alec even knew the name of an author and series I had long since forgotten, Helen Cresswell's Bagthorpe books. I could picture sitting in the Godfather's Pizza in Brooklyn Park with Ordinary Jack -- I just couldn't picture anything else about the book. I knew I'd know it when I saw it...and then he said "Bagthorpe" and I nearly jumped across the table to give him a hug. (Alec is not the type of person you should do that to, though, so I merely gaped at him for a moment and then thanked him enthusiastically.)

My mom would like for you to know that I had many other parental childhood (and current) nicknames, including Morning Glory, Sweet Pea, Child O' Mine, Kiddo, Cookie, and (her personal favorite) Cookie-Belle. But any of you who starts an e-mail to me "Dear Cookie-Belle" or sends a message to is gonna get it.

What you are gonna get can remain a little vague for now.

Oh, oh! It's time for another Morphism Public Service Announcement. This one is for women. Ladies: your shoulder-pads should never be bigger than your breasts. Ever, ever, ever. Is that clear? Never.

Okay then.

The writers' group was productive, and one of the most important things I found out about the story was that it did feel even-handed enough to my readers. I can fix things up about how it flows and the proportions of dialog to action, things like that. But if it was looking slanty, I'm not sure how I would have fixed that.

I was definitely in Social M'ris Mode last night. It's gotten to be something I analyze after the fact a lot, how much "on" I felt I had to be in a given social situation. When I don't know someone in a situation, I feel like I need to be very much more outgoing and high-energy than I otherwise would. Much less relaxed, as well. (This is why the Meyers-Briggs doesn't really apply very well -- among other reasons, of course. Their categories just aren't how I go.) When we had Alec over for dinner, I was a little quieter and a little more relaxed, and I think that as I get to know him better, that'll be more the case. Has been somewhat with Avi. Haven't had the chance with Zed. (The best-laid plans for tea with Zed...haven't even had a chance to go astray or gang agley or whatever, because I haven't gotten organized enough to attempt to make them yet. Ah well; sometime soon.) But I also know that there's a certain size of group with which I will be unable not to go into Social M'ris Mode, unless they're family. I'm not sure what that number is. I guess I should take better data.

I think it's the Social M'ris Mode that gives rise to most of the misconceptions people get about me from reading this journal or interacting with me in groups. And then if I try to talk about it, some of them assume that I'm talking about a social mask. Sometimes I am -- I have been known to use social masks from time to time, although I'm more cautious about that sort of thing as I get older. I don't want to rely upon them. Seems like a bad idea. But I'm not talking about a social mask -- I'm talking about having entirely different responses to different stimuli. Apparently this is foreign to some people. I seem to run into more and more people who do not understand the difference between private and public except in the physical senses (bedroom with closed door = private, street corner = public). They don't understand the difference between a private figure and a public figure, for example, or privately appropriate vs. publicly appropriate responses to a situation. Or private vs. public institutions. It gets pretty important legally, but I think it's no less important interpersonally.

Where it gets interesting, though, is watching myself define public and private. The journal is always public. Always, always, always. Hanging around with Mark or Timprov or my parents or someone else I love...tends to be private, but if it's in a restaurant or a park where sound carries, it's a little more public, but...yeah. Right now the number question is fascinating me, though: how many people with whom I could individually be acting in private can I sum up before I have social/public behavior? It's less than ten and more than three. Beyond that, I'm just not sure.

I think one of the major differences about being with family vs. not with family is that my role in most family gatherings is fairly clearly defined. It's varied, but it's defined -- and at this point in my life, I am not one of the primary caretakers of the extended family units. If I'm at a gathering of Mark's Lyzenga family members, for example, nobody expects me to make sure everyone is comfortable, taken care of, etc. It is not my job. Right now it seems to be Lin and Deb's job (that's Mark's mom and her sister-in-law). I love watching situations like that evolve, though, and I'll of course be paying attention to see how it works. I probably won't give you updates on that part, though....

I have this horrible (and totally unrelated) craving. I want suckies. I didn't even know what they were until I took the small cousins to the Children's Museum with Aunt Ellen and Uncle Phil when I was in Minneapolis in March. But the minute we sat down at the IMAX theatre, Rebecca and Matt were saying, "Suckies, Papa, suckies?" I knew that they called their grandfather, my Uncle Phil, "Papa," but suckies were entirely new. Rebecca informed me that it was short for suckables, hard candies. Uncle Phil carries a baggie of them in his jacket pocket when they go on outings like that one. So we each picked out a suckie, and they were good. Much better than most hard candies -- I'm not usually a hard candy fan. But Timprov and I were talking about IMAX movies a few days back, and I got the most powerful craving for a blue suckie. I'd have settled for a green one, though.

So I wrote to Uncle Phil wondering what kind they were. Oh my. I knew suckies were special. I didn't know they required a trip to Red Wing. Good heavens. So I'm not anticipating suckies any time soon. But it'll be another thing to look forward to when we get home in October for World Fantasy Con.

I'm going to go focus on something besides the fact that we won't be home until October. Have a good day.

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