Conundrum

Sunday, 20 July 2008

I posted this, which follows on from a conversation I had with somebody I knew that I met by
chance in the market yesterday, and which set me thinking about things, in the Quaker mailing list I subscribe to. I wondered what a more general readership might make of it.

Let’s invent a hypothetical character. Let’s, strictly for the sake of
clarity, lay the stereotyping on thick and call him Wesley. Wesley has moved
to a new town. Being bright and articulate and enjoying the company of
others, he seeks out gatherings of people of similar mindset and interests in
order to expand his social connections and make new friends.

In one particular group, Wesley notices, because he’s a sensitive sort of chap
who can read these things, that people are being stand-offish with him. This
group is in a situation where people necessarily have to interact with each
other, and his keen sense of awareness tells him that while some of the
people are very welcoming, others who probably constitute a majority interact
with no more than they have to; they mumble, fail to make eye contact,
communicate with him through a third party, and generally try to avoid his
company. Wesley might well say, stuff this lot, I’ll go somewhere else. But
he likes those who are welcoming, and he has a certain stubborn pride that
won’t let him be driven out by the boorish behaviour of others. Time passes,
and Wesley finds himself somewhat more accepted although a few remain
sullenly hostile. He remarks on this to a member of the group that he
casually meets one Saturday morning, and the member comments that “when you
first came, nobody knew what to do with you.”

I think we can all be clear about what’s going on here. But change the
parameters a little; suppose that it’s not Wesley we are dealing with here.
Suppose instead that it’s a white, middle-aged woman with some kind of
non-debilitating disability or disfigurement; a congenital hormonal
dysfunction, perhaps. And she has exactly the same experience as Wesley.
The question is, does the change of parameters change the situation to
something quite different? Is the behaviour of members of the group more, or
less, acceptable? Or the same? Why? Does it matter?

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One Response to “Conundrum”

  1. Diane/tvor Says:

    Unfortunately, there will always be some people that can’t or won’t relate to others that are a bit different, be it a minority, a difference in lifestyle or someone with a disability or anything different. Very similar to how many women were treated when attempting to breech traditionally male careers. Clearly some of the people do welcome others regardless and those are the ones that one should keep in mind and treat the others with civility but i think i’d not bother trying to make friends with people that don’t seem to want to be friends and focus on the ones that do want to.


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