14 August 2011

Grasshoppers and Ants

Embarrassing personal disclosure time:

My mother gave me an excellent book of essays by Louise Plummer recently called Thoughts of a Grasshopper. She thought I would enjoy it since, I, she says, am a grasshopper.

The title refers to the old Aesop tale of ants who spend all summer working (ha!) and then, when the cold winter comes, they are prepared. The grasshopper, on the other hand, spends all his time singing and dancing and playing on his violin and when the winter comes is hungry and left out in the cold by the selfish ants (Aesop), or welcomed in after a lecture by the ants (Disney.)

Given my work situation this summer, I wasn't quite sure how to take this. But I continued reading the article and found that, although I am not wholly grasshopper - I'm far too responsible and afraid of trouble for that - there were some definite comparisons. On my study abroad to England I preferred to hike alone in the back of the group - I revelled in the hours of free time I had to spend day dreaming and letting my thoughts imagine whatever they felt like. When I was a kid I took great pleasure in being the last one at home so that I could put on whatever movie I wanted and, for a little while, pretend to be Anne Shirley or Jo March or Maria Von Trapp or whatever other character I was obsessed with at the moment. I preferred books to recess and writing to socialization. In general, my favorite things involve little human interaction.

Which, perhaps, explains some of the difficulty I have in relationships, romantic or otherwise. I lose interest quickly and move on when the effort doesn't seem worth it any more. Friends move away and I lose touch almost before they leave. I am not unkind to people I don't find interesting, but I don't exactly seek out their company either. I'm not a social recluse, but I'm not a social butterfly either. I'm happiest with a small but close group of friends.

I only say this because it was after I thought about this part of myself that I realized that I do have some grasshopper in me after all. I may be a more prepared responsible grasshopper, but when it comes to relationships, I'm maybe a little too independent for my own good.

This isn't to say that I don't like people. I do. I just - perhaps unfortunately? - seem to approach relationships in the same way that I do books and movies and plays. A friend of mine put it this way, "You just don't want to be the smartest one in the room." This was almost a completely true statement for me. When I'm with my peers, my favorite mode of conversation is intellectual banter. I'm a talker. (Those of you who know me well will be shocked by this, I'm sure. . . ). If good conversation were a "love language", it would be mine, hands down. I'm not as interested by acts of service (and certainly not touch) as I am in a good long conversation. If I perceive that a person can't keep up with me or doesn't want to, then I get bored and move on, or at least don't seek out opportunities to foster a lasting friendship. If a person does enjoy that kind of conversation, that friendship will last a lifetime.

Probably not the most Christlike thing about me, in retrospect.

But is there room in this world for socially reclusive but still talkative and confident intellectual grasshopper types? And - here's a better question - where are all the rest of them? Am I just too much of a snob to find them, or are they really that hard to find? (Could we perhaps focus on the talkative and confident intelligent single male variety grasshoppers?) Then I could have a socially reclusive chatty grasshopper party and make my parents (and myself, for that matter) feel better about my social prospects. . .


sara jane said...

Well put Joni. As usual. And long-conversations is a 'love language'. It's called communication. haha. Which will serve you well.

Kami said...

The other talkative socially reclusive grasshopper intellectuals probably have a lot of the same social/relationship problems you have ... imagine how hard it would be to get into a relationship with yourself!

So maybe this calls for a bit of relationship reevaluation and trying to figure out what to do about the preemptive judgmental-ness you might have when developing (or avoiding developing) relationships with people.


Just a thought. love ya.

WV: dedical ... it seems like a fitting fake word when talking about relationships.

Joni said...

Sara Jane - Thanks! I miss you. Hope things are well.

Kami- This "relationship reevaluation" is a twenty something years long process in the making for me, but I don't feel bad about it. I'm pretty sure everyone else is as clueless as I am in the long run.

Kami said...

Yeah, I think we're all pretty much in the same boat until something seems to magically fall into place and you look back and go, "Hey, I don't know why, but that worked!"

I also wonder if "quality conversation" qualifies as "quality time" ... that's the best I can come up with.

Nanakat said...

I, for one, certainly enjoy a good conversation. (I also preferred books to recess, by the way.) One of the problems with getting a good conversation going is figuring out what to talk about. I've tried sharing some of the things I've been thinking about, and occasionally that gets me more than just "deer-in-the-headlights" looks.

I;ve been enjoying your "conversation" here on your blog, ever since I was pointed in your direction by something Orson Scott Card wrote about. (I moderate a couple of writers workshop forums for him on his websites.)

Just keep trying. It's a challenge finding people who also enjoy good conversations, but when you do find them, the effort was worthwhile.