Thursday, November 22, 2007

Anthropology

Sometimes it feels like I'm still learning how it is that adults interact with each other. Every time I reach a new life-stage - high school, college, graduate school, soon graduating from graduate school - I feel like I'm just a kid playing a role. I still remember watching episodes of Saved by the Bell when I was in elementary school and thinking, "Wow, high schoolers! They're so grown up!" And the actors were even mostly age-appropriate, unlike Gabrielle Carteris on Beverly Hills 90210, who was practically on Social Security by the time that series ended.

I was sitting in my office yesterday, a.k.a. my beloved Brunch Club, when I started eavesdropping on a group of people talking beside me. I described the scene in an email to a friend as it was happening: "I'm sitting in Brunch Club listening to a Canadian-German-South African artist-model-photographer-actor-designer discuss web design and art direction work with a girl who just started a Hong Kong-dedicated website, having recently sold her last self-made website for an undisclosed sum. The web girl was previously talking to a fresh-faced USD grad, who just moved to Hong Kong last week to look for publishing work and excitement, about the newcomer contributing stories to the website. The new arrival is now talking to a lifetime Hong Konger who lived in the United States and Japan before returning to Hong Kong to live a life that, as far as I can tell, involves wearing absurdly funky clothes, working a desk job, and surrounding herself with creative people in an effort to feel creative herself (she probably has no talent of her own). And the faux-creative is friends with the C-G-SA artist because they previously met at Brunch Club. I'm 'reading' the Economist but I'm just listening to their conversations. It's fascinating."

Then I had a Thanksgiving dinner that I believe represents my ideal vision of life five years from now. We had a dinner party for six, two men and women from our exchange program (myself included), and a lovely couple from the United States that I know through one of my friends at school, and who moved to Hong Kong about 4 months ago.

An aside: this couple, Jeff and Jennifer, are about the cutest thing I've ever seen. They're both business school grads from the midwest who met in college. They've lived and worked in New York and London, and he's now doing banking in HK while she experiments with not working and taking arts and craft classes, language classes, etc. They have the only non-boring "how we got together" story I've ever heard, which is a testament both to their storytelling skills and their relationship. They've been married for 7 years, have no kids, and a fantastic lifestyle. I've gone to a bar with Jeff while the missus was out of town, and while he was totally in guy mode, there was no seething sense of suffocation there, no sighs of "this is my day out while the wife is away." It's got to be the healthiest relationship I've ever observed, other than my own parents. Just as this Thanksgiving dinner represents what I want my life to look like in a few years, I think that is my model for my ideal eventual relationship situation.

Anyhow. It was a total collection of yuppies, who I am increasingly come to recognize as my people: two business school grads, three law school 3Ls, and one JD/MBA joint degree guy. Everyone was dressed nicely, but not too nicely. Cocktail dresses, collared shirts with nice jeans. I wore my preppy sweater from Express that always gets compliments when worn anywhere outside of New England (and did again). The apartment was great, and decorated in a style that was very consistent with my own design sense...light-wash hardwood floors, track lighting, lots of reds and blacks, contemporary, a little bit sparse, but a clean look. We drank large quantities of not-too-expensive-but-still-kinda-expensive wines from specialty stores, and ended up working our way through a well-constructed progression: apertif champagne, white, rosé, lighter red, darker red, and after-dinner sparkling white. The spread came to one bottle per person, which was just the right amount of wine for the right kind of buzz. The conversation was flowing and loud and well-integrated, and seemed to cover every imaginable topic. Everyone took turns telling stories, everyone responded to everyone else's stories, and the only moment of silence came right as we hit our eating stride in the middle of the meal...and even that was interrupted by the well-received observation that it was totally that Thanksgiving mid-meal moment of silence. At one point, the three men walked to the bedroom to look at our host's suits and watches, and to discuss men's luxury items in general. The women stayed behind at the table and talked about I don't know what, but I can only assume that it was gender-appropriate in that moment.

After dinner, we played Charades, which is a game I have an inordinate amount of affection for. Like Halloween, Charades was cool when you were a kid, then stopped being cool when you became a disaffected adolescent, and then became cool again when you were old enough to drink, make well-placed obscene gestures, and stop worrying about looking cool. Naturally, the game was organized into men vs. women, and there were various moments where one spouse would get an incredibly obscure clue easily because he or she recognized it as something the other would come up with. And when the game ended, the party did too, cleanly, without feeling dragged out or hitting an awkward low at the end. I went home and, still just wine-soaked enough, fell asleep immediately (around 1 am) and had one of my best nights of sleep in weeks.

Thinking about it now, it again feels, retroactively, like I was playing a role...in this case, slightly pretentious, effete coastal intellectual, with a dash of social consciousness from a comfortable distance. But at the time, it didn't feel like a role. It felt totally natural. So go ahead and mock me, for I see now what I want life to look like. And it's a little bit shallow, and it's totally worthy of your mockery, but it looks so very good to me.

2 comments:

Epitaph said...

You don't know me, and I don't know you.
Yet I find myself decidedly jealous of this little evening of yours.
Oddly enough, I'm a 2L in Oregon who spent the last 4 years of his life living in Newton... not far from your Cambridge roots. Much of the clothing I came to amass while there has the same preppy quality of your sweater, which I'm fairly certain I own... but that's neither her nor there.
New blogger, needing an additional outlet. Came across your blog, and while I'm sure you don't need me telling you this, you are an incredible writer.

I was having a conversation this past weekend,with a few friends regarding the different life-stages you mentioned, and how they never feel quite right when you're in them. This was highlighted when I ran into a lawyer I know in Portland, 5 years my senior (and I worked for 3 years between undergrad and law school) who thought it would be a good idea to get so drunk he couldn't talk...

Anyway... the point here is I agree with you, and I look forward to reading more.

Cheers.

Diet Coke and a Side of Fries said...

I feel instantly connected with any person that makes a 90210 reference. This brings me both joy and shame.