Mornings, along with enjoying my cup of coffee, I read. Email, newspaper, often a little something from the personal growth/spiritual realm. Somewhere along in there, I’ll check in on WordPress, catching up with whatever has occurred overnight in my blogosphere. The daily prompt appears sometime during this segment. Today’s prompt is loophole.
Temporally coupled with my scan of the news and current events, its hardly surprising that I then rattled off a series of senryu (21 syllable poems, same format as haiku, but focused on human foibles) on loophole. Moving through my day, and pondering one of yesterday’s experiences, I’m now considering another sort of loophole, that of the social convention.
I received an email yesterday informing me that my colleague J is retiring, and it extended an invitation to attend a surprise party in his honor. I’d never heard of the event venue in question, so I did a little research. Its an “upscale” place in a trendy area of downtown Denver. The first 3 pages of the online menu were devoted to cocktails at $15. each. Uh oh. I drink alcohol extremely rarely, as it doesn’t agree with me. Fancy restaurant downtown, fancy drinks and fancy dress, this isn’t my sort of gathering. Chit chat just is not how I roll.
J and I were partners in medical practice for fifteen years and we still have a shared business interest. With a longer than 30 year history, I would like to honor this milestone. As I consider this invitation, my suspicion is that I would get very little opportunity to visit with J, and even less chance of a substantive conversation. So I invoked my standard loophole for such circumstances, declining the invitation with the reason of conflicting plans. With my response, I also included a request that if there were to be another (perhaps less formal) event, I’d be interested in attending.
I’m telling the truth in my reply, and its a somewhat edited (you’re nuts if you think I’d be an asset to your party) truth, which seems appropriate. I suspect the invitation was out of courtesy more than an actual expectation that I would attend. I looked at the other 2 recipients of that email, both also previous colleagues. One has significant dementia and rarely leaves his home, and the other is busy caring for an ailing wife. Me, I’m the socially awkward, introverted, non-drinking lesbian who never quite fit the conventional style of our medical group. The three of us are in the category of having been significant presences in J’s working life and there’s not much beyond that. Interesting past shared history, but we’re not friends.
I don’t have an answer here to the use of social conventions, the not telling of an entire story. Often it seems to me to be a judgement call. First, is a reply other than no thank you warranted? Next, does anyone else care about the reason, or is it any of their business? With that, is it important to me to make my reasons known? To answer that question well, I’m going to have to actually listen to myself, and spend a little time–what’s my reflexive response, and what’s behind that. Perhaps in the use of social loopholes or the other kind, its more about awareness and intention. What is the healthiest and most respectful way to address this issue, given the circumstances involved.