“So, and what are you doing?” the husband asked me tritely with a tone of natural politeness. I remembered my friend who once verbally exploded to a friend’s friend, a young gay person who consequently was on the verge of tears for the moral attack against him for asking that very same question.
“What do you mean? Why do you ask that question? Why don’t you ask, what am I about?”
I also remember the European incomprehending hostility toward the very same question, deducting from it the whole American national character as ‘superficial,’ which is not the case at all, because Americans ask this with the greatest sincere interest for your answer at heart, even though the interest shown is not much revealing about a person’s character.
But let’s put this all aside and return to our dialogue again.
“I am a programmer,” I dutifully replied, but the rest of the evening, my smiles and questions were as dutifyl, never did I sense a true connection, not even when I halfheartedly nodded.
“We should get together again soon.”
So, not surprisingly, on our second meeting at Bar None on 3rd Avenue – check out the waitresses’ surgical breasts -, I wasn’t especially thrilled greeting them again. But as the evening progressed, he leaned backward with ease, she looked gently but sternly in my eyes. They had not hesitated to take on the first round of drinks, ordering a pitcher of Brooklyn Lager, which we now steadily sipped from out of our plastic cups. The conversation quickly jumped along various lines of the topic, both animated and in depth, the kind of conversation which either reveals a driven will behind thought, or reveals none or rather the absence of a passionate conviction. This time the polite probe into each other’s true identities was skipped and we had jumped almost straight into an animated debate about a variety of topics that we shared an interest in.
Reconstructing our first meeting after our second now feels estranging. Was my impression really true to the very nature of our first encounter, or had I been so susceptible for my own state of mind and private delicate mood that I had tainted unfairly hours of conversation over dinner, perhaps the room in which we met that first time had been too dark, depressing our opinions. Or can it be that meetings with Americans is second’s best? Is there a first round of initiation, in which you seek not common ground but instead for willingness to consider and stability of character so to prove a certain level of trustworthiness? I am genuinely interested in cultures, but I also can hardly adjust myself to them, and my expectations of first impressions are still deeply un-American.