Monday, March 4, 2013

Siblings or Dating

Scenario: You are riding the bus downtown.  I know that you normally would never be caught dead on a public bus, surrounded by all of those stains and smells of unknown origins (not that discovering the source would make any aspect of them any better), but in this scene, you are.  It’s rather irrelevant why you’re trapped in this derelict vehicle, but that’s not going to stop me from theorizing.  Maybe you were trying to walk off that Almond Joy you splurged on at lunch and thought better of it halfway home, or perhaps you’re working on a revolutionary bus culture ethnography. Good luck EVER getting a job that will pay you to do that, amirite cultural anthropology students?

Anyway, you’re on this bus.  You’re seated on the right side, about halfway back.  You’re squished into the window, trying to avoid the invading thigh of your neighbor, who has been inching into your bubble since they first sat down.  I say they because you have no idea what gender your seatmate identifies with, and there is no way you are going to turn your head to discover any more details about this individual and risk the possibility of a conversation with this creeper. Literal creeper, creeping toward you. Not that this has ever happened to me.

The dirty, tinted windows offer a poor view of the already poor exterior sights, so you stare ahead.  You can’t help but notice the couple sitting in the row directly in front of you, who are engaged in an animated conversation.  They are obviously quite well acquainted with each other.  From where you’re sitting, they each appear to be thin and they share the same shade of hair color.  They sport mirroring smiles as they exchange a playful banter over the events of the previous evening.  As you crush your body even closer to the window, you find your face involuntarily scrunching as you ask yourself, “Are they related or dating?”

The answer should be so simple, right?
This is a favorite game of mine to play, (along with its more disturbing modification: parent/child or dating) but also what I am always secretly hoping that others are wondering about Anya and myself.  You see, our hair is quite close in color, we share the same eye color (the superior blue), we are both relatively thin, and each of us feature the average height for our respective sexes.  However, if you were taking deep, solid look at us or spent a lot of time with us, you would start to notice our physical differences.  While we both do have light eyes, Anya’s somehow remain bright and clear, while life has drained the once vibrant color from mine.  Anya has clear, ivory skin and I have some definite witch undertones.  And along with her delicate features, my mother once described Anya, saying, “she has a nice symmetrical face, it’s not like ours.” In fact, it’s quite possible that she has a portrait hanging somewhere in the upper reaches of her attic, where her own witchy undertones and the toll life has taken become readily apparent.

Just possible.
At a glance, you probably are more likely to see the similarities, so I do understand how people can become confused, just as I do with strangers in public places.  However, when I play this game, it’s done in a lighthearted way, purely for my own amusement.  I am just a passing spectator and the game is definitively ended by the couple when they perform some kind of act to solidify the nature of their relationship (for example: referencing their joint parents or kissing. To be fair, they could complicate it tremendously by doing both).  If in our brief time together, I cannot determine what they are to each other, then I move on with my own life and go about my day.  I do not EVER ask the couple.  After all, it’s just a game.  I don’t really care about the answer, nor do I think that those are the only two possible explanations of the couple’s relationship.  To confront these people, that I don’t know very well or I would have no reason to ask, would be completely bizarre and inappropriate and nobody would ever be so awkwardly forward as to do so, right?

"I know it's none of my business, but..."
Apparently I’m the only one who feels this way.  Rewind to senior year of high school.  Before school, Anya and I would sit along a wall with a few of our friends (and with more than a few people who thought they were our friends).  I was usually in a desperate frenzy to finish the homework I hadn’t done the night before and Anya was usually ranting about one or another of the many incompetent teachers/administrators/secretaries/counselors/security guards our school had provided us with.  Because of the position of our wall, the English and foreign language teachers would pass us on their way from the staff parking lot to their classrooms.  

One morning, our foreign foreign language student teacher (not a typo, she herself was a foreigner and was also on the wrong side of 35) stopped to chat with us.  It started off as a typical awkward teacher/student-out-of-classroom conversation, but then shit got weird.  Suddenly, she interrupted the exchange with, “Okay, so you guys boyfriend/girlfriend, yes?”  This wasn’t something we were used to being asked by a teacher, but the question itself wasn’t too crazy.  We both smiled and shook our heads to signal that we were not.  “Okay,” she began, the wheels visibly turning in her head, “then you are brother and sister?”  

With a momentary sideways glance at one another, we silently exchanged our internal reactions of, “Did she just..?  WHAT THE FUCK!?  Is this real life?”  We then choked out a forced laugh and ensured her that we were neither dating, nor siblings, just good friends.  She looked at us suspiciously, like we were lying about one of them, before finishing the original conversation and heading to her classroom.

We're telling the truth!
After doing our best to unpack the incident, we tried to chalk it up to her being a kooky, older foreign lady.  Fast forward to our present job.  Our office is mostly made up of older people, with the majority of our co-workers having been there for more than twenty years.  Anya and I spend our breaks and lunches together, so people were speculating about our relationship from the first week I worked here.  Because I have nothing better to do, I encouraged them, by name-dropping Anya to the right set of ears or with the use of a well-placed hand on her back.  I would then giggle about how clueless everyone is with Anya and my boss, Spent Supervisor, because I am a child.  After working here for months, one co-worker came up to my desk at the end of the day, just after the start of the new year, and asked, “Okay, I’m just going to be nosy here.  You two are together, right?”  There was no question of who she was referring to, so I pulled out my usual smile and denial.  She looked at me in disbelief and quickly came to the conclusion that we “MUST be brother and sister.”  Not really posed as a question.  I attempted to correct her and again explain our platonic life bond, but she was too confused to absorb any additional information.

There’s probably something to glean here about putting people into boxes and making assumptions and the possibly unhealthy relationship between Anya and me, but I’m already over our agreed-upon word count limit, so feel free to take away whatever you wish.  I shall continue half-assedly playing the game with strangers and I will keep hoping that Anya and I are asked, “Siblings or Dating?” many times in the decades to come.



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