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By Alex: 004

Perhaps I am not a very tolerant woman.

I find it difficult to talk to new people, or those that are just acquaintances (ie. most people in the world, more on that later) on that basic, chatty, small-talky level. In many ways I find it boring, but mainly I just think it's, well, AWKWARD. How do people do it?

I really admire those people who seem so at ease with it, chatting away to anyone about anything. Not me. I can barely chat to people I already know. It just always feels like some kind of drawn out preamble to a more important conversation. One that rarely actually materialises.

Because of this, I feel like I am always on the precipis of saying something controversial, too revealing, or too probing, too early on. So instead I rein everything in until I can barely form a sentence.

It's next level social awkwardness.

Most of the time I would much rather discuss something divisive or really personal and interesting. And if that is not possible/acceptable, then I would rather opt out completely.

Maybe it sounds a little pretentious, but I don't think it is coming from a place of 'ugh, there are more important things to worry about in the world than your hair', I just like talking about things that, it seems, some people think do not make polite conversation. Those things that ignite a passion in me, such as female rights, for instance.

Yes, I am that 'annoying girl' who regularly launches into political diatribes at social gatherings, and it bugs me so much that more often that not, instead of engaging people in a good discussion or debate about important social issues, these things usually end in somebody awkwardly shuffling away whilst mumbling excuses under their breath.

Perhaps I am doing it wrong.

Since moving to Qatar my resolve on this has been truly tested. Meeting new people and making friends is clearly not my strong suit, but add in the occasional language barrier and you almost have the (self) makings of a social pariah.

I think it's called being 'selectively social'. Sounds about right. But it is a nightmare when you are trying to form a brand new social group, and I find myself becoming a bit too judgemental and dismissive of people. It's kind of a 'one strike and you're out' sort of deal with me these days.

I would rather know upfront if somebody is going to be lacking in the opinion department, or at least unwilling to divulge said opinions, then we can both skip the non-conseqential chit chat altogether and save ourselves some precious time.

The older I get, the more I realise that life is short (it's a cliche for a reason guys!), and people who I find interesting, thought-provoking, well-informed and socially/politically engaging are in short supply. I don't think it is too much to ask that people be engaged with the world around them in some meaningful way, and those are the kinds of people I want to hang out with.

Sure, gossip and chat have their place, but that place is for me generally with people I know really well already. Those people with whom the conversation can swing from makeup to womens lib within minutes. I like to discuss ALL THE THINGS: to have and receive ideas about everything - I mean, I could never be accused of under-analysing or under-thinking matters. But I also like to know that serious topics are not off the table completely, and sometimes with some people they just always seem to be. I know that glazed-over/wordless non-comittal combo that precedes a quick exit all too well.

I mean maybe on occassion I am too quick to dismiss somebody, but more often than not it is other people seemingly dismissing me that is the issue. I am either seen as too aloof or too angry. I don't think I am either of these things particularly but I do have good ol' 'resting bitch face', so can look uninterested or annoyed when not talking. Plus when I do talk it is often a passionate speech about something, which may seem a little angry at times I suppose...I can see where they are coming from a bit.

But, people who think I am weird/bitchy/moody/opinionated/insert negative descriptive word here from the get-go, and don't like it, are probably not destined to become life long friends anyway.

I am fine with it because I know that I am a nice person really. Once I am friends with somebody I am loyal, trustworthy and kind. I try to be supportive and not bitchy (to your face or behind you back), and I, sometimes naively, assume I will get the same in return.

I am in turns a woeful cynic and a giddy optimist about everything in the world. And I refuse to feel bad about being curious and passionate about lots of things. By this point, I think my family understand this a lot better than they used to, and for the most part my husband seems to like it too. Most importantly though: I like it - and if there is any aspect of it that I don't, then that is simply my work in progress.

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