i spent tonight in wollstonecraft, at an old school friend’s housewarming. sally and her boy have bought a stunning unit –walking distance from our old school. it was a pleasant evening, and good to see sally again, but i have caught up with her recently; what was really interesting was seeing ngaire and alex again.
ngaire was always quiet, a bit nervous and uncomfortable, unassuming, trying not to take up space. these days she’s spending her time excavating cambodia, egypt and jordan. she just discovered temples in cambodia as part of her honours thesis. discovered! but her demeanour hasn’t changed much.
when alex walked in I didn’t recognise her. i didn’t expect her, as i’d heard she’s usually in america, and she’s filled out and has long straight hair, both of which are striking changes visually. she didn’t greet me, and when sally asked if she remembered ngaire and me she said of course, and kept right on talking. just like high school.
she did interact with me a little, like a complete stranger. it’s not so far from the truth – i don’t think I’ve seen her once since 1996, and while i knew her fairly well back then, she probably didn’t know me at all.
alex was always compelling. charismatic, the centre of attention. desperate to be so at all times. it seems that hasn’t changed all that much, i couldn’t stop watching her. her conversations were interesting though there was nothing in them.
she reminded me of someone. inflections, gestures, words, posture, at first i thought she must remind me of the old her, but no, there was only a little bit of that in there. then i realised she reminds me of many different people. kat, dez, hexy, kat, tim’s girlfriend… she seems to share mannerisms with most of the larger than life personalities i know. She won’t know these women, but my guess is that they all share cultural heritage, especially from tv, and bits that I thought of as characteristic of one person are actually just attractive snippets that they’ve picked up from a public source.
What i’m not so sure about is why these people are all the larger women i know. i suspect it isn’t just my eyes that make this grouping. i think their expression of confidence is different from that of my confident, charismatic but short statured friends. maybe it’s something about how they interact with me, i have known for a long time that i’m universally ignored when i am the odd one out in a sea of people who don’t come far past my shoulders. this happens more often than i’d like. it’s an interesting question, and a thorny one. it interacts with questions of perception and body image, stereotype and generalisation, and doesn’t fit at all with the simplistic but fundamental concept that people are equal and that appearance does not, should not, matter. this discordance needs to be rectified. an interesting question indeed.