Thursday, October 13, 2005

The un-relationship.

I’m a master of the un-relationship. It’s really quite easy.

1) Put (or find) yourself in any situation with a person or persons with whom you are likely to cross paths again.

2) Don’t interact with them.

3) Next time you see them, continue to not interact.

Before you know it, you will have a non-verbalized but mutually agreed-upon social contract with this individual. He or she will not make eye-contact, will not speak to you, and will generally make a point of not acknowledging your presence at all, even when failing to notice you is inconvenient or even downright impossible. This is the un-relationship.

The un-relationship is clearly differentiated from simply not knowing a person. When you don’t know someone, introducing yourself is a relatively natural and honest thing to do. But once established in the un-relationship, there’s no pretending that this other individual is somehow new to you. They are not new. You know them. They are the person with whom you don’t speak.

There are many physical cues that disclose the un-relationship. Angling the shoulders and body toward anybody else in the room is a typical sign. Finding a distracting object, such as an empty glass, or a bit of lint, is also common. Leaving the room entirely is not unusual.

The un-relationship is most visible when you and your un-counterpart share mutual friends. On social occasions with these groups, you will find that you are conspicuously omitted from introductions, conversations, and the like. If absolutely forced to interact, it will be perfunctory, rarely exceeding a blatantly required “excuse me” or “thank you.”

Although less common, it’s quite possible to form an un-relationship with someone you have actually known. The process is the same… simply fail to interact with them anymore when you happen upon them. I’ve done this with clients, classmates, friends, even extended family members. I get the distinct impression from many of them that they regret having ever known me at all.


Blogger Mary Ann said...

These kinds of relationships are very common in German neighborhoods. After seeing the same people walking thier dogs, buying a paper or a loaf of bread, etc. for a year, I was granted a slight nod. It was an acknowledgement that, yes, I lived there too.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

This is awesome! ...If you ever do this to me, I will kill you!

But really, who do you do this to and why?? There's got to be a good story in there as to the why.

10:44 PM  
Blogger d.g. said...

It's a shy-persons' disease, Jen — the inevitable result of having nothing to say one too many times. But see, admitting that it's actually unintentional would suck all of the humor and irony out of the original post. You wouldn't make me do that, would you?

7:49 AM  

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