Whatever community you find yourself in, there’s always politics. And I don’t mean Politics, I mean politics. It’s present in social media, in the family, in the schoolyard. Eventually, you realize the politics have become so familiar that you hardly have to navigate; you just have to remember the rules. This person doesn’t get along with that person, so don’t invite them over for coffee at the same time. That writer was wronged by that group blog, so maybe don’t send them a link from that particular site. Their friendship went down in a blaze of glory so maybe think twice before trusting either side’s version. There’s always politics.
Happily, I usually find myself in a unique position – just out of the loop enough not to know (and therefore, not to care) about other people’s personal politics, and just clueless enough to be able to be friends with everybody. There are very, very few people in my life – online or off – that I have a personal beef with. Yes, I like to hear the odd bit of gossip, but I prefer to meet people in a bubble. Nevertheless, one eventually learns of all the seedy threads that tentatively bind the people you interact with to one another, and it would be foolish to tread heavily on some of those threads.
So now I find myself in a new town, with only a very small network of friends. The web of community is unknown and vast (relatively speaking) and I find myself on the outer threads, trying to figure out where the gossamer lines of silk intersect, and whether those intersections lead to safety or scandal.
In other words, as I meet people, I am blissfully unaware of who they like, who they hate, who likes them, who hates them and/or the myriad of other ways they may or may not already be connected to people I have or will meet. I have been blissfully unaware of the politics in this town.
But all that is changing.
The ties that bind people together – as well as the rifts that keep them apart – are starting to show. I’m meeting somebody in the schoolyard, then realizing that I already know her brother/uncle/cousin/butcher. Connecting these dots has made me feel more enmeshed in my community, more like I am tethered to an actual planet and not just floating in the cosmos.
But as I try to become more involved in my community, I am discovering quickly that not all of the dots connect to make a clearer picture. Sometimes the connections overlap in an unpleasant and unwelcome way. I don’t want to know that the storeowner I had a wonderfully friendly conversation with and looked forward to chatting with again, had wronged my husband’s cousin in a bid for curling club president 15 years ago. I don’t want to know that the mutual friend I was introduced to through one of my (very few) real friendships here has a beef with one of my only other real friends here. I don’t want the warnings that the people I am meeting will keep me on the outside, longer.
So many things we do as adults are compared to being in high school, a time so traumatic, so self-emolliating, so fraught with social anxiety, that 20 years later it is still our compass point for any uncomfortable social dynamic. This is totally like high school, I could say of the politics. Except – I didn’t find high school all that terrible. I was friends with people from all groups, yet belonged to not one specifically. I was a bit of a Nomad, hanging out after school hours with kids that didn’t go to my high school (or any high school, but that’s a different story), and caring not enough to get caught up in anybody’s
I guess I’m going to have to treat this community the same way. I’m going to have to make my own new friends in a bubble. I am going to look all around me to figure out where it is that I am, but I’m not going to peer so hard that I see the things I heard others whispering of. I am going to just have to be strong enough not to take other people’s opinions of whomever I socialize with, to heart. And hopefully, I won’t always feel like I am walking the perimeter of this community, kept out of the part of the web that is more tightly woven, safer, as I am left adrift by my otherness and my refusal to be swayed by the politics.