How similar do people have to be to get along? How different can they be?
He is a loner, doesn’t like too much attention and prefers minimalism. I’m the original social butterfly, I thrive on company and drama is my style.
On the surface, our interests seem to match. But scratch that and we uncover big differences. He likes literature, thinks Shakespeare had the groove and enjoys Charles Dickens. I’ve never actually read any Bard originals (yes, kill me) and I couldn’t decide if Oliver Twist or David Copperfield was the most depressing thing I’d ever read (then I read Thomas Hardy who won hands-down). I love pop culture, the flash and dazzle, the kitsch and even the fleeting impressions it barely leaves on our psyche. He has a mild disdain for anything not deep or meaningful.
I read him a bit of my novel. He listened carefully, offered his thoughts and then admitted quite truthfully that it wasn’t his thing. That stung but only in the way that it stings that my best friend doesn’t read my blog or that my dad is never very impressed by anything I do. It’s a sting at best but it doesn’t really hurt. Not really.
To my great surprise, he doesn’t feel very passionately about writing and literature even though I know that he can write (well) and does appreciate the fineness of literature. It seemed quite inconceivable to me that someone who knew this world could fail to be deeply moved by it.
But then we got to music and it started to make sense. I’ve been singing since I was 4, had classical training and guitar lessons and even performed on stage. But it has never been anything more than a pleasant hobby, one I really can do with or without. It doesn’t even rank as highly as art on my list. He, on the other hand, is deeply devoted, nearly fanatical about music. Hip-hop to be precise, a genre that I never understood or (in all fairness) paid much attention to. But it surrounds him where he goes, on his phone and his computer, plugged into his ears whenever he’s waiting for me and in most of his conversational references.
I watched him perform earlier this week, freestyle rapping at a musical Open Mic. Even if this genre is new to me, I can appreciate the gift of spontaneous performance, the ability to hold the audience in the palm of one’s hand. He’s good, very good and that’s something even I can tell. I was terribly proud of him, thrilled at the applause that followed his act and struck by that slightly lovesick thought of,
That’s who I’m with? How did I ever get so lucky?!
He finished, bowed and turned around. A number of people rushed up to him to speak and suddenly, right there, was my Mr.Everyday, shy all at once and unsure about how to handle the bright spotlight. He’s a performer all right but off-stage, he’s just a regular, sweet guy with no fancy airs about him. It was both a sobering and a sweet insight.
He slid into the booth beside me, clearly thankful as the crowd’s attention shifted to the next performer. Then he talked about his performance for a bit and I listened. And we watched the other musicians. Towards the end of the night, he leaned over and said,
“I just realised that you like me, the person much more than you like me, the performer. I like that.”
I found a great guy, I did. Someone who sees both himself and me, beyond our professions and talents and makes it possible for this relationship to be between two real people instead of a competition.
To come back to my original thought, I guess I now understand what people mean when they say they are grateful for their differences. His non-starry-eyedness about my dreams and talents gives me perspective and keeps me grounded and (hopefully) I do the same for him. We have different worlds that we each rule but we walk alone in them. And when we meet, we form something together, that belongs to both of us equally. I never realized sharing could be so much fun.