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July 2, 2013

The Other “C” Word. ~ Kimberly Lo

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine shared with me that I had a reputation amongst some acquaintances as being a bit of a cold fish.

My initial reaction was amusement: I was impressed that I was even a topic of conversation given that I lead a relatively boring life. (Basically, when I am not with my daughter, I can be found teaching or practicing yoga or knitting—hardly the sort of things that draw attention.)

However, the comment took me aback, and I actually felt a bit hurt by this revelation.

Why was I perceived as cold?

Granted, by my own description, I am hardly the life of the party—but I am not cold either. If I had to describe myself, I would say that overall I am a calm, fair person. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt unless they do something to betray that, and I often go out of my way to put people at ease, especially when they first meet me.

However, it is true—compared to many people I know, I keep my distance.

It’s not intentional. Like most people, I am a product of my genes and environment. As a psychology major, I learned that there is a lot of evidence to support that the majority of an individual’s temperament appears to be genetic.

Some people are naturally shy and introverted, and I fall into that category.

When I was a kid, I remember hiding behind my mother when strangers said hello to me in the grocery store. One of the first conversations I remember of my mother’s with someone other than me or my father was about me and her saying, “Oh, she’s so shy. I don’t know what she’s going to do once she starts school.”

Furthermore, as an only child who was raised in a rural area and in part by a grandmother who felt that the only times a person should ever appear in the news is when they are born, married and die, I was not raised to think that I should seek out attention. I was raised to believe that it was impolite to talk about oneself for a protracted period of time without being asked.

As I grew older, I learned that this was not the norm for many people. I used to be oddly fascinated by people I met, who, after being asked how they were, would diverge their entire life stories on the spot and include very intimate details such as divorce, past abuse, etc.

One memorable incident occurred when I was in college and my new roommate proceeded to share within five minutes of meeting me that her parents were nudists who “hump[ed] like rabbits”. Maybe it was longer than five minutes, but I swear that it was within the first hour of meeting her.

As someone who, as a writer, has shared some intimate details of her life, I am hardly arguing against sharing one’s personal life—but, I do have my limits especially when it comes to meeting people face-to-face for the first time.

I’ve noticed that I am not alone either.

I lived in the UK for two years to attend graduate school, and my overall impression was that compared to Americans, British people tend to be more reserved. Note that by “reserved” I am not implying stand-offish or cold—but it is much more rare to meet a British person (or a Chinese or Japanese person, in my experience) that will “tell all” when you first meet them.

Still, the label of “ice queen” prevails.

Famous examples past and present include actress/icon Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Onassis and Nicole Kidman. One thing I noticed in all of the interviews or biographies that I have ever read of these women say that they tended to be shy. Also, in the interviews I have seen of Kidman, she actually comes across as warm and strikes me as having a good sense of humor.

(That’s another myth: Introverts lack a sense of humor. Not true—I actually have a wicked sense of humor, which my close friends and family are very well-aware of. I probably just will not show it the first time we meet.)

Therefore, I would argue that being a bit aloof (or “mysterious” if you wish to make it sound a bit more positive) does have it rewards. Think of the aforementioned Jackie O; would she have been nearly so fascinating if she had a reality show and shared every detail of her life with the media?

I think not.

I am not delusional enough to think that I am anything like the late Jackie O.—but I can relate to comments she made where she implied she wanted her aspects of her personal life to remain private. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing compared to the reality shows and tell-all memoirs that we have today.

In any event, if you happen to meet or anyone who doesn’t automatically share all the details of their live with you, it does not mean that we are cold or unfriendly.

Give us a chance.

Get to know us…and we’ll open up, eventually.

 

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor based in Charlottesville, VA. When she is not on the mat, she can be found at her other job which is teaching children how to do needlework. In her spare time she enjoys photography.

 

 

 

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

 

{Photo: via Pinterest}

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