Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Poker Face

This afternoon my boss, InfoMan, asked what I'd thought of a presentation he'd given earlier today. "I don't know you well enough to read your face," he said.

"Few people do," I replied, but I'm not sure even that is true. It's more likely that no one does.

FoxyJ often laments the fact that she has a horrible poker face. If she's bored with what you're saying, you'll know. If she thinks you're the most fascinating person ever, you'll know. If she's upset with you because you've taken the time to blog but not to do the dishes and she's spent the day trying to write a thesis and cook dinner while caring for your screaming baby and your grumpy toddler, you'll know.

On the other hand, I tend to be unreadable. Even FoxyJ, who is arguably the person who knows me best, has a hard time reading my expressions. I snapped at her a few weeks ago for asking if I was upset when I wasn't, but obviously she's not the one to blame for the fact that thoughtful, bored, tired, and upset are all identical on me. The fact that it bothered me so much that she misread me is indicative of an internal conflict that is the story of my life: I desperately want people to understand me and share in what I'm feeling, but I'll be damned if I show you--let alone tell you--what that is. Making matters worse, I'm afraid my overreaction has (understandably) made Foxy hesitant to even ask how I'm doing.

Despite his proclaimed inability to read me, InfoMan did point out today that lately I've seemed a bit more stressed than usual. This is an understatement--the truth is I'm barely able to function these last few days--but were it not so I doubt my stress would be visible at all. I tend not to notice it myself (or acknowledge it, anyway) until it reaches some point of critical mass and suddenly life is a huge melodramatic mess. Melodrama, of course, being defined by my standards, meaning I'm allowing myself to feel anything.

InfoMan's presentation earlier today, as it turns out, had to do with interactions at the reference desk in the context of our 21st-century culture of isolation. Ultimately, InfoMan argues, any human interaction, whether it be in the library or at the grocery store, is more about connecting with people than it is about getting information or groceries or whatever. People need people, plain and simple. The primary job of anyone working in a public service position, then, is to first ensure that the customer/client/patron feels a satisfying human connection, then to do what we can about meeting their other needs.

InfoMan is good at practicting what he preaches, not only with library patrons, but with the student employees he supervises. This afternoon while we worked together for an hour at the information desk, we didn't talk about the details of what's causing me stress of late, mostly because to do so would have required me getting into a whole lot of backstory that I didn't want to in the two-minute breaks between patrons, but we did talk about how each of us deals with stress, how we do or don't build the human connections he'd been talking about, and other random things like cultural differences and overpopulation. It was no orgy of emotional bonding, but it was a nice moment in the midst of an otherwise long and difficult day.

Who knows? If not for my poker face, I might experience such nice moments more often.


Th. said...


Or you might get screwed over.

Beware humanity!


TK said...

So now, you know, you've left us all wondering just what it is that is stressing you out so, lately! Are you going to leave us hanging?

TK said...

I can identify w/something I thought I heard you say. There's been times that I've felt bad that I'm not understood, but then I sense this underlying feeling that if people know what I REALLY think and feel, they might criticize or take advantage of me. (Am I just saying what th. said, only in different words?) So maybe I'm unconsciously MAKING it hard for people to understand me . . . ?

TK said...

Okay, so I won't write anymore comments for a month. But I just have to ask: why do I always have to do the word verification at least twice on your blog, no matter how carefully I put in the letters?

Sir Jupiter said...

"It was no orgy of emotional bonding..."

Aww. I got all excited for nothing.

Melyngoch said...

I can read your poker face. It means "I hate you and everything you stand for."

Th. said...


This is a test this is only a test.

Th. said...


(the test was a failure)