Anonymously yours

Toward the end of my 14-year stint, living and working in Small Town, USA I experienced lots of "Norm-from-Cheers" moments. It didn't matter where I went -- not only to my favorite hangouts, but also other places such as the grocery store, nail salon, bank, and even dentist office-- it felt like everyone knew my name and, in some cases, rank, number, and personal history as well. There were occasions, like during my divorce when it seemed my dental hygienist knew as much about the circumstances as I did, when being a familiar fixture felt more claustrophobic than it did cozy. But most of the time, I viewed those moments and feelings of familiarity as my reward for making efforts to be part of a greater community, an achievement that was only experienced after years of living and working in one place.

So when I moved away from it all, and lived for a time as a stranger in new and faraway land, I worried whether my newfound anonymity would feel bothersome and even lonely.

It didn't.

I discovered, with great surprise, that being unknown in a community, not only had its upsides (like not feeling obligated to get that biweekly manicure and pedicure to keep up an image), it was also downright empowering.

Without a known, personal, history to weigh me down, I could reinvent myself and be whoever I wanted to be. Not that I would intentionally deceive for nefarious reasons, but if I wanted to pretend to be interested in soccer to help secure a party invite, for example, there wasn't anyone around to point out I had never watched an entire game prior to moving to Europe. Or, when I found myself in the company of the chemists who worked with my husband, I could pretend that I understood a little something about their projects because no one knew that I had failed my high school chemistry course (along with ytping).

Without coworkers, friends, or family, I also didn't have any obligations. In fact, for the longest time, I didn't have to clutter my brain by memorizing a single digit in a phone number. I never had to attend a tupperware party or play a game at a baby shower because I didn't get any invites. In fact, I almost forgot I had a mailbox, so I never checked it. Yes, I experienced complete and total liberation.

Well, that's what I kept telling myself.

However, now that I've passed the one year mark of living and socializing in Barcelona, my anonymity is fading away. These days, I try not to walk Charlie down the street without wearing make-up or, at the very least, really big sunglasses because I will inevitably run into someone I know. In fact, I have met so many nice people that I am chained to an appointment calendar to keep up with all my engagements. What a chore, right?

And then there are those Norm-from-Cheers moments, which now come more frequently as work to integrate in my new home. Unfortunately, language barriers have prevented me from getting to know my new dental hygienist all that well. But I know, with just a little more work, it's only a matter of time.


Me said...

Great observation. I like.

Chica said...

Oh hey, you're back!! :)

I visited Barcelona a few months ago; I loved it! Looking forward to catching up on the life you are building there. It sounds as if Barcelona suits you!