“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” – Issac Asimov
I went on a date Wednesday night. I didn’t know much about the guy. I knew that he lived in Brooklyn and worked in the field of painting and construction. For some reason I didn’t ask where he was from, I thought I knew. I just assumed he was European. Probably from Poland or Ukraine. Yes, I should know better than to just assume things. 🙁
The day before meeting him I told my sister that I thought it wouldn’t work out but that I was keeping an open mind. When she asked why, I answered that it was because of his broken English. My sister walked away, clearly unhappy about something. I think partly offended and partly shocked at that statement, again I am assuming.
I was not happy that she just walked away without asking me to clarify my statement. I was left to wonder to myself: What is really understood by “broken English”? Is it rude to say that somebody has broken English? Am I being hypocritical? Am I being insensitive?
My sister and I started learning English around 18 years old. I learned by immersing in life when I moved here. My sister learned by attending all kinds of classes while in Brazil. She is a languages teacher, she now teaches English and Portuguese. While her grammar is better than mine and she is able to translate the works of Shakespeare and such, I noticed that she lacks the confidence that comes with speaking it daily as I do. I have been living in NY for over 30 years and she just arrived.
I didn’t use “broken English” as criticism, a put down or an insult. I just meant that it would be difficult for us to communicate. I meant that his language skills needed a lot work and probably communication in person was going to be even more difficult than in writing.
My assumption was made based on his writing and based on an experience I had before. I once had a date with a man from Argentina and even though he was really nice and in emails there were no issues, in person it was a nightmare. We tried a combination of English, Spanish and Portuguese and we still could barely understand each other. He had been here already for over 10 years so I had to assume that his English was not getting any better. I always wonder if there had been any chemistry the language barrier would have been less noticeable.
I took this opportunity to approach my sister and discuss the need for more communication. Her modus operandi of walking away and brooding is not the best course of action on most situations. We are living together now and we are both fiercely independent so co-existing is already difficult, can you imagine if there is no clear communication?
She explained that she was offended since her English is not perfect. I am not sure how she took that leap but I just chose to respect her feelings. “Broken” implies that something needs to get fixed. I can see the negativity in it. She also agreed to speak up any time she has an issue with anything. Baby steps…
Lessons learned this time around:
- Be careful when using idioms and other phrases. I need to get back to studying and improving my vocabulary. I need to make sure that I know the exact meaning of words and phrases. It is easy to hear a word or phrase in a certain context and take that as gospel.
- Never assume you know something for a fact when you just suspect it is so. I keep having to learn this one lesson over and over and over again. Note to self: Never assume, always ask!
- Be more sensitive when speaking to my sister and others. She is new here. I need to watch the words I use and my tone of voice. My boss just told me I should stop yelling as I was discussing something with him. I was not yelling but I was frustrated and probably louder than usual. If he was your boss you would be frustrated too!! Still, “calm and collected” is not often used to describe me.
“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” – Abraham H. Maslow
Here is the kicker: My date was a Brooklyn born American man!! Not from Europe or any other foreign place else at all. I was totally wrong in my assumptions.
I am not sure why the horrendous grammar. Perhaps he was just being hurried and careless.
He was a nice person and there were no issues in communicating in person. We had dinner at a Chinese Restaurant and the meal was good. We were not a match though. He was guilty of what I am normally guilty of. In the first 5 minutes he told me his entire life story.
He is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. He gave up cigarettes 2 weeks ago. His credit is in shambles. He is trying to payoff student loans and credit cards. His cars is very old and it overheats. His childhood was dysfunctional and abusive, etc, etc While I appreciate the openness, it was all a bit too much to learn in one sitting especially since he had given no inclination of any of that in the emails. I guess he had the need to come clean right away.
I applaud him for trying to get his life on track. He seems to be working very hard to get it done. He enjoyed the date, commenting that I was not judgmental and he felt very comfortable with me. He was right I try to pass no judgement on anyone. We are all trying to fight some kind of battle.
He said he is okay with just being friends and wants to take me to see Beautiful, the Carole King musical next week. I love Broadway shows and I haven’t seen that one yet but I think I should decline. I know he says he is okay with friendship, but he wants more, so I would feel I am taking advantage of him. Still I would like to be his friend but don’t want him thinking it will lead to something more. It is a very fine unclear line to walk.
Thank you for reading!
Make this weekend count! May it be a blessed one!
“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” – Henry Ward Beecher