I’m not a big fan of horror movies or TV shows. After all, since I can be scared just at the thought of walking out my own front door, zombies, vampires and other horror creatures aren’t things I get too excited about.
However, in an effort to keep boredom at bay, and expand my television viewing horizons, I recently tried out the AMC show The Walking Dead. I’ve made it through the first two seasons and suddenly found myself incorporating this show into my personal lexicon.
The strange thing is, I don’t plan on continuing to watch the show. I continued past the first season out of writer’s curiosity, not because I had any connection to the show or its characters. Don’t get me wrong, the show is good. It’s just not for me. And I only do writer’s curiosity so long (What’s writer’s curiosity? In my case, it means being curious about a technical aspect of a story/show/movie. In the case of The Walking Dead, I was curious about plot and character treatment. Had I fallen in love with a character, or its central premise, I may have stuck it out longer. In this particular case, I didn’t fall in love. I had a different reaction to other shows I’ve watched recently for curiosity’s sake, but that’s a subject for another post).
That said, I bet you’re wondering what I mean by the phrase “incorporating this show into my personal lexicon.” Generically, I use that phrase (or variants of it) to mean that something about it will be imprinted into my long-term memory and used again to describe something about me. In this case, it’s an image. Every few episodes, it seems, there’s a zombie chase involving a building or vehicle. Inevitably, despite how slowly zombies move, there’s a scene where a human character has to slam a door/window closed just in time to avoid being eaten. Often, there’s an image of arms/fingers/faces being slammed in the aforementioned door/window. Like this image from season two:
It’s this image that I’m incorporating into my personal lexicon. It perfectly encapsulates how I feel about social interactions (no, I don’t think people are really zombies in disguise about to eat me).
You see, there’s a theory about social interaction in either psychology or sociology (or some other –ology that I can’t think of) that says something along the lines that all human interaction is about getting something from someone else, consciously or not. What do I mean?
- You’re engaging in small talk in the grocery store aisle. You may think you’re doing it because you’re a friendly person. And you may be, but you’re also trying to keep boredom at bay.
- A fellow co-worker asks you about your weekend. They may be genuinely interested, but they may also be building rapport with you for some future need.
- Your friend asks you out for coffee. Yes they’re your friend and their only conscious thought is that they want to spend some time with you. But, if the theory is correct, there’s something else they want. Maybe they want to talk about their latest fight with their boyfriend (they want advice or confirmation they did the right thing), or they want to boast about their new shoes (ego boost!), or they wanna hit you up sometime in the future for help moving so they’ve gotta butter you up now (unconscious manipulation, emphasis on unconscious).
My problem with this theory is that I often can’t stop thinking that any social interaction is not really about me, it’s about what the other person needs, whether they consciously know it or not. And, inevitably, or so my brain tells me, they will ask for something I’m not going to be able to give them. Then they won’t like me anymore. And I’ll be alone.
To bring us back to that image from The Walking Dead, the zombies represent those things that other people want from me. So I’ve gotta quickly slam the door against those zombies or they’ll eat me alive.
Is it inevitable that I’ll be eaten alive? Logically, I know that it’s not. Whatever it is that people want/need, I can probably give it to them. Especially since most of the time the only thing people want from me is to help keep boredom at bay (and I don’t think most people are manipulative users, we’re talking the unconscious here). But all the experiences I had growing up—the poverty, the bad parenting, the abuse, etc—have taught the illogical part of myself that I won’t be able to give people they want, so I’ve got to avoid even the smallest of requests. After all, I’m a weak, crappy person who can’t do the smallest of things.
So I keep slamming the doors against the rest of the world. And I’m alone anyway.