Tuesday 5 September 2006

what a tale my thoughts could tell...

There's a girl at work who is a little bit like C.

Obviously she's inferior to the genuine article in every respect, but there's definitely something about her that reminds me of my own fiancée. Let's call her Liz (it is her name, so we may as well). I've worked with Liz for several years, on and off. Our paths don't cross every day, but her job is in an area that I do a lot of work for, so inevitably we do run into each other on a fairly regular basis. I wouldn't say we were friends, but we are on reasonably friendly terms. We don't go and have lunch together or anything, but I'll always smile and say hello to her if I see her.

Actually, it was C. who first pointed the similarity out to me. I hadn't spotted it. Previously I had just thought of Liz as being a bit too jolly-hockeysticks for my liking. I quite like her, but frankly I find her too bossy and a bit too shrill to want to know her any better than I already do. As soon as soon as C. mentioned it though, I could see the similarities. They do have quite a lot in common: C. went to university in Durham, Liz went to university at Oxford; they're both doing quite well at work (which is sadly quite unusual for women of their age where we work); they're both quite forthright (read that as bossy if you want, but I don't think C. is bossy). They've worked together before, and they actually play football for the same team on a Monday night (where Liz defers to C as the superior player, but really, really wants to be captain in a way that C. claims she doesn't).

It's funny really. They have a lot in common, really they do, but Liz is one of those people who simply can't read me at all. I'd noticed it in meetings: Liz would quite often get the wrong end of the stick when I was talking. I didn't think much of it, but I did notice that I would often have to explain the same things several times to her before she realised where I was coming from. Often she would initially be a bit sceptical of my approach, having completely misread what I was trying to do. I thought this was frustrating, but just had it down as one of those things; I thought that perhaps she was one of those people who I couldn't ever quite connect with.

Then I spoke to C. about it and was a touch taken aback when she said had noticed exactly the same thing. Apparently they had been talking about football one night, when C. mentioned that I would be playing football on the same night at the same set of pitches. Liz found this hilarious and asked if I would be refereeing or playing gingerly in my glasses. She seemed astonished when C. told her that I had been playing 5-a-side football for years, and that on top of that, I regularly went out running and that I (used to) compete in triathlons. This just did not square with her mental image of me - she really had me down as a that geeky guy in IT. A little later on, they were comparing degrees after C. had made some remark about how all of her family had specialised in humanities subjects, with not a single scientist to be seen for generations. Liz chortled, and made some remark about how funny it was that she had ended up with a scientist like me. C. was staggered by this, and duly informed her that I don't have a scientific bone in my body - which of course I don't. Liz was even more shocked when informed that I had a Masters degree in History. Guess which subject Liz studied at university? Yup. History.

I know that we probably all do this all of the time, but I find it fascinating that she can read me so badly. To be honest, although there's quite a lot of me that takes pleasure from the fact that she doesn't know as much about me as she thought, I have to admit that here's also a part of me that is a little bit put out. I know I shouldn't care, but there's part of me that wants to know why; that wants to understand what signals I've been giving off that have led her so far down the garden path.

She mistook me for a scientist? I've never been so insulted in all my life.

Still, as C. said.... I may look like the archetypal geek, and I might be spiky, grouchy and difficult to read, but I'm basically worth persevering with.

Bless her. Many would disagree, but bless her.


  1. I don't get misread that often although I have misread a few people in the past. I guess we all sometimes jump to conclusions and make assumptions based on the first facts presented to us. i.e You work with computers....you are a nerd.

  2. I work with a lot of people who are older and have very traditional views. Because I'm female and because don't tend to dress conventionally in a very conventional environment, I'm often dismissed as being the "little lady" and a bit of a "silly girl".

    I therefore find it very amusing when they realise I am in fact extremely competent and able to kick their asses...

  3. Be excited that you are mysterious enough that your not an open book to all, and don't worry about the scientist part, I'm sure she didn't mean it. It is kind of funny though.She sounds like she has similarities to C on the outside, but opposite on the inside. Good luck with her now that she knows the real you. BTY, what does jolly-hockeysticks mean

  4. oy! watch it ST - my other half's a scientist.

    *gets ready to fight*

  5. I'm a non-scientist geek, so really there's no denying we can exist. I don't know why geeks can't also be sporty?

    As for scientists...that's not a bad thing. I'm now dating an engineer - who's also very sporty - and very much a geek (had us singing MIT drinking songs for fun the other night!).

  6. You often find bossy people misread everyone else. They think they know best and instantly categorise everyone else and never think to question their own judgements.

    She sounds like a bit of a pain in the arse.

  7. My MIT-educated, fairly nerdy husband plays softball on a work league. One of my coworkers, who has met him and also endured countless hours of stories about him, mentioned to me the other day that he couldn't imagine Victor ever playing sports. When I told him that Victor used to play baseball, basketball, soccer, was a championship swimmer, and used to coach softball, he was flabbergasted. The funny thing is that he knew Victor was a huge sports fan... but he just couldn't make the connection that someone so tall/nerdy/whatever could play, too.