Saturday, December 20, 2014

in the spotlight: a reluctant wallflower

I have always kind of been a wallflower. I know that may make some people who know me really well laugh out loud, but it's actually the absolute truth.

I am shy and awkward around people I don't know, and I don't like a lot of attention.

This is one aspect of expat life that I still struggle with daily.  In Taiwan, I stick out like a sore thumb. I get so much attention, and I have no idea how to deal with it or get over the massive amounts of discomfort I experience because of it.

Just the other day, we were eating dinner at one of my favorite restaurants ever: Din Tai Fung. The tables are close together to maximize room (because, let's face it, I think DTF is a lot of people's favorite restaurant ever), and the two women sitting beside us would not stop staring at me. They were completely without shame either. I made pretty serious eye contact with them at least twice, but they were not deterred. In fact, they didn't even look away and pretend they weren't looking at me when I glared at them. They proceeded to stare and talk about us as we ate for nearly the entire time. 

I have to tell you, I am weird about some things, and this is one of those things, but please show me a person who would like to be stared at and talked about while trying to eat slippery dumplings and fried rice with chopsticks when chopsticks are not his or her utensil of choice for such a complex dining experience??

Their blatant lack of respect for my desire to eat with some semblance of privacy made me so angry and in some ways humiliated because I don't have it in me not to wonder what they are saying/laughing about. It was the only time I have ever been to DTF and did not enjoy it.

Maybe I am overly sensitive, but that is not something I can change. I have never really been comfortable in the spotlight. I like being a wallflower. In my experience, wallflowers are not stared at and discussed in great and enthusiastic detail while trying to eat dinner. 

Everyday, something similar happens to me.
I am learning that it's not always entirely bad, though.

The other night, I was out running. For those of you who don't know, I got a wild hair this fall and decided that I would become more serious about running (meaning, I can now run three whole miles. Impressive, I know). I went out one night this week to challenge myself to run my fastest mile yet.
And I did. For a short, chubby girl, I totally kicked butt, but I noticed that every time I would lap this old couple, they would turn their heads and watch me come and go.

They did not do this for any of the other (numerous) runners on the track, only for me. Running is another one of those times I do not like being in the spotlight, which is precisely the reason why I choose to go at nighttime.  When I finally crossed the finish line, I had to walk two laps huffing and puffing. I was emitting a terrible choking/wheezing sound, and I am sure I looked a complete mess.
I mean, I did just run my guts out, but when the elderly couple caught up to me, they gave me a little round of applause. 

And, I have to admit, that was nice.


  1. It is nice to read both a struggle and a positive account. Regarding the two women staring at you while eating - would you ever consider making a funny face at them? I've done that before. If that doesn't work or you are uncomfortable with that you could try saying in Chinese "Have you never seen a foreigner before" (Ni mei juan guo wai guo ren?) It is really not as rude as it sounds and I find that it is usually effective.

    1. I did not think about that-- next time I will. I know it's not really worth getting worked up about but sometimes these things really, really get to me.