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The ‘Other’

BY NATASHA JOSEFOWITZ

There is an expression I coined because I couldn’t think of a word to express it better. It means “somewhat different.” The expression is “other.” The closest opposite of “other” is familiar.

I have friends I bond with quickly. They are predictable; I can guess at their values, the way they see the world, and their upbringing. When we talk, we each know what the other person means. Then there are people who are “almost.” There is something about them that I can’t quite fathom. They can be good friends but not intimate friends. We can talk openly but there is an invisible barrier to real understanding.

There is a third category of people who fall more into “other.” People I’m not too comfortable with for no reason that I can figure out.

Somehow they make me feel uneasy. I’m aware of it because I’m aware of trying hard to connect. Rather than the relationship occurring spontaneously, I’m working at it. I try to be funny or clever or want to impress them in some way. Of course, the more you try, the less it works. Obviously, these people won’t become “friends.”

The best kind of friends are the ones you can be yourself with and not be judged.

One’s children or grandchildren can also be the “other.”

This is the child with whom parents have problems. The parent can’t understand why they do what they do or say the strange things they say. It is common for adolescents to become “other” within their own families. That is because it is a natural development of differentiating yourself from family in order to gain your own identity. During that process, often called “neither fish nor fowl,” the youngster has left the family emotionally but has as yet not found his or her own person. And so during that period, everything is up for grabs-which may mean drugs, alcohol, driving too fast, body piercing, spiked hair dyed green, tattoos, or promiscuity. The family sees the child as “other” and has difficulty understanding and communicating. Seeing that the teenager does not understand him or herself either and also feels alienated, this disconnect is not surprising .

Some children are “other” from birth, never quite fitting into their families. They are usually aware of it and suffer without really knowing what is amiss.

I have friends with very dissimilar backgrounds yet we can be close. I also have friends with whom it would seem there would be everything in common, yet they are “other.”

In trying to put my finger on what that “other” feeling really stems from, I can only come up with some intangible connection as if our energies interact either positively or negatively with each other.

“Friends at first sight” exists as truly as “love at first sight.” One short exchange and we both know this could work. I believe our unconscious picks up signals revealing the other person in ways of which the person is not even aware. This is usually reciprocal.

We are sending signals all the time with our eyes, our bodies, our voices, our mannerisms, the way we walk, talk, listen, smile, wear our clothes, smell, and touch. If most of these fit, seem familiar or pleasing, we feel comfortable. When there is no fit, then we have the feeling that this person is too different.

In other words, there may be nothing wrong with either person. Although each can fit in well with a host of other people, somehow between certain individuals the signals are either not sent clearly enough or not received the way they were intended. The result is this slight feeling of discomfort, or indefinable lack of ease. These feelings often persist, yet I have found that it is possible, within a continued relationship, to overcome these feelings and become true friends. It is well worth making the effort and being persistent.