In our own skins

Peggy Lee’s “Fever”

Countries we find exotic are usually much different than a country(ies) of our origin(s) be it in culture, fashion, furniture, way of living. When we travel to such country, sometimes (if not always), we want to experience how it feels like to be the authentic citizen of that country. We end up trying food we wouldn’t eat at home, buying souvenirs we wouldn’t buy at home, doing things we wouldn’t do at home, not because we can’t find any of those at home but because when we are at home, we adapt our pace of life to living there. We don’t mind being called and treated like tourists in a foreign country because that is exactly what we are there.

None of us considers him or herself a tourist in our own countries. Yet, this is exactly what we are and this is exactly what featured image is illustrating. Ignore the suitcase and focus high heels. Notice something strange?

Left shoe is 1 or 1.5 cm narrower than the foot itself. So is the right shoe. We all did this at least once – bought something we don’t truly fit in. Why would we do this to ourselves? One obvious reason is that we liked it and we just had to have it. We liked it because, let’s face it, it looks great on us. It is after a few hours of walking in those shoes that we realized that its only advantage is the way we look in it. We all want to look good to ourselves and we rarely fulfill this want. That is because we are our own worst, often misguided and completely idiotic, critics. By trying to fit better into our surroundings, we become tourists in our own skins. “Fit better” is a very broad term and it can mean anything from “be prettier”, “be smarter”, “be funnier” to “be more reliable”, “be more self confident”, “be more supportive” and “be less of a jerk”, or anything else we disliked about ourselves at some point of our lives.

Up to a certain point we really can work on ourselves to become the best versions of us. The process is called self-actualization. Still, there are certain things we cannot change, like turning our normal sized feet into some narrow sized designer’s version of feet or becoming fit overnight. Each time we pass by strangers that are on their way to work, thinking about their own plans and problems, and strain our tummy muscles so our tummy looks slimmer, we are actually behaving like a tourist trying to adapt to our vision of how people around us should look like.

How many times have you heard “Hi! How are you?” by people you barely know? In Croatia, it is a very common question. This is how the complete conversation should look like:

“Hi! How are you?”
“Hi! I am fine, how are you?”
“I am good too.”

This is where conversation usually ends. It is because neither of us really stopped doing whatever we were doing before we ran into each other. On rare occasions, we might exchange one “I am glad, see you!” just to make sure the other person knows we are in a hurry.

As far as these conversations go, I only partially stopped behaving like a tourist in my own country. I am aware the other person doesn’t truly want to know how I am feeling so yes, I give the expected answer. Little rebel inside me doesn’t ask the same question back, though. This is me beating the system. Of course, one might see it as just me being rude. In my own defense, I find fake inquiry “How are you?” more awkward than no inquiry at all. If you disagree, try answering how you truly feel next time a semi-stranger asks you that question and observe as objectively as you can further development of that situation.

I despise doing something just because it is expected of me so I try to be sure no matter what I do, it is because I really want to do it. Still, I have to admit that I do practice weather conversations with people that might find the silence too awkward. It isn’t bad to be a tourist in our own country or our own skin as long as we are aware of it and, if it is bad for us, working on changing it.

Prompt: Tourist

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