So far, I've got a remarkably good track record of getting along with everyone at the dance studio. As with any communal effort, the place attracts modern hippies like moths to a patchouli-scented candle flame, but even the ones who seem to have no radio contact with Earth make it a point to be very, very nice, and genuinely seem to enjoy meeting those of us who are more technical. There are loads of people who think that yoga is a cure-all for anything that ails you, but they're happy to recommend it  in addition to whatever else you're doing, rather than instead of.

There is just one lady whose name I really must learn so I can avoid taking any more desk shifts with her. Speaking to her is exhausting. She doesn't like TV. She doesn't like modern music. She thinks video games are 'part of the problem' -- what problem this is, she didn't specify, apparently thinking it was self-evident. The internet is foreign to her, and all my portable widgets are looked at with disdain. She didn't like the climate of corruption when she lived in Africa, but she doesn't like the climate period in Boston. She thinks Cambridge is hyper-competitive. She needs to learn French for a job she wants; she hates it. She is not impressed with people who dance (or do anything else) as entertainers, rather than for personal reasons.

I try to find something in common with everyone there, at least to the point where I can say, "Oh, I've heard of that! Can you tell me more about it?" but I have yet to find anything this lady likes. At all. There's a Haitian girl who is so punctilious and humorless about the desk job that the best description I could think of to give to someone who hadn't met her was, "I think [L'Haïtienne] sharpens mechanical pencils," and she is a joy to get along with in comparison.  We have a ballerina who I'm pretty sure is either a raging anorexic or exercise-bulimic; she's a little daffy and a lot obsessive, but even she is friendly and encouraging, and has enough social acumen to know when it's best to make banal complaints about the rain.

I also cannot for the life of me tell if the Lady Who Hates Everything dislikes me personally, or is just uncomfortable with people who refuse to fight with her over it. Every time she starts a conversation, I try to switch gears, to find something, anything, in common with her, but whenever I mention a new thing, she gets even more sour. I think she thinks she's in some sort of dire contest with the world -- of which I am a representative part -- and she feels like she's losing. Her questions about school suggest that she also thinks I'm like 23, which almost certainly doesn't help. Not that being 31 and looking 23 would be much better, from her perspective.

It seems to bug her that I don't particularly need or want her life advice. She seems quite fixed on a position as an official mentor somewhere. She keeps asking me questions like, "Where do you want to be in five years?" and getting really frustrated when my answer is that I don't really care all that much, as long as I get to think things and then write about them. I think it does not occur to her that for someone who finds 90% of academics easy to grasp, with mild to moderate effort, not choosing to focus irrevocably on one topic is not the same as "wasting your potential". Nor does it occur to her that someone might have so much "potential" (as measured in standard guidance-counselor units) that it's coming out of their goddamn ears that one standard human lifetime is insufficient to meet it all, and that not doing so is not a personal insult to everyone else on the planet.

She's not a very happy person, and not very happy with the modern world, and I think it bothers her rather a lot that I am perfectly content with my internets and gadgets and official doctor-approved drugs and not really having a laser-focused sort of ambition. I don't know why she takes it so personally, but I refuse to play "[Blank]ier Than Thou" games, so she's probably going to continue to do so.

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  1. My best guess is based on the suspicion that she has some things in common with me. When you see the world in a terrible state, and you want to save it, but you can't change any significant amount personally, that does leave you in a contest with the world, and losing. When you try to recruit other people to your save-the-world team, that leaves you disappointed and bitter. You do tend to take it personally (because it undercuts your personal goals and because it suggests once again that nobody else thinks your judgement is worth anything) when people refuse your mentoring and your good advice.

    I can't, unfortunately, recommend any conversational tactics. I've just been in places that border on that kind of mindspace.

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    1. I don't necessarily think she'd be a bad mentor -- assuming she actually loves it and would be a less bitter conversational partner with a youngster who actually wanted guidance -- it's just that I'm a grownup now and I don't actually need her life advice, particularly since all of it involves scowling at what I do both for a living and for fun. I haven't even let her get to the point where she tries to recruit me, on the theory that it would probably be an even less fun conversation than normal. She just keeps complaining and asking the job interview questions and I keep giving her answers that don't really give her any opening for an argument.

      I do suspect she's very unhappy, and I feel sorry for that, but it doesn't mean I have to jump in the hole to join her.

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