Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Center of the Venn Diagram

It's true. Women, in particular, wear numerous hats of every shape, size, style, and quality.  We wear them at different times, in different contexts and sometimes we even wear more than one hat at once!  I often feel that I am wearing a couple of hats daily, with three more tucked away in my bag, a couple more in my purse, and then there are those way up on that dusty shelf.  The hat concept is alive and well in my mind, and in my wardrobe.

I was thinking today, as I sat in a technology seminar of all places, that my hat collection---at least the "core" collection is like a Venn diagram.  My identity is composed of being a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend, a sister, as well as numerous other roles.  On a day-to-day basis, though, and over the past few years, I find that the key descriptions associated with me are "working mom" or "teacher", "Mom", "Mormon", and "living in China".   The Venn diagram aspect applies because these overlapping circles just barely overlap, meaning that my identity does not completely fit in any one of them. 

For example, I am a Mormon Mom. There's a whole world of culture that goes along with this phrase and for the most part, these other Mormom Moms are "my people". We get each other.  I am at home with them.  However, among those I know, only a small percentage of Mormon women work outside the home.  My good friends don't judge me, I don't think, for working outside the home but there may be some who don't understand it.  I have felt some judgement from some Mormon women---maybe it's more curiosity than judgment but it hasn't felt good, at any rate.  This makes me not quite a 100% fit.

So, let's go to that "teacher" or "Working Mom" category.  These women get what it's like to balance more things, try to be in more than one world, and the unique pressures that coincide with being a working Mom. These women get me. But, when it comes to the reasons we work or the belief systems about Mothers being divine instruments doing God's work by raising children, I'm sure I would lose a few of these women.  They wouldn't quite understand me.  Therefore, I'm not quite a 100% fit with working women either.

I'm an "expat" or American, so being abroad we bond with one another.  We love our Western food and our movies and music.  We can bond over cultural traditions and shared histories.  However, once the conversation among my expat friends turns to "And I don't get why the Chinese do this or that...", my stomach bunches up in knots and they have lost me.  I don't quite fit here because my husband is Chinese and we are a blended culture family.  While I understand American culture, I also understand Chinese culture and I get uncomfortable when foreigners start with their venting. Therefore, I'm not quite a 100% fit here either.

So, shouldn't I be totally at home with our Chinese friends?  Well, yes, for the most part I am.  But then there are times when I miss the cultural norms most familiar to me or I just want cake for dessert instead of fruit.  There are times when I want to be more direct and not beat-around-the-bush and I long for those frank Americans who simply say what's on their mind. So, the 100% fit isn't happening here, either. 

The categories go on and on, and I won't go into all the details during this first post.  Suffice it to stay, though, there is definitely a "topic" here.  If any of this applies to you, please share.  Sometimes we find our best friends and confidants in the margins...or without any hat at all, in that small center of the Venn diagram.

We had such a fantastic time on our recent trip to Utah.  Our kids have grown up in sub-tropical Guangzhou, so the concept of autumn w...