Monday, January 4, 2010

public and private relationships

The number one thing I struggle with as a Moishe House resident is distinguishing personal and public relationships, and knowing when I get to exercise which kind of relationship.
The most obvious place this comes up is Shabbat. At our house, we typically have 40-100 people over every other Friday night. This group usually includes some of my closest friends and another several people I love and don't get to see enough. However, it also includes people I have relationships with through Moishe House projects but don't seem to connect to well personally, other people I am trying to get more involved in Moishe House projects, newcomers who I feel obligated to welcome and chat with, and of course some others who are Moishe House regulars but have a hard time finding people to talk with them.
I struggle with understanding how to manage my time and relationships in this situation. In some ways I feel obligated to talk to the new people and to care for the outliers. On the other hand, I feel pressured to reach out to the people I am trying to recruit for projects and events. I also feel guilty not trying to connect to the people who I have a more working relationship with through projects- they are here for community after all! Meanwhile, this is all happening on Friday night, when I am tired after a full week of my day job, and I just want to hang out with my friends! Even if I had the discipline to focus my attention on my role as a housemate, my friends don't appreciate coming to my house and being ignored by me. Every week I struggle to navigate these dynamics. The best solution I have come up with so far is to alternate the weeks I am more focused on my strengthening my public relationships versus enjoying my personal ones. It doesn't totally work though, because you can't just chat someone up one week and ignore them the next.
Distinguishing public and private relationships also gets particularly tricky when the situation involves a person interested in dating women. Just this week I e-mailed a man who keeps showing up to my meetings to get coffee- I was interested to see what excites him about Moishe House and if he could take more leadership in the projects he seems interested in. He responded tentatively, I think he was confused about whether or not he was being asked out. In another example, I had been working with a man on Moishe/Kavod projects for several weeks before he confessed he was interested in me, I had to explain I really had been calling just to meet about the work. On the other hand, one Shabbas I started chatting up this guy I had never seen in the house before. I was just trying to do my job and be friendly, but he gave me the cold shoulder. I later realized he thought I was hitting on him. The worst example, however, came last month. A man I was interested in e-mailed me asking me about Moishe/Kavod events he should come to. In an effort not to get too excited, I assumed he was interested in Moishe/Kavod not me, and responded to a very exciting date offer with a professional e-mail about upcoming Moishe/House events. Eventually he had to send me an e-mail clarifying his intent. I really have no idea what to do about this problem.

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