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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Vesta - the Shirley MacLaine factor

We're outside on a crowded terrace with Vesta and another friend, sipping our drinks, chatting the night away when Vesta looks over into the distance, and then announces, "oh there's my brother."

The other girl, Katie, immediately looks over to where Vesta is indicating and asks, "where?"

"Over there, at the other end of the street," Vesta replies and I look at Katie, who seems pretty interested, if not to say excited. 

"I haven't met him yet," she tells me. "But I've heard stories."

Vesta nods at this, as if this is nothing special and turns back to us. Some time later, her brother and his group of friends walk through the door and as we're pretty well-hidden - or immersed in the crowd, depending on your point of view - he doesn't notice us. Vesta punches him so hard on the arm, most guys would yelp and shouts out, "hey."

As they hug, I watch Katie's face, which is a mixture of shock, awe and horror. 

Vesta is one of those girls who don't follow any trends but still manage to scrub up really well. They don't have to look for individuality because they truly are. At the same time, she can fit into any environment with an ease most people simply never possess. Her brother on the other hand looks like he stepped out of a cage fight. 

Vesta shrugs when I tell her. She is also one of those girls you can tell anything to and she won't get mad. 

"You should see the other one," she merely states. 

"Her oldest brother," Katie says. "Apparently, when he walks down the street, people move out of the way."

Vesta shrugs again. 

"They really are nice guys," she simply states. Then she gets serious, "whatever you do, just don't get taken in, okay?"

I look at her blankly, while next to me, I can hear Katie mutter, "too late."

"They're natural-born charmers," Vesta explains. "Just don't fall for them." 

I'm still mulling over that statement when he comes over to us a while later. Vesta goes over to talk to him, stopping him midway, and I can see Katie's eyes resting on them the whole time. They do seem pretty close. From the way they interact, mirroring each other, glancing in the same direction at the same time, you can tell they share a special bond. Just as Vesta is about to turn so she can introduce us, he is already by our side, laughing in a friendly manner when we get his name wrong, correcting us in a nice way. We talk about mundane things for a while but when he leaves, I can sense the emptiness. And I can tell Katie  senses it as well from the way she keeps looking in the direction he left. 

"Wow," is all I can say.

Vesta laughs like she has seen this reaction before, which I'm sure she has. 

"You should have seen them in high school," she says. "Between those two, who even needs a dad. It's a miracle I even went out on dates." 

But she is laughing, so it couldn't have been that bad. 

"We used to beat the crap out of each other," she goes on. "Our older brother just let us fight. The other two never fought. Me and him, the one you just saw, we were at it all the time."

"He's gorgeous," I finally manage to say. 

To my surprise, she doesn't laugh or shake her head. 

"Well, it's hard to judge when you grew up with them," she says. "But they really don't look too bad. You know that thing Shirley MacLaine said?"

I shake my head. Next to me, Katie is doing the same. 

"Something about how just once she would like to do a love scene with her brother just to see what all the fuss is about. I mean, eww, but still, I can see where she's coming from. The other one looks exactly the same by the way."

"Twins?" I ask. 

She shakes her head. "Four years apart. Me and the one you just met, we're a year apart. We took the same classes in high school a few times. That was fun." 

"I can imagine," is all I can say. 

"It teaches you life skills," Vesta goes on. "So many girls who want to be friends with you, just so they can get closer to one of your brothers, you really learn to suss out who's in it for what pretty fast."

"You mean all that glitters isn't gold," I ask. 

She shakes her head. "No, I mean, you learn to be a good judge of character. It's a great lesson. Obviously I don't see the whole sexiness angle but they always had a big following of girls so there must be something about them. But yeah, you learn to judge people pretty well after that."

I wonder if this is what made her so easy-going today or if it is more to do with the fact of knowing that no matter what will happen, your brothers will always have your back.  

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Living Freak Show

"Have you met  . . . " someone asks me, providing a name. 

I shake my head, no. 

"Oh you're in for a real treat," she tells me. 

I shrug it off, not thinking too much of the whole thing. 

A few days later, I am invited to another social event and since it's summer and I don't see why I shouldn't go, I head off. The place offers up the usual suspects i.e. locals who want to meet foreigners (and expect to score) and expats who want to meet foreigners (and expect to score). Since I was never really bothered with scoring of any kind, I feel more of an observer. 

I spy, in the corner, a slight figure, stooped, what looks to me like a business man who just barely had time to throw on a sweater to make himself appear cool, dispersing advice about one of the neighboring countries. He knows everything there is to know, that's quickly apparent. In the meantime, he is also busy oggling all the pretty girls. 

Since the policy at these get-togethers is to introduce yourself as quickly as possibly (remember, it's not a dating service, they just want to appear cool and welcoming), I quickly learn his name. It comes as no surprise that this is the same name provided earlier. 

"Everyone hates him," my friend supplies helpfully. The guy next to us, who is from the same city I'm from, sneaks another look. 

The businessman wannabe doesn't look menacing, just like a downright bore, someone too desperate to even dream of fitting into any social group, even one as intent on welcoming "all sorts of people" as this one. I do notice that one girl there, one of the loudest ones, tells him to bug off. 

I put him out of my mind until the party breaks up and people start heading home. As it turns out, the guy who is from the city I am and the businessman wannabe all live in the same area, so we walk home together, exchanging things about life and past experience. The subject of the President's Ball comes up and the businessman wannabe proudly proclaims that he's been to said function. I ask him so many questions, that my fellow countryman pipes up with, "hey if you really want to go, let's go."

"It's invitation only," the businessman wannabe / social misfit pipes up. 

My fellow countryman and I pointedly ignore him and start plotting Gate Crash Experience in Helsinki. 

"I think I can come up with a good party dress," I tell him. 

"I'll rent a tux," he tells me and we decide on which car to take (rent a limo possibly but maybe we'll just take a cab), what colors to wear and how to get around the whole issue of mud, snow and rain plus the freezing temperatures as the event takes place on Independence Day in December. The social misfit snorts derisively, not getting that we're merely fooling around, just doing this for laughs. We both respect privacy way too much to gate crash. 

The social misfit has his own stories to tell. Or rathe story. How impossible it is to fit in here and make friends, how the bureaucracy is so nasty and incapable of offering any kind of help. I have issues with that because, having lived in several different places, I really don't see that much of a difference. We are, after all speaking about bureaucrats, they have to check, double-check, re-check. Paper work and files bite big time, no matter where you're at. But before I can say something, I catch my fellow countryman's warning glance so I shut up and besides, our new "friend" has already moved on to another subject (another pet peeve?) - Finnish women. They are impossible to deal with, unfriendly, so hard to understand. Again, I catch a warning glance from my fellow countryman so I quickly look away and let my fellow countryman change the subject. 

Later, when my fellow countryman has reached home and I am alone with the social misfit, he tells me that he "might be able to help" on a project I'm currently working on as he knows some people in precisely that field. I file it away under mildly interesting and then he comes out with the one thing I'm sure he's been meaning to come out with the entire evening, or at least since the three of us started walking. 

"If you need a photographer, I might be of help," he declares. 

"Umm sure," I retort, not really that interested, something about him is so off, I don't want to see him around longer than I have to. Not because he creeps me out in a scary way, I'm pretty much immune to that but just because there seems something lurking beneath all that social ineptness that is just dying to get out and I'm not really too keen on that. Besides, considering how he was oggling all those girls, I have a suspicion where this might be going. But being the naturally curious person that I am, I have to ask. 

"What do you photograph, objects or people?"

"People," he replies, then, after having paused meaningfully, "nudes."

I am mentally counting to ten, wishing more than ever that my fellow countryman was here because I am trying so hard not to laugh. 

"Okay," I say instead, counting to ten all over again. 

"So if you know any people who would pose . . ." he veers off. It's not even calculated. Even he can tell that his request is out of this world. And just for the record, it's not because he's ugly, which, if it wasn't for that look of desperation, he actually wouldn't be (he's no 10 but he'd pass in pretty much any setting) but this desperate need for some kind, any kind of female  . .. let's call it companionship. 

"Boys or girls," I manage to ask even though I know the answer and I'm still trying not to laugh. 

"Girls," he replies meaningfully and I can see him practically licking his lips. 

My uh-huh is probably not what he expected. I'm not even shocked, I could see this coming a mile off. But he still has to take it one step further. 

"The reactions are so vast. When you mention this, sometimes the clothes just start flying off." 

I am really trying not to laugh then, though some girls really are that stupid. He is on another social network, one that lets you stay with other people for free and I suspect that he hosts more than he travels. 

"Well, this is me," he announces and I realize that we have just stopped at a gate one house over from mine. Wonderful,  I think but when I tell my friend about it the next day, the one who told me that everyone hated him, we nearly fall over laughing. We are both at work but we still google his profiles and of course he wants only girls when he hosts. The pictures, we don't even loot at. Not one naked man. 

"That guy really is a Living, Breathing Freak Show," I tell my friend. 


Two years later, I run into him again. He has, by now, found a girlfriend. The same friend, who told me everyone hated him, provided me with that information again. She's more invested in that social network than I'll ever be. 

"You're kidding," is my immediate reaction. "How the hell old is she?"

"Oh about 19."

I nearly fall into my drink all while trying to make a mental calculation. 

"30 years," my friend tells me. 

"You're kidding." I really am being eloquent. 

"Well, okay, 19 or something, But it is vast."

And so, from what I can see some nights later, is the change. He is now wearing jeans, a black T-shirt with the logo of some heavy metal band I'm not curious enough to decipher, and some type of linen jacket. When he comes over to our little group of mainly girls, he stands close to another pretty girl, his pelvis thrust forward but again, it all seems so desperately calculated, my friend has to poke me in the back real hard to keep me from commenting or laughing. He is desperate to make physical contact with the girl. I can tell this not only because he is so close to her but because he has tried to do this with pretty much every girl there that night. A look of disdain can go a long way because he's avoiding my gaze like hell. 

"I thought he had a girlfriend," I ask my friend, turning away slightly, pretending to take a sip of my water. 

"He does," she hisses back. "But she went to her home town for the day."

Someone in the group says something funny (that I completely missed) and the Living, Breathing Freak Show thrusts his body forward in a fit of calculated laughter, finally resting his head on the girl's shoulder. 

Just another night out with this particular social network. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Whiner

It's not that she doesn't like this particular situation, she's just not satisfied with any situation. Even her status updates speak of this state of mind. Always a *sigh*, always something negative, always a passive-aggressive comment or other, to elicit pity, perhaps even some financial donation. Those types are easy to spot. I say she but it could really be anyone. They always have to make everything about themselves. They won't let you get in a word edgewise but instead will seek to monopolize any and all conversations. They would be psychic vampires if their energy wasn't spent on all the talking and preening and showing off, only to turn it around so that they can then complain about the same situation they tried so hard to take control of. These people, the ones I know at least, are also the ones who will play endless Facebook games, even creating fake profiles so they can gift themselves. 

But that's not the type I have issues with. Because this type is easy to spot. Five minutes in their presence and you know what is what. The type I don't like is her friend, the Quiet One, friendly on the surface and interested in you but at the same time, too concerned with her own woes to care much about you. She gets hysterical driving, she gets hysterical traveling, staying out beyond dark has never been an option. Instead she will regale you with stories of her own little world, her family, her pets, the things around her. No talk of beauty, no talk of art. Which wouldn't be a problem if the conversation was stimulating, but other than the pictures from her cell phone, we are not familiar with said family or pets or even anything else for that matter. We are not even that familiar with her. 

She is friendly, sure, and she seems more eager to smile than the first one. But she, too, is locked up in her own little world, too locked up in it to ever step out. 

She does not like her new environment and so she decides, after one year of being here, that she will move back. Fair enough, we've all been there before. But she is worried about her husband, especially since he hasn't found an apartment and they do need a new place to stay. 

Through utter coincidence, you hear of a place that is going and put her husband in touch with the people, even mediate, go that extra mile. And then, once he has the apartment, nothing. Not even so much as a quick thank you (which, you then realize, also never came up when you mentioned the apartment in the first place). But that's not the worse thing, crappy as that is. The worst thing is when you email the wife to ask whether or not the apartment thing worked out and you never hear from her again. 

People, I tell you. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

The social-drinking network

Monday afternoon, social networking site and my homepage there tells me that yet another friend has been tagged in a photo series, taken over the weekend, a series of pictures showing people in various stages of drunk. I'm not a moralist, even if I don't drink more than two drinks a night, for the simple reason that alcohol puts me to sleep long before I could even manage to get tipsy. My friends have come to accept this as much as I have and as the friend above put it, "you don't judge us when you're drunk". What I never managed to understand however is the mindless, show-off drinking. Not drinking to get drunk, in a way I can absolutely understand that, but drinking so you can later have your picture on any social network site, so you can say, "look at me, I'm getting drunk."

Like I said, it's not the drinking I have problems with but the idea behind it, this need to show how you blend in, how much you can take. At the same time, it is a bonding experience of the finest calibre. It is saying, "look, at me, I got drunk with all these other people, I'm in." All the other people being of course the ones in the social network. It is a sense of fake camaraderie, of pretending that for this night at least you have (made and) found true friends.

I have met some of those guys, the show-drinkers, I like to call them, when my friend dragged me to one of their functions. And not all of them are like that. My friend isn't for example. Some others aren't either. They're usually the ones who drop out after a few meetings and find another social network, one more suitable to their needs. Said friend being of the social persuasion, where any night out with people is a good or at least a decent (enough) night out, is able to make that distinction, go, see, observe, have some fun, drink to get drunk, ideally with people, and then forget about it until the next invitation comes in. I haven't learned to make that yet, to detach myself sufficiently from the setting, to appreciate that the drinking is more fun than the people I'm spending time with.

It attracts too many of those I try to avoid on a daily basis, this social (drinking) network. All the photos in the album, which showed up in the album I mentioned above, seem to be there, positioned prominently in the frame, their body language screaming I'm here, look at me.

There are, as I mentioned above, other social networks, one in particular, gathers people from the same area with meetings occurring once every week. There is no pressure to drink, for the ones running this particular get-together see it as more important that people sit and chat and play cards or play pool or whatever else is available than to make sure they all drinks. There are almost no photos of this particular network because the idea here is not to be seen but to share common experience and to maybe even let off some steam once in a while.

Yet, it serves a good purpose this drinking-for-fun network that always documents everything on film. Because it weeds out the show-offs, the one you can't count on, the ones you don't really want to see, keeping them happily ensconced in their own little bubble, their own little world.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Vesta - musings on fitting in

Vesta is one of those vibrant personalities with a vast social network, that fit in any and everywhere. Having grown up in and lived in so many places, she herself doesn't know where she calls home. Even her family lives all over the globe, and by that I mean several continents.

"The key is to find a good group of friends and make it happen," she says when I ask her about this, then pauses to add. "It can be hard and extremely daunting. But find people with the same interests or, even better, something you've always been interested in." Though she is quick to add that she's not exactly a poster child for "perfect integration."

"What do you mean," I ask her, spying a group that is all set to snap her up. We are at a birthday bash that a friend - or in Vesta's case a friend of a friend - is throwing. I felt I could talk to her when she went out for a smoke and I decided to follow. We'd spoken before so it wasn't like this was a new situation but never more than a few sentences here or there, and never about deeper subjects. The group hovering nearby, is moving in and Vesta has noticed them as well. Her response is to move away, to a blind corner all the while rolling her eyes.

I nicknamed her Vesta after the Roman goddess of the home and the hearth and also because for a while, on Facebook, she had a statue of a Vestal Virgin as her profile picture. When I tell her about the nickname, she laughs appreciatively.

"I love the irony," she states firing up another cigarette. I grin when I get it, while she adds, "I actually have a thing for Roman and Greek mythology."

Before I can ask her what exactly that is, I can see three of the six Germans so eager to meet her, approaching. I catch her eye just in time and we move away again so that we're now standing around the corner of the venue.

"What do you mean, you're not exactly a poster child for integration," I ask because I am intrigued.

"I've moved around all my life," she says. "That gives me one hell of an advantage. At some point, you just figure out that people are equally shy as you are or can be. So just because they won't approach you, doesn't mean anything. Plus a lot of people suffer from what I call popular kids syndrome."

I look at her, willing her to explain.

"Remember back in high school when you had the popular kids and the losers and everything else in between? And everyone pretty much wanted to talk to the popular kids? They never lifted a finger, everyone flocked to them, so they never had to learn what it was like trying to make friends. So then they grow up and decide that moving to a new place is a good thing and they expect everything to be the same, people catering to them, everyone treating them like a beauty queen. But it doesn't work that way. So they're lost, they don't know what to do with themselves. Then you get those that have never really traveled abroad and a one-week packaged holiday, all tours included does not count. They expect everything to stay the same, there's no room for change. I'm not saying that's how it is for every body, it's not as convenient as that. But it gives you a sort of guideline, something that helps you understand them."

I mull this over and ask her which group she belonged to. It makes her laugh.
"I was a drifter. The minute they found out I'd traveled so much and lived in all these different places, I was okay. Hell, I even had close friends that were juniors and seniors when I was a freshman and that was pretty unheard of. But I always bonded more with the artistic people, so for the most part, I hung out with them."

This is true even today. I know that many of her friends are free spirits, and that is largely why the group of German girls, wants to be her friend. Not that they are free spirits but they are hoping that in attaching themselves to her, they can meet some of those friends. One of them has even been chasing her with a camera all evening, never even asking if she can take a picture. Vesta always managed to turn away. She never mentions this to anyone though, her easy way of integration, when people speak about how difficult it is to make friends here, rather than state that she has plenty of friends here, and most of them local, she sits there quietly, once it has become clear that the speaker is not after advice, just wants to start a bitching session. But social circles overlap and all it takes is for someone to see you somewhere and their opinion is made. I once saw her standing on a beer crate at a concert, very far away from the stage, talking to people around her, who were clearly part of a different group than the ones hogging the front of the stage. One of the girls from the German group was there as well, in the front, holding on tightly to the stage as if otherwise she would be dragged away. And even though Vesta never mentioned any of it (when people asked her what she had done that night, she answered them that she had been with friends, which, technically, was true), it was obvious that she had been there in a completely different capacity to the German girl.

"The other thing is," she goes on. "You have to be careful when you criticize the country you're in. I'm all for freedom of speech but look at it this way, you're a guest in their country, an Israeli friend told me that about living in Germany. The country is your host, you don't really want to insult your host. So you word things carefully. Besides, you only catch glimpses, you didn't grow up here, most of us have only been here for a few years. How can you even begin to comprehend all the intricacies? The way I see it is, it's like family. You can criticize the hell out of them, they're a part of you. But when someone else does, you suddenly jump to their defense and hate the other person."

This is in fact the first commentary on living in Finland as a foreigner, or any country for that matter, that actually makes sense. The others are all about trying to fit in as many random Finnish words into a conversation as possible, to show how integrated they are, while at the same time listing all the negatives of the place they can think of, mainly how it's impossible to make friends in Helsinki. These comments of course, being thrown about in a group of expats that consistently meets up on its own and unless it is to hit on a girl, will never make a move to talk to Finns. I have been around them and heard their conversation too many times to actually care. Though, I try to avoid the expat community like crazy, there is still one occasion or other, on which they all come together, like this birthday party or else, an evening out with friends in a pub when some expat, who can't get into their usual haunts, end up at the table next to yours. Vesta doesn't hang with a pack, at least not with the expats. I remember her saying once that most of her friends are Finnish, "give or take about five foreign friends."

Mulling over what she said about fitting into a new environment, I can't help thinking as we walk back inside, where she once again, successfully dodges the German girls, that maybe her nickname isn't so ironic after all.

The sports fan

My former roommate looks at me and very eloquently states, "eh?"

I can completely understand her surprise, being as how when we lived together, I never even once, expressed the remotest interest in any sport. She herself, being a self-proclaimed sports nut, had a strong preference for soccer but would watch pretty much anything. I have fond memories of us sitting on the couch in her living-room, both of us with our laptops, while she focused on the game shown on TV, alternately commenting on the game to me and commenting via skype to her friends abroad. The only other time I'd watched a sports game was in high school and even then I was more there for the socializing than the game itself. Knowing that our school's football team pretty much sucked and that none of my friends there knew about or even cared for the rules, helped in not paying attention to what was going on. I figured that I'd get all that I needed to get out of the game just from her reaction and that was already enough. She couldn't stop laughing at that but decided to spare me a lecture on how the interesting thing was to actually watch the thing as it developed. Even now, when we're meeting, it's not in a sports bar but an average coffee place. So her surprise at my latest request is perfectly understandable.

I repeat my request if only to see the look on her face again. "Could you give me a crash course in ice hockey?"

She starts grinning at me and it's pretty much the same grin she sported when I got all excited about a picture I found of someone I'd been crushing on when we were living together last year. The internet can be a blessing that way, though I can still hear the word "stalker" coming out from somewhere underneath the mock-cough that followed my "discovery". It still makes me laugh, today.

Mercifully she spares me a speech this time though her eyebrows do shoot up. Especially, when I add that I need a crash course for dummies.

Last year my best friend really wanted to see the ice hockey game, when Finland played Russia. I don't remember when it was, some time during the spring, though we were still (for the most part) wearing our winter jackets, that's how little I know about the whole thing. I was rooting for her country as well but since I didn't know the rules, it was hard for me to follow. We ended up at another friend's place of work, a bar that usually doesn't show ice hockey but for this, they were making an exception. A very big exception since the whole thing resulted in a lock-in, with about six people remaining. They tried to explain the game to me, my best friend, with one eye on me and the other one on the screen, turning to our other friend for help. Each time they gasped, I looked at my friend and asked her if what had just happened was good or bad. I tell my roommate all that, adding that I didn't want a repeat of that, this year, I wanted to actively participate.

"Isn't there a big ice hockey event coming up in February?" I ask before adding, "I want to be prepared."
I know this, because the Monday after Christmas, coming home from a concert, a random drunk guy stopped me on the street and told me about it.

To her credit, I have to state that she is trying to hide her grin. But I know her, so I can see it dancing around the edges of her mouth and in her eyes.

"The big ice hockey event . . . ," she begins and - again I have to give her credit for that - her voice is perfectly even. "the winter olympics in Vancouver. The Finnish team is expected to fight for gold in that competition."

I nod, glad that I don't even have to pretend that I knew this already and that we already established when I was living with her that when it came to sports, I was basically an idiot. I can follow a tennis match and I played floor hockey once in my life and really enjoyed it but other than never playing by the rules to begin with, team sports were never something I'd followed actively, never mind passionately. When pressed, I'd pick the teams of the places I liked. I love everything about Finland (and my own country doesn't even have a team) so with ice hockey, Finland it is.

"Ice hockey games start on February 17," she says. "That means, you have at least three more weeks to learn more about ice hockey."

I nod again. Three weeks isn't that bad and the "more" in her comment, sounds encouraging. At least I didn't decide this three minutes into the game.

"I'll send you a link with the rules and some general knowledge," she says as she needs to go in a short while.

I thank her and promptly ask her about the two city teams, Jokerit and HIFK.

"They play in the SM league," she explains. "That's the highest level of ice hockey played in Finland. Listen, would you be willing to come see a game with us next weekend in Tapiola even if it doesn't involve Jokerit and HIFK?"

I nearly start jumping up and down at this. It's hard for me to plan anything that far in advance so we arrange to confirm this next Friday. And I'm really looking forward to the following weekend, confident that by the time the winter olympics roll around, I'll have a pretty good idea of what's going on and will really be able to get into the games when I watch them with my friends.

Until the thought hits me that all games take place in Vancouver and with the time difference, active participation is pretty much a moot point since I won't be watching the game with anyone anyway.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The hanger-on

Iphigenie came to this country because of the music. This is of course perfectly understandable, many of her friends have done or are doing the same, and it is the music of some of the bands that "has helped tremendously with my English." Iphigenie is after integration. She wants to be a part of it, wants to belong but not so she can fit in but rather so that she can meet the musicians whose music she has "always admired." That this is hard to do in a country where friends are carefully chosen (and I might add for good reason) quickly becomes evident, when after a year of being here, she has only met some of the locals by attaching herself to a more outgoing personality from abroad. Iphigenie's tactic to achieve integration is to sit and wait and follow the more outgoing personality around, so as to get a foot in the door as it were, then snapping up the other person's friends. Should someone introduce her to a new person, she will however not share the favor and do anything to keep that person for herself, not granting her outgoing friend(s) any access.

Iphigenie now has a boyfriend, a pompous ass, the outgoing friend has named Thoas. He is the kind of person who will post photos of concentration camps on his social network page among holiday pictures and consider it part of the general landscape. The kind of person who knows that all foreigners are of course rich and that life abroad is so much better than here. But he is local, and for Iphigenie that is all that matters. That he is a huge fan and admirer of her home country, merely constitutes an added bonus.

They met, the same way that Iphigenie meets all her friends that are not from her country, through her outgoing friend or rather acquaintance, waiting for the latter to strike up a conversation with them, engage in general banter and then move in by standing quietly at her friend's side so as to be included in the conversation. This usually works especially at gatherings of other expats, in which mutual inclusion is practically a fait-accompli. Thoas is much the same, and being half a generation her senior, has taken it upon himself to guide her.

Iphigenie knows that she is young and has much to learn and rather than rely solely on her boyfriend, she looks to her outgoing acquaintance for guidance, following her around the room when they happen to run into each other at parties, to see who her acquaintance is talking to and to position herself next to them within five seconds of her acquaintance striking up a conversation. Her boyfriend is quick to follow this act and so an interesting game of tag ensues at a birthday party held in a popular venue. When a film crew filming a documentary for a national channel shows up, both are quick to position themselves at an angle that is sure to capture them frequently, so that later they can brag to the people in their immediate vicinity about how they have been captured on film.

Both Iphigenie and Thoas know that their outgoing acquaintance has interesting contacts and they are keen to get them. There are hints to "meet up for drinks" and requests of "can I have that photo you guys were taking because I want to surprise a friend" as well as liking status updates no matter how mundane they might be, yet these only occur right after they have heard of said acquaintance being in what to them is an interesting environment and invitations to their events are never extended. Their own circle of friends consists of people from Iphigenie's home country, met at a social networking event, again, having waited for someone else to make the introduction. When one of them, on a visit to Helsinki after having returned to his home country, mentions to their acquaintance that it would be nice to meet up, they do everything in their power to make sure this meeting doesn't happen. It is a life style that seems to work for them even though they are often at home alone or only go out when specifically invited by someone or other. They are easy to spot at all types of parties, the ones standing in the background, wearing a style slightly similar to what they think is the local fashion and yet, never quite the same. And yet, despite all that, they have their advantages. They are primarily there to make those in their vicinity truly appreciative of their real friends, the ones who will call you in good times and bad and will stand by you, whether you're happy or sad.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The player

His social network consists mainly of girls, females, non older than 30 though he is gearing up for his 41 birthday, the last party was a huge hit, with a cover band playing and guests sampling the food he decided to provide. The venue? A hip, if not the hippest place, in town. Out of the 150 party guests, 135 were female. The fourteen males that came, did so because they were there as their respective girlfriends' dates.

He prides himself on this fact, that women are naturally drawn to him, that he is able to openly sustain a relationship with at least three girlfriends and they're all okay with that. I am actually there to give open support to one of them, even though I don't approve of him, not because I think that having several partners when each is aware of the others' presence, is immoral but because I personally find the guy to be an incredible bore. He's a nice guy, I have to admit that, when I needed help moving, he was right there, even renting out a van and never charging me for that, but he only has one subject of conversation: how women are genetically preprogrammed to exploit men. There are of course theories to back this up, theories he not only sounds off on but also posts liberally on his social network connections. It is always women who are at the root of all evil. One failed marriage on his part and a pre-teen son can attest to that (it is of course totally beside the point that people in general (try and ) use each other that this happens whether you're male, female,working, retired, in a relationship or alone but let's not get too deeply into that for he is not overly intelligent and a thought process of that nature, would cause his poor addled brain to explode from going into overdrive).

He subscribes to the Player's Bible and everything that's in it, is holy. It is thanks to him that those interested in the subject matter (i.e. what is a player, what is a neg, what is the general idea behind this whole game) are actually well-informed for he will lend the book out if pressed or even just asked. While he does not actively operate the put down, he nevertheless engages in controversial conversation, the genetic predisposition of females being one of them, and in fact the only one of them. At present at least three girls find him attractive and there are always new ones. My friend, it pains me to say it, is one of them, having bonded with the other main girl in his life, after hating her, the two of them are now best friends and even share the same social crowd, a group largely comprised of the other girl's friends, each with their own agenda. They are happy together and anything else shouldn't really matter.

I can't help comparing him to another friend, one who only had to smile at a girl or even look at her and she'd melt like butter in the sun. This was actually a great friend of mine and it was fun watching him work his magic on a girl. This one didn't need a guide book to get what he wanted. And while with my friend's boyfriend, his attitude bothers me to no end, with my close friend, I found it more amusing than anything else. Recently I figured out why, with my friend it was just fun, I want someone for the night, you want someone, let's go. With this guy it's as though he is on a one-man mission to punish each and every female for the end of his marriage.

I'm not saying all players are like that. This is merely one of the many people I have encountered here in Helsinki, a type that can and does show up anywhere and is for all intents and purposes, another addition to the city.