Saturday, June 20, 2009

re-entry: top hat stories

I’m finding that being back home, and confronting many people I haven’t seen in a year, and delving into conversations (both deep and shallow) about my year in Jerusalem, it’s really hard to explain and express my experience. Not because it was some amazing experience that words can’t even describe, but because it was a complex, profound, reality-based, year, filled with good, bad, and the ugliness of life. There just simply aren’t enough words to describe a year of living.

It’s really anecdotes, stories, funny moments, that really embody the experience. But telling them is often difficult.

At some point during the middle of the year, Ari and Aviva coined a term called “top hate stories.” I’m not really sure of how the term was exactly created, but the basic story is someone was telling a funny story about something that happened back home, with people no one else knew, and it wasn’t funny to anyone listening. It was a “you had to be there story.” We all have told them and had them told to us. And then Ari/Aviva tipped an imaginary top hat at the end of the story, because the air was so awkward.  (I’m well aware of the irony that by explaining what a top hat story is, I have to tell a top hat story.)

Top hat stories are stories that refer to another time, place, group of people, that the listening audience has no basis for relating to. A proper response to a top-hat story is saying, “And I bid you, adieu,” tipping an imaginary top hat, and slowly backing up. Or laughing.

So I need to tell top hat stories. I have to indulge that part of my linguistic self, as much as I resist that, because they're so boring to anyone who's listening. I can’t not tell top hat stories, because all of my experiences are experiences that no one in home life, except for Rebecca, Tom, and my mom (who all visited me and met my friends there), can relate to. Which is strange and awkward and odd. It’s like a live a secret life, a backwards life, like I have a secret identity.

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