A behavior for me that’s almost instinctive is my habit where I refer to everyone formally. I know that less than half of those whom I have referred to as “sir” or “ma’am” deserve it, but it’s much easier for me to speak that way.
Sure, I can credit my upbringing, but that’s only part of it. Children of single parents think differently, especially when family is all one has during youth. Weeding through social workers who “understood” our situation, because they had seen our situation before; how often does a mother come in with two cognitive children who want to be legally detached from the fear of an unpredictable schizophrenic father? Since schizophrenia only affects 2% of the population, and we lived in Worthington, MN (get it? The city is insubstantial), the chances of appreciating our situation were slim.
After years of that, after years of my father relapsing due to bad decisions, and after years of being alone with only my family, I can’t do much else but keep everyone away.
My search for companionship hasn’t been without its successes. I have a great muse, I have a few close friends in relative terms, and I openly speak with strangers from school and work in friendly and welcoming manners. But I won’t open to people, not without thorough justification. Too many friends have burned me. Take, for example, one such former friend from Marshall. I respected her and we associated all the time for billiards and bowling outside of work. All the while, she spooky ill of my muse frequently behind my back; I never heard until after the next piece of story.
For the longest time, she complained about work and said that she wanted a new job. All of that talk stopped abruptly one day, and a month later she was gone. My boss told us that she had given a month notice and she didn’t want anyone to know that she was leaving.  So, I had to pick up her slack. She heard about my “promotion,” and she congratulated me. Congratulated me! I haven’t spoken to her since then, and I look upon her during our random encounters at Walmart with such a harsh and unhealthy disdain.
I don’t fit into the American standard of friendliness. In fact, I hate it. It’s not all bad. I know who I trust, and that doesn’t really need to change. But, I constantly catch flack for referring to people formally. It keeps people at arm’s length for analysis. And the internet friendliness bothers me even more. Social interaction is one filter, and the internet is another. It stings when someone tells me to not call them something proper, because I’m being forced out of personal comfort.
I want the interaction, but I also don’t want to explain my behavior. Being professional is usually treated shallowly and left by the way side, and I’d much rather have that than to be forced to lie and call a stranger a friend.