Vocabulary word of the day? Social integration. Mine approaches zero. I've been reevaluating a lot of my life, and my content - and discontent - with it based around the presence or lack of social integration. I'm also coming to realize that a recently failed relationship failed, in part, because the other person is desperately lacking in social integration - and cannot use a relationship with me to fulfill that lack, and very likely has difficulty distinguishing a feeling of dissatisfaction in one from a feeling of dissatisfaction in the other. (A large part of the reason I - reluctantly - dissolved that relationship was because of the insights this goddamn course was cramming into my skull to begin with.)
But yeah, along with reading about the theories themselves, I read about other societies in which roles are more clearly defined and people are more willing to fill them, and it just makes me... wistful. Which is funny, because when I was a kid, I didn't want anybody telling me what role I had to fill. But after a decade or so of adulthood, suddenly the idea of being able to rely on people in known ways to fulfill well defined roles sounds pretty goddamn comforting. This world of shallow, impermanent relationships of convenience does have its benefits, but it also has its looming pushes to screaming neurosis. When you're "different" in a more tradition-oriented society, yes, there is a large pressure to conform - but there is also the promise of acceptance as long as you conform in the really important ways; and in many of those societies there can be acceptance for non-conformity in ways that aren't considered functionally crucial. On the other hand, current Western society is this gigantic, loosely bound collection of highly specialized social groups that seem to me to be LESS tolerant of difference, in many ways - sure, you're less likely to be attacked for being different, and in fact "accepting" truly astonshing ranges of diverse values and behaviors is one of the social norms - but then again, while "acceptance" in a tradition-oriented community implies integration into that community, "acceptance" in a modern context generally seems instead to mean "being given the freedom to go find your own damn group." Which is fine as long as you can find one. But what if you don't really fit in that well with any of the niche groups either?
Perhaps college will give me a chance at something different. I have been cheered to discover that I'm not instantly viewed as "outsider" in the "normal" social groups in spite of my age; apparently I camouflage well - the occasional non-traditional students in their thirties recognize me as in their peer group, students in their mid-twenties assume I'm their age, and interestingly enough, the freshmen seem to frequently assume I'm their age group as well. But I'm not quite sure which of those groups I come closest to actually fitting in, myself. I think I'm probably a lot more like the typical grad student or young professor than I am any of the above categories of undergrad, but... I'm (at least) four years away from being anything other than an undergrad. So I need to just, you know... try to fit in where I am. Somewhere. Somehow.
The damndest thing about this chronic lack of integration is, I'm not really socially awkward. I'm not particularly shy even at my worst, anymore, and I know how to observe social norms and how to interact with people on a social basis... I just don't seem to know how to get integrated on a truly significant basis. I am a member of a couple of social circles, but in both cases my membership seems inextricably tied to my major friendship with another member who is my "key" to that circle - like if that person moved away, the rest of the circle would just sort of automatically draw closed to me. Not in any kind of mean way, mind you, just... automatically. Yeah.