The Observed Other (that’s me)*

Delving deep into my undergraduate past I keep on repeating the term ‘Othering’ in my mind these days.

For those of you who didn’t do a Bugger All degree or spent that lecture at the uni bar, Othering theory of identity creation asserts that identity is formed only through the establishment of a boundary recognised by other groups (Deloria I believe, or Derrida … meh, some po-mo wanker). In other words, you are you because you are not ‘them’.

Filipino culture possesses a fascination for outsiders, particularly Americans, but at the same time that friendly fascination is based on misunderstanding and marginalisation fuelled by mass media images of the ideal Westerner.

The smiling children saying ‘Hey Joe’ and asking me where I am going is understandable. I am an oddity here and children don’t have a social filter yet, in short kids are kids and they say the darn’est things.

But it is rare that I go a day without someone telling me I am beautiful, rich and can I help them get a job/husband/send money to them from Australia/America (often being one and the same place). Or my favourite request, can they touch my pointy nose?

This marginalisation and idealism of ‘me’, the great rich White saviour is creating a disturbing effect in my own mind. The terms ‘they, them, those’ slip into my vocabulary creating an additional barrier. I have appropriated some Pinoy-isms and love the Philippines but at the same time draw a boundary around my self-constructed ideal of ‘me’.

Although I am put on a pedestal for being different they (them, those urgh, I hate that term) expect me to be the same. At 29 with no husband, no children, no church and only one brother (explaining that I have step-siblings oh my god…) I don’t fit the social construct and shock many locals with my lack of concern not having a husband at this age.

“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin

With the constant gaze of the town upon me, it also brings to mind Observation theory. I now have a slightly inhibited gait when I walk, overanalysing the swing my arms and movement of my chest. The mere fact that I am even
cognisant of the way that I walk is crazy and would only ever happen at home if I walked past a group of men at night.

I leave in November, just before the next batch of Peace Corps arrives. I hope the real ‘Joes’ are not too precious about their personal space, have robust egos that can take personal comments and most importantly have a good sense of humour.

*Warning: this is my most self indulgent, wanky and whimsical post yet – you have been warned

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