I have a secret to tell you: I can be really really dense sometimes.
I mean, I think I’m of at least average intelligence (after my morning caffeine, anyway) but I’ve noticed that my brain can be pretty stubborn about absorbing things when it feels like it. I can’t even count the number of times that life has had to beat me over the head with the same lesson over and over again until I finally GET it. (I just hope that I “get it” more often than not!)
I’m telling you this because, on my most recent trip to Anguilla, I managed to learn something new as a result of being “bombarded” with one version or another of a single phrase throughout my visit. I had never heard this phrase before on Anguilla or anywhere else, really, but I had four different people say it to me in four completely separate instances just on this one trip. Coincidence? Maybe.
What was the phrase, you ask? Well, it was
“Why you actin’ like you a stranger?”
The first time I heard it was in a conversation with a friend who said something that could’ve been taken in two different ways just because of the particular phrasing that was used. I knew full well that my friend was intending to say something nice, but because I’m such a comedian, I chose to feign offense at the second interpretation which could’ve come across to some as a mild threat.
After my oh-so-dramatic expression of horror that such terrible and menacing words should be said to me, my friend laughed and responded with “Now you actin’ like you a stranger!”. My initial reaction to that (besides laughing at my own very good joke, of course) was just to think to myself “Oh, that’s so nice. This person considers me to be a good friend!”, but I can’t say that I really thought anything more of it at that point.
The second time someone said it to me was after I arrived at another friend’s house, and one of her family members was sitting outside on the front porch. I hadn’t met this family member yet, so I just politely asked for my friend and waited at the bottom of the front steps. When my friend came out, she said “Girl, why you standin’ out in the sun like you a stranger?” and she quickly escorted me up onto the shady porch where I was greeted with laughs over me being so silly as well as some very nice hugs.
Again, I was flattered to be considered a friend to someone else, but I also thought about what a coincidence it was that I had heard this same phrase twice in just a few days when I had never heard it before. Was it something common that I had just happened to miss all these years? Hmm.
The third time occurred after I had just finished a nice meal while sitting at the bar of a restaurant. I was on vacation and was wearing a dress with no defined waist so, needless to say, I had just stuffed my face with waaay more food and drink than was probably ladylike. (This is one reason I sometimes like to sit at bars for meals – so no one but the bartender will judge me for the sheer volume of food that I can down in one sitting.)
A good friend that I had met on my very first trip to Anguilla showed up at the restaurant to have a drink at the bar. He sat next to me and we chatted and caught up for a bit. He couldn’t stay for very long, but when he asked the bartender for his check, he asked to have my meal put on his tab! I said “Oh, no! You don’t have to do that!”, to which my friend responded “I know I don’t have to do it. I want to do it.”.
It was a very nice gesture, but all I could think about was how much food I had ordered, so I continued to protest by saying “Thank you, really, but I can take care of my check. It’s really not necessary for you…” at which point my friend, with friendliest look of minor annoyance that I have ever seen, abruptly interrupted me and said “Stop actin’ like you a stranger!” and he paid for my meal. There weren’t really any laughs this time, and to be honest, his reaction shook me a little bit. I hadn’t intended to offend my friend, but it was clear that I had done it anyway. I decided that it would be best to just thank him for being so kind. He smiled, said “You’re welcome.” and left.
At that point, I started thinking more about this phrase and what it meant that I was hearing it so often. Clearly it’s a really nice thing for someone to say, but had I somehow been acting inconsiderately and offending my friends? A bit of worry set in.
The last time that I heard these words on this trip was on a particularly cool night on the island. I was wearing a sleeveless dress and was feeling downright cold in the breeze that was blowing through the restaurant in which I was eating. I mentioned how chilly I felt to my dinner companions, and one of them jumped up and left the group. He returned with one of the brand new oversized shirts that he had planned to sell for his business. It was big enough for me to pull over my dress and cover my arms. (I may have looked ridiculous but, hey, I was warm!)
I thanked my friend profusely for saving me from the cold and asked him how much he sells the shirts for as I pulled out my wallet to pay him. He said “Why you actin’ like you a stranger?” and motioned for me to put my money away. I felt badly for taking something he could have made some money on, but he just wouldn’t hear of me paying him for the shirt. I thanked him for being so nice to me and I let it go…outwardly, anyway.
So, since I got home, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means when someone says “Why you actin’ like you a stranger?”. The most obvious explanation is that someone who says this to you considers you to be close enough friends that there’s no need to act so formally with them, as you would with someone you don’t know at all. It’s a way of saying “You should know me better than to think I would treat you like someone I barely know, because we’re closer than that.” In some instances it can be said as a lighthearted comment as in my first two examples, but in cases where people are trying to do something nice for you as in the last two instances, it can convey some slightly offended feelings.
From my own experiences on Anguilla, in the smaller circles of which I’m a part, I see that good friends still do nice things for each other just for the sake of doing something nice. It’s not to get something in return, to chalk up an IOU for a later date, or to prove that they’re a better person than someone else. No. They offer and do these things just for the sake of doing something good because that’s just the way it’s supposed to be. Personal relationships are incredibly important in a small island setting and nice sentiments like this can play a big part in preserving close community ties.
I’m ashamed that this concept is as foreign to me as it is but I live in a world where, sadly, this kind of attitude and the close friendships that it leads to are very rare. When someone does something for you here, something is pretty much always expected in return. It’s for that reason that I worry so much about looking like I’m taking advantage of someone when I accept a gift or a favor. I worry about how I’m going to even things out so I don’t come across looking like a mooch or, worse, entitled to being showered with freebies.
So, it’s that thought process that carries over to Anguilla when I visit, but I realize now that it’s completely out of place with my closest friends there. The phrase “Why you actin’ like you a stranger?” has taught me that 1. I need to have more faith that people can still be truly kindhearted in this world and 2. I have to learn to be much more gracious when I’m lucky enough to be on the receiving end of their kindness.
I can still continue to do nice things for my friends as well, but I shouldn’t look at it as paying them back for what they’ve done for me but, instead, just as a sign of appreciation that they’re good people and that they’re in my life.
I know, I know. It’s all so very sappy, right? Yes. But sappy is good when you can regain some faith in humanity, isn’t it? I know it’s going to take me some time and effort to change my mindset to think as my friends have taught me, but I
hope know they’ll be very understanding as I make the adjustment.
I knew that I loved Anguilla because the closest friends that I’ve made there are some of the best human beings I’ve ever known, but “Why you actin’ like you a stranger?” gave me some deeper (and beautiful!) insight as to why that is. I’m so lucky to have found them.
Thanks, Anguilla, for another great lesson.