||[Sep. 23rd, 2011|03:16 pm]
So, not only was it wonderful seeing old friends, but we also hooked up with a friend who was a year ahead of us, but happened to be in town for a friend’s wedding. |
Here’s the thing: Probably about 10-12 years ago, I banned this guy from my life.
And I’m not one of those people who labels other people “toxic” and then proceeds de-friending, de-listing, etc. I try to understand why people do that, or at least be patient when they feel the need to, but that sort of smacks a bit of drama to me, a touch too much of the FLOUNCE. Whatever. If you are a sucking black hole of negativity or need and your funny can’t negate the gravity well…I’m just not going to spend a lot of time around you. If I can’t help but spend time around you, I will either roll my eyes and shrug my shoulders, or call you on your sh*t. Or both. Because I am FLEXIBLE THAT WAY.
So, what does it take for me to pull on the drama cloak? Okay, if telling your husband “That’s it. JP is no longer allowed in this house. If you want to see him, you can see him elsewhere and I’m not going. And if he wants to know why, I will be happy to tell him” constitutes a drama cloak. That’s WASP drama, right there. You might have been expecting something…bigger, but what do you want from people whose screaming fights happen in hushed tones through clenched teeth?
See, hometown friend, JP – one with, I’ll admit it jock-ish, brutish humor, naming our softball team The Nads. So that people could yell, Go Nads! Came to Halloween with a couple of friends as Captain Testosterone and his Merry Seamen. But, brilliant. Whip-smart, brilliant as hell. Wound up being a nuclear biologist or something otherwise fitting. And he’d come down to visit from time to time, when he had a conference in town and we’d get together.
And he was fun for a brief visit – great conversation, but sprinkled with just enough locker room humor that one evening was about 30 minutes short of tedious.
But then one visit, he had a colleague with him. Was the guy South African, or did he just have an abundance of South African slang words? Hard to remember. I’m known to edit reality to make a better story, which is why I’m not a journalist. In any case, they started out the evening with a story about them bumbling into the local gay and lesbian bookstore by mistake, and it was one homophobic comment after another until I finally said “Enough. We got it. You’re homophobic assholes. Moving on.” Because I was trained in polite dinner conversation, but only so much stayed with me. So we moved on and were chatting about this and that until suddenly, JP’s friend, hisses the word “kaffir” under his breath, as a couple comes into the restaurant and my blood froze. It wasn’t so much the word, which some would say is bad enough – but it was the INTENT, the VENOM, the CONTEMPT, that chilled me. “Use that word again and I’m walking out of here, what the expletive is WRONG with you?” Yes, clenched teeth and hushed low tones. And then we had a brief verbal altercation about whether there were other words more acceptable...until I pushed back my chair and stood up. Which made everyone conciliatory, and apologetic and gee, can’t I take a joke, and as I’ve said, it takes a lot to drive me to making a scene and I wasn’t there yet.
So, I made my way through dinner, them moving onto talk about gaming and other topics, me polishing and hardening my resolve. I’m sure that restaurant never moved from entrée to check so fast. I think I paid for the whole dinner just to get the hell out of there. So, on our way back to their hotel, did walking past the Chinese Embassy and having them make obscene gestures at the security cameras really come as a surprise? I was pretty nasty at this point. I mean – I do believe that ignorance is a curable disease, that a lot of times people are racist, or sexist, or biased simply because they’ve been fed that crap from a young age and never had any meaningful exposure to people who are, who think, who look different. And that calling them on their ignorance, but sticking around to continue to call them, and more importantly, provide a good example, maybe help lead them into the light, will help more than cutting them off, casting them out.
But these guys? Smart. Been exposed to all sorts of people. They clearly had repeatedly made an effort to remain ignorant a-holes. I wasn’t going to fix THIS. Not with a once a year visit. And frankly, it was depressing. And later I’d heard that his wife, six months pregnant with twins, died, as did the babies, and left him with their two previous children. And I felt sad, because I liked his wife, although harder to like her for being married to just a colossal d**kweed, and I felt a little sad for his kids losing their mom, but it was hard to muster sympathy for him. Of course, I only have so much anyway, right? And really, heard nothing else for years.
Until he shows up last weekend. He’s in town for this wedding. Because he was the OFFICIANT. He is now an Episcopalian priest. And I will freely admit, I spent the first couple of hours waiting for the other shoe to drop, for him to rip off the collar (he didn’t wear it to the party, we’re in metaphorical territory now, Dorothy) and drop the act. But he didn’t – oh, he skated the line humor wise, locker room wise, though, without slamming anyone else, which is hard for me to criticize anyone for, since I was way over the line and building a condo there...
And I have to admit, I watched and listened all evening and I couldn’t find the nasty in him anymore. The next morning at breakfast, he asked us all to stop talking for just a minute because he needed to be serious. And he then proceeded to apologize. Because he was certain that in our years together, at some point he had offended or hurt each one of us and he wanted us to know that he was profoundly sorry and hoped that we could find it in us to forgive him. And I think I may just believe him.
Because while I have no faith in a god, I DO have a tiny shred of faith in human goodness, fluttering around like that tattered piece of tinsel that escaped from last year’s Christmas tree, now caught in the highest branches of the tree in your front yard, not doing much good, but probably fluttering there, insanely, in the wind until long after you or the tree is dead. And that faith believes that we all have the potential to be good people…it’s just that it can be so hard to tend to it, to nurture it, sometimes to find it and let it out of its box. And I could infer that it was his wife and children’s early deaths that helped him rediscover that seed. Or, in turning to faith in a deity was the fertilizer it needed. But I think he could have reached down in there on his own and pulled it out on his own. Grown his own tree of human goodness. I don’t like to think that you NEED to have some life-altering event, some mystical mental curtain parting, to do it. But however it happened, I’ll take one more person trying to be good and do good, over the ignorant pinhead he was.
Although it will take a few more visits to convince me. I will be sniffing around him for signs of remaining bigotry for a while, ready and waiting to snuff the life out of it. Since my milk of human kindness lives in the back of the refrigerator, in the Schrodinger’s Tupperware container.
You know the one: where it’s been in there so long, it’s HAD to have gone bad, but you won’t really know until you open it up and check, but who the hell wants to do that? So, until you open it...