Category Archives: People/Relationships

Short Thought 193 (sorry)

I’ve been thinking about apologies lately, both ones I’ve personally been offered in the past as well as those I’ve heard in the media.

You know what’s a lousy apology? “I don’t remember doing that but if I did do it or you think I did, I apologize.”

This suggests a few things to me, none promising:

a) the apologizer remembers damn good & well but was hoping it would be forgotten.

b) the apologizer doesn’t remember because they were high or drunk.

c) the apologizer doesn’t remember because it was no big deal in their mind and/or they act that way all the time.

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There are some incidents you don’t forget

I wasn’t yet 20. I had a short relationship, a serious one, with a guy who was a few years older. He’d previously had a reputation as a “flirt”, someone who made his interest in the opposite sex obvious. Girls liked him too; he was attractive and had an easy way about him (he’d even dated my good friend). Some years earlier, when I was both inexperienced and somewhat geeky still, he’d focused his charms on me one day at the community pool and I’d been very flattered. A few years had passed and by the time we dated, I was far more my own person and could meet him as an equal.

In those years he too had changed and in fact, had recently found religion. What this meant was that religious and philosophical discussions were in heavy rotation between us, which was fine by me since I loved spirited, intense conversations.  However, I’d had it with organized religion by that point in my life so dating a born-again was a challenge.  That said, I definitely cared for him. There was a warmth and sweetness to our relationship.

Part of his new beliefs meant a drastic change in his sexual activity. Prior to seeing me, he’d been sexually active but now was invested in a chaste life, believing that sex was for marriage only. Kissing was about the extent of was on the menu between us. He was so devoted to his new life that he once asked me to wait outside his house while he showered and changed clothes so that the neighbors would not think we’d gone inside to have sex. I’m not kidding.

I think he believed that eventually I’d get onboard with the born-again thing. He talked about marrying me. If only I would convert. I met the religious people he’d begun following (a friend had warned me off, saying they were like a cult), but had no intention of joining them. They tried to “court” me but they were out of their depth as I wasn’t interested in joining a new religion of any sort and was quite skeptical of them. Once that was obvious to him, that I wasn’t going to start believing what he believed, he broke it off. I was surprised because it was sudden but offered no objection. If he wanted to stop seeing me, I wasn’t going to argue it. I was plenty tired of having the Bible quoted at me   (I remember asking him to at least put it in his “own words” but he  preferred to quote and proselytize).

Some months passed – no more than a year – and I reached out to him (and a few other people I had lost touch with). I think at the time I probably just wanted us to be on decent terms – which was likely misguided – but as a result we took a walk one day. Once we were in each other’s company, he made it clear that he interpreted my reaching out to him as a ploy of sorts to reconnect romantically. I knew he was the same born-again and while my motives might have been fuzzy at the time, it wasn’t to get back together.

After the walk we returned to my parents’ house (remember, I’m still in my late teens)  and stood in the street talking, when out of nowhere he started tussling with me. He pushed me down onto the neighbor’s lawn and held me there. This was very, very strange. We hadn’t interacted like this when we were dating and despite the fact he was  acting like he was “playing” it was clearly aggressive and didn’t fit the moment whatsoever. It was daylight out. My family was home. Neighbors were home. And I’m lying in the grass with this guy on top of me in the neighbor’s yard trying to fight him off. What was his intention? To humiliate me? To work out sexual aggression never realized in our chaste relationship? I didn’t know then and I don’t know now.  But I didn’t like it and I was pissed. I started kicking at him , saying “I don’t care if I hurt you.” Which was to say I wasn’t going to be sorry if one of those kicks hit him in the balls.

It probably all happened very fast (you know how time gets drawn out in certain moments, exaggerated; this was one). He let me go and I stood up and walked across the street to my house without a word. I never looked back.  This tawdry little scene was the addendum to our relationship and the very last impression I had of him.  It colored my feelings about the relationship we’d had, tainted it.


Fast forward decades. I reconnected with another person  from my teens, one who had been friends with the guy I dated. We talked about this other guy (who’d apparently tried to push the whole religion thing onto him too all those years ago). He told me a story. Back in the day he and his girlfriend had gone to the beach with the future born-again. He had left the two alone to go do something (I don’t remember what; take a swim/use the restroom/whatever). On his return, his girlfriend confided that in his absence his friend had basically jumped on her. Nice fellow. Waited till his buddy’s back was turned and put moves on his girlfriend. It didn’t sound innocent or forgettable. It sounded, in the telling, all this time later, like an attack. I could tell it still bothered the man sharing it and at the time it happened it had affected his relationship with his friend.

Learning this, that my born-again had done the same thing, that is act physically aggressive out of nowhere with another girl, around the same time period, validated everything I’d thought about how he behaved with me on the lawn that day. I hadn’t imagined anything. It was disturbing and strange. At least at that time this repeated behavior  showed something in his nature.


A couple years ago the born-again guy I’d had the relationship with so long ago had his daughter reach out to me on Facebook. He wasn’t on Facebook and was using his daughter to contact people. I didn’t know his teenage child – or until very recently anything about what he’d done with his life, including that he even had a wife and children – and she certainly didn’t know me or my history with her dad. In fact, she instead brought up an unrelated incident that had occurred with my good friend, prior to our relationship, a story my born-again apparently still found funny.

What I find funny, although not in the haha way, is what people decide, consciously or not, to remember or find significant years later. Yes, I’d been there and remembered well the incident his daughter related – one that had not been especially funny at the time nor to the main person affected. But I also remembered another one that this girl was sure never to hear, not from her father certainly. Had he really forgotten? Had it slipped his mind that the scene outside my parents’ house was the last impression he’d left with me? What if I’d said to his daughter, “Ask your dad if he remembers the knee-slapping time when he pushed me down and climbed on top of me on the neighhor’s lawn and I had to fight him off.”

I decided to answer the Facebook  message because this kid, although kind of cheeky to approach an adult stranger in such a familiar way as she did, had nothing to do with my relationship with her father so long ago and wasn’t remotely responsible for his actions. After I replied briefly and light-heartedly to the daughter (who must have reported back to her father), she offered the family email so that I might receive their last “Christmas letter.” I didn’t follow up. I thought it was peculiar that the man I’d known was using his child to make contact with people from the old days  and receiving the family Christmas letter sure wasn’t going to set things to rights.  Her father eventually joined Facebook. He has not contacted me.

 

Note: Please forgive a short delay in responding to comments.

Short Thought 189

People often don’t seem to realize that a big, bold, shitty move (or a series of small, bold, shitty moves) in a relationship needs to be corrected by a big, bold good one (or ongoing good, smaller ones) of equal or greater value. Offering a weak “My bad” or “Oh, sorry” don’t cut it. Worse is saying and doing nothing, forcing the wronged party to try to prompt or cajole appropriate amends. It’s almost a subtle form of gas lighting, acting as if nothing egregious occurred.

(Too) close to home

The neighbors live in chaos. I grew up in chaos.

I’ve had two years to think about this. A lot.

In a way, that adage about not ever really getting away from your past is true. You don’t. It shows up in other people, in other situations. This time I’m a witness. No – that’s not right to say “this time.” The FIRST time I was a witness too. Not a participant.

(I see grown children who continue their parents’ legacy all the time; participating in the chaos they learned on the home front. That is, they never rejected it in the first place. It was normal and it stayed normal. That was never me. I rejected it very young.)

I am the kind of person who has to find meaning in my experiences. I am compelled. In the neighbors I see what I rejected as toxic in my own family a long time ago. Oh, it’s not exactly the same and the differences initially kept me from seeing the parallels. But – people who live in chaos, who thrive on drama, who have shitty coping skills – they’re more or less the same. The specific details are usually interchangeable and not all that significant.

It might be all well and good to just say “So what, go ahead and live like that, who cares; just stay in your four walls and ‘kill’ each other.” But it doesn’t work that way does it? Other people, bystanders, invariably get dragged in, by choice and not. Other people are affected. Toxicity has tentacles.

Also, people who live in chaos recruit new cast members for their ongoing dramas because old ones get burnt out or move on, and besides, a big dramatic production can always use more players and audience members. And again, even if they don’t actively recruit, the mess such people make is not tidy and contained in those metaphorical four walls. It seeps out and contaminates whatever it touches.

People choose drama and chaos to fill emptiness in their lives. It keeps them busy. It keeps them from thinking too much, from real reflection and introspection. Nothing like a good scene, a knock-down-drag-out fight, shallow distractions, an addictive habit or three, or constantly “helping” somebody else with their “problems” to keep a person busy, no? It’s so transparent to me now.

I wholesally reject everything about this. Decency can trump toxicity. It has too. Decency springs of a better place, it has deeper roots. I chose a long time ago to live in decency not in chaos. It is a choice. It’s one I made with my own original family and it’s one that I continue to make throughout my life.

People whose lives are filled with meaningful pursuits and positive activities to occupy their waking hours are not attracted to and do not thrive on toxic chaos. That is the challenge isn’t it? For everybody. Everybody who gives a damn about how they conduct their lives.

Short Thought 188 (neighbor)

I heard that an actor who had a part on a well-known TV show was moving into the neighborhood. I was curious. It was close enough that I could actually see the move-in but as it turned out it was the day the man I knew killed himself so I no longer cared or paid any attention. I had other problems to deal with as well last year and trying to get the scoop on a neighbor-on-TV was a low priority.

Time passed. He instead became “the guy who habitually runs stop signs.”

Short Thought 185 (revealing)

Without any particular probing on my part, the first time we talked he revealed a lot of personal things about himself, more than you’d normally expect, the sort of things you’d tell if you were building trust and confidence with a new acquaintance. Yet he didn’t seem interested in talking again.

When that happens I think either a) the person is rather forthcoming with lots of people (so there’s nothing special about it) or b) they feel they have over shared and need to back away. In any case what I know for sure is I let it go, I don’t pursue it. It wasn’t always that way but I learned.

Overheard

I was in a store yesterday and heard a woman talking on her phone to another woman, probably a friend. I hear people yammering on phones everywhere I go so this sure wasn’t an unusual situation. However, the woman was clearly audible and came closer to me so I couldn’t miss what she was saying. They were talking about men and their relationships with them. The woman in the store was suggesting her friend’s practice and error, was “making men husbands”. She said it twice. Her friend must have fired back or bristled in some way because the woman replied memorably. In fact I stopped right there (she was out of eyesight) and got out a pen and paper – something I think about doing and never do – and wrote it down.

I been married once honey. And truthfully had I known him a little longer it would have been zero. He slid in there. He got lucky.