Tag Archives: friends

(un)Questioning Loyalty

Loyalty. It’s a loaded word. I understand when its meaning is you will stand by the people you love and care about when times are tough, when people get sick, when they get divorced, when they’re isn’t money. I get that. You show up when they have a birthday party and you show up when they need help moving. You listen. You offer a hand or a ride to the airport. You keep their secrets. When they are wronged, you support them. You don’t befriend their enemies or if you do, you never betray your loved person as a result. You have their interests at heart. All this makes sense.

What does not make sense to me is offering loyalty without strings. Giving loyalty that crosses your own ethics, your personal sense of right and wrong. Not speaking up when someone you care about is doing questionable things, or is hurting other people. When they’re being dishonest and not necessarily with you – maybe you know they’re being dishonest with someone else. Exactly how loyal should you be when someone is crossing lines? Even if you are not personally and directly affected?

A prime example that comes to mind is how you approach someone else’s extramarital (or extrarelationship) affair, especially when you also know and care about the person being cheated on, or “cheatee.” This situation is one of life’s truly sticky widgets. I think minimally, a person of integrity doesn’t help facilitate the affair – that being one skeezy kind of loyalty. But I know plenty of people would disagree, not the least of which are many of those roping their friends and family into their affairs under the auspices of loyalty.

Blood is a big one in the loyalty annals. There are those who believe if someone is kin, you must be unfailingly loyal matter what they do. Or if you are married to them you must give total loyalty. A whole lot of crappy things have been done based on this thinking.

It’s been a surprising 20 years since David Kaczynski turned in his brother, Ted, the eventually-convicted “Unabomber,” and I still remember that there was public backlash and debate over his action. His brother was responsible for killing people! And there was no reason to expect his mailed bomb exploits were over. I really couldn’t believe – then or now – that anyone could question the rightness of David Kaczynski’s choice, one he says he did not make easily. What would the naysayers have had him do? Go give Ted a “good talking-to” and extract a promise he wouldn’t do it anymore?

Of course, most situations where loyalty comes into play won’t be that extreme. In fact, some may be a good bit more abstract. I find it difficult to be stridently loyal not only to those who I see doing things wrong (in my opinion) but who also hold potentially damaging and/or hateful beliefs.

If I turn the tables a bit, I can offer that I wouldn’t want people close to me to be loyal no matter what I did. I’d hope they would stay awake and alert, true to their own ethics. To speak up if they thought I was headed the wrong direction or missing important points.

I know that’s what I do; speak up when someone close is making iffy decisions, most of all when they impinge on or hurt other people. That doesn’t necessarily mean they change what they’re doing, but it does mean there are and will be times I hold back loyalty.

Advertisements

Short Post 98 (re connecting)

All my life, I’ve had people try to reconnect with me; this while blatantly ignoring the smoldering bridge between us, the one they poured gasoline on, tossed matches onto, roasted marshmallows on, for chrissakes. “What? That there? That’s nothing. Look away. No big deal. Nothing bad – or all that bad – happened here. You misunderstood. What are you making such a big deal about? I miss you. I want to be friends.

How old are your friends?

I read once that throughout their lives, people tend to have the same age relative to their friends. It’s an interesting idea. In my case, for example, my friends have tended to be my age and older, a theme which has run fairly constant till now, even as the specific people have changed.

On the other hand, starting in childhood, one of my older sisters leaned toward people her age and younger for friends, and, pushing forty, even married someone younger.

If there is anything to this, it must have to do with the nature of the dynamic we prefer in our social relationships. I thought about that and realized I’ve wanted peers and people I can learn from.

With my sister, it’s pretty easy to understand too; she liked to be in charge, the ringleader of her friendships.

I am thinking that my way could eventually hit snags. Suppose I’m 90. Will I be looking for 100-year-old friends?? I can see where the pool of eligible contenders might begin to dry up a bit!

I do need to say that in sometimes being drawn to older friends, I have never looked for someone to “take charge” of me, i.e., tell me how to think, live, etc. Not all all. I have always been my own person and pretty capable of thinking for myself. Being interested in someone’s mind has consistently been the impetus for my friendships and relationships as well. I’ve seriously dated a man 10 years older and another 13 years older. I can think of two younger guys I seriously dated but both were long ago and have proven to be exceptions (so far?).

Another aspect to the friends business independent of age, is that my friends have typically been single, like I am (whether they never married, were divorced, and in one case, widowed). I don’t seem to befriend couples – or vice versa. Theoretically I’m not against it, but it hasn’t been part of my experience.

How old are your friends relative to you? Does the age theory seem to hold true to your experience?

No “friends” for me, thanks

I ain’t got no Facebook friends. Yeppers, not a one, although I do have a page. I wonder occasionally if there are others like me, but there’s really no way to know. Not a way I can tell at any rate. A couple internet searches, phrased a few ways (like: How many people have no Facebook friends?) primarily turned up cases of people having no friends and wanting them. That and a Southpark episode I assure you I never saw and never will see.

You gotta understand me: this is a deliberate refusal on my part that I can see no reason to change. Lord and Mr. Zuckerberg know, Facebook would like me to. They are hell-bent that I should have me some friends. They’re not all that fussy about who either. I’m constantly shown photos of people to befriend. Facebook has gotten a bit desperate about it. I’d swear they’ve “experimented” with putting Add Friend buttons where I’ll accidentally hit them. (And I HAVE accidentally hit them, gone into a panic and quickly found the Cancel Friend Request button. Geez, close call!) Mostly, the photos are strangers with no connection to me whatsoever, but once in a rare while they’ll be people I actually know.

In case you wonder how I handle receiving requests, as opposed to extending them, I found a way to remove the “Request” button from my page. (I put Follow up because I view that differently, although there’s admittedly little to follow. Does anybody care if I “like” Dollar Tree or the “Curly Girl Handbook” or a local online yardsale group? Yeah, I think I rest my case.) I did get a surprise when I saw that someone I’d “followed” was able to throw a Friend Request my way. He was an author who was just doing it automatically; he has 3700 friends, so I don’t think he’ll lose sleep that I didn’t accept. Anyway, I was already following him!

I took my sweet time before signing up for Facebook and when I did, the primary reason was to have a page for an art hobby. To me, Facebook very much looks and feels like a college-aged guy designed it. (Friend and Unfriend? C’mon! Why not add a Cooties button??) I am still surprised so many grownups have taken to it as they have, especially in a time it feels wise not to throw a lot of personal information around, but maybe that’s just me. If I was in high school, or college now, I bet I’d be all up in it. However, I’m long past those demographics and moreover, I’m a private person – blog not withstanding – and have no desire to share the details of my life, be they petty or profound, in that setting. I’ve always found it a bit weird in real life when social worlds collide. I really don’t think I’d want people from grade school, friends, relatives, co-workers, old neighbors, and sundry others all mixed up in one stew on a public site. Yes, I know you can divvy people into subgroups, and I’ve noticed the fairly recent divisions on my home page for Acquaintances, Family, and Close Friends, but just thinking about doing all that and staying on top of it so I don’t make scrambled hash out of my life, makes me want to take a little nap.

I have no patience for a lot of what I see on Facebook. Bear in mind I don’t much enjoy a lot of small and/or surface talk. I don’t want to hear what a friend of a friend of a friend had for lunch or what someone else did on a fake farm. And at the other end of the spectrum, it feels inappropriate to hear that somebody I barely know or don’t know has cancer or has died. It’s not mine to know or react to. The trouble is that many posts are served up and responded to in much the same tone. That is, a complaint of a cold or a tumor can both get responses of, “Feel better!” It doesn’t sit right. I don’t believe in feigning or manufacturing responses to situations I shouldn’t be involved in, and certainly not through such a casual forum. It isn’t the place, not to me. Not to mention all the fighting and misunderstanding and offending. The things people write can get so ugly. There’s a lot of one-upping and trolling. And it’s not clever or insightful most of the time. These are not Shakespearean insults. I think people assume too much about others on Facebook, when in fact they’re often dealing with strangers, or acquaintances, or people they used to know and no longer do. (There may well be sound reasons you haven’t stayed in touch.) That’s a recipe for problems.

Trying to have a conversation, let alone LOTS of conversations with a group really isn’t my style, in life or in print. I’m a one-on-one sort of gal. My favorite conversations are long, meandering and at the risk of sounding pretentious, deep. I prefer one or two very close friends to scads of acquaintances, and I’ve always been wired this way. That’s not exactly what Facebook is about. I’m not saying there aren’t people having quality, meaningful interactions; just that the framework isn’t wildly geared toward them. It’s a soundbite venue. I mean even I get turned off when someone drones on & on in that tiny comment box. Facebook isn’t meant for thinking or communicating in paragraphs. Can you imagine trying to express a thought like this one, i.e., why I don’t want Facebook friends, with all its detail and nuance, there?

So why be there at all? Aside from my initial reason, the other is to be found, to have a way for people – from my past or those I know now – to contact me through private message if they want. Interestingly, few do. Not complaining, mind you! Beyond that, I like following certain people, authors for example, or joining groups of interest. The nice thing about that is if I follow or become a member and subsequently lose interest, nobody is going to be offended. A best-selling author isn’t going to even notice I’m gone. I like dabbling or reading, tossing an occasional “like”. It was fun to hop onto the official Olympics page leading up to the recent games and to get updates on the new version of Cosmos. I can check out what’s ahead on American Experience or Frontline. Get a boatload of recipes from chefs/cooks. (Geez, there’s even a page called Food Porn! Be still my palpitating heart. I can’t join it – the photos were full of sugary, creamy, rich, fattening foods and I don’t need the tease. After all, the page isn’t called Healthy Food Porn.)

When all is said and done – and I’ve been on Facebook several years – I like having the kind of balance I do. I’m not totally in the loop and I’m not totally inaccessible and out of it either. I do waste some time there, but my self-imposed limits keep me from wasting the kind of time that I’d feel uneasy about. After all, how addicted can I get? I could always change my mind and rustle up a few “friends,” but given everything I’ve seen already, I doubt I will.

I went to a “tech” high school (and wasted time)

I think I was lost in high school. Make no mistake, I enjoyed myself, but went from being a big fish (grade-wise) in a small pond in grammar school to being an average, B student in a large suburban high school. I really did not distinguish myself in any way save for being a friend to certain movers and shakers. Not for gain, but because I liked them. (I turned things around later, when I would put myself through college and graduate Summa Cum Laude – oh yeah I did – but that was years down the line.)

I spent my first 8 grades in parochial school, where I think far too much time was spent on listening to stories of people getting crucified or eaten by lions, and of course attending church and going through various rituals, which could have been better spent on oh, I don’t know, preparing us for the future. That said, the English/Reading curriculum was pretty good (yay Phonics!).

Here’s where things went wrong. A fancy, new public high school had opened in the town. It had been long promised and in fact my older siblings were expected to attend had it been built sooner. It was a “tech” school which, in my family simply brought on jeers about shop class and making birdhouses or whatever traditionally gets made in such classes. So far as I knew, nobody even bothered to look into it. Well, shockingly (not!) my family members were wrong, because the school turned out to be a Science and Tech school. Gee, that’s a little different, isn’t it? Bird houses my foot. It welcomed the brightest kids in the county who tested in for admission as well as the local contingent of kids – aka the townies (not that anyone called them that; “burn-outs” and “heads” got more play) – who would be there because the law required them to be. Knowing nothing of the test or admissions process to be in the Science & Tech program, I was automatically in the latter group.

Once at the school, things went okay (it was great to not wear a uniform, and they had a GORGEOUS auditorium with cushy red seats that I could not believe, and even an elevator we were not supposed to use; I always liked elevators), but admittedly, for the most part I was more interested in my new-found social life than academics.  I was very distracted to be among hundreds of students and I enjoyed a level of popularity that was utterly foreign to my experience.

Surrounded by a lot of brilliant kids though, I was easily overlooked by teachers and administrators. Nobody was guiding or directing me, at home or at school. I don’t know who those guidance counselors on TV shows or in movies are, addressing students by name and chatting with them about their lives, concerns, and college plans. Ha, ha! My guidance counselor’s favorite phrase, for the most mundane class scheduling concerns (which were all that was ever discussed), was “I’m afraid I can’t help you young lady.” My older sister, who was also assigned to him – students got their counselor by last-name alphabetical groupings – heard the same useless spiel (she wrote a caption with him saying that in my yearbook). I’m sure he had no idea who I was and had I walked away from his desk and returned five minutes later, he’d likely have considered me a new person. Toad.
P_20140620_082847

I understood the basic plan: pass your classes, pass your grade level, and get to be a Senior. I didn’t think much, or at least not realistically beyond that (I wanted to go to the U of Miami to major in Creative Writing but my parents weren’t going to help me and it eventually became clear it cost far more than I had). My inattention to the future showed. While my very bright friends – who said I ought to be in their curriculum and in retrospect I agree – took Advanced Placement classes and spent an entire YEAR on a project in a class called “Research Practicum” (the name alone intimidated the hell out of me moreover the concept of spending a year on something was unfathomable), I fooled around. I don’t mean I was lazy; I worked part time jobs during the school year and full time in summers, but I also had my share, and perhaps a few other people’s shares, of fun. (I was making up for lost time, but unfortunately NOT at the most opportune phase of life.)

The school, in my experience, did very little so far as preparing me or my ilk, i.e., those of us in the Comprehensive (general) curriculum, for anything beyond high school. They DID offer a class called “Single Living”, which got me all excited, but it filled up and I was assigned to “Child Development” instead, where we played with 4 and 5 year olds and made little lesson plans for them. The kids were mostly very sweet and the teacher thought I was very good with them (hint, hint, think career), but dagnabbit, I wasn’t thinking about careers or raising children; I wanted Single Living!

There was one, albeit kind of token, thing the school did for our supposed future. And I’m little embarrassed to tell you, but since we’ve come this far and you need to trust me, I will spill. “College Day” was held at the county community college. Students had the day, or most of it, off from school to attend the event. I knew they had brochures and such and I’m guessing college reps but I’m a little fuzzy on that because after making a quite brief appearance, I took off to ride around in a car with friends, people who, like me, were NOT on the school’s smart-kid fast track. We blew the remainder of the day playing around. It is notable in my mind as being the only time in my life I rode in a car that hit 100mph, which it did on the highway. The driver, who was my boy-interest at the time, turned around, still flying at top speed mind you, to shake the hands of his buddies in the back seat. By that, I was – and still am – shocked. Oh yes. This is how I spent College Day.

An old boyfriend comes to call, er, I mean email

As often happens now that most of us live in or regularly visit Internet Land, a man from my past turned up online. Slight correction. He was a boy when I knew him before, literally. Teenage. Now he was married and living in another state. We caught up in emails, cleared up a few things from the dusty past. He had a relatively strong memory of me to offer, as well as regrets and apologies I never expected to hear but found gratifying.

He’d played a significant role in my teenage years and was able to fill in a few blanks in our narrative for me, things I hadn’t understood at the time. Also, a devastating event had occurred later in that general time frame that had nothing to do with our specific (long over) relationship, but which had haunted him since. I was not impacted the same way but had known about it, remembered, and could discuss it now. The interplay was cathartic on both sides. And honestly, because he’d turned into a skilled and witty writer – a talent there’d been no evidence of in our history, however brief – it was fun. About as close to time travel as I’ve found possible.

I needed to know for my sake, who this person was now. A single, real-time conversation would do it, so at my suggestion, a phone call – a lively, funny one it turned out – followed. This guy was a stranger in so many ways and yet I picked up on traits that must have been the same ones that appealed to me in the teenage boy. Smart, a shrewd wise-ass with a big personality. In fact he was the one who made this comment: https://writerinsoul.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/somebody-will-cry/. There were signs of other attributes I did not relate to so well that I don’t need to elaborate for the purpose of my story. But there’s a bigger point. As I alluded via the need for apologies, he hadn’t been the nicest guy when I’d known him years ago. He’d left ill will in his wake. I held judgment in reserve but couldn’t escape that million dollar question: Do people really change? How young is your essential personality really set?

I’ve read what academics have to say, I’ve talked this question over with friends, and still, I wonder. Strokes, Alzheimer’s, or other big life-altering events and conditions can alter someone’s basic personality. But I’m talking about shy of that. If you believe you’ve got someone’s number at age 15 or 18 or 20, can you safely assume you’ve still got it at 30, 50, 70, always? Despite any claims or assertions to the contrary?

It turned out he was going to be passing through my area. Now, don’t be sitting there thinking, “Oh SURE, he just HAPPENED to be passing through your area! I’ll bet. Did he just HAPPEN to book a quiet dinner for two at a nearby hotel too?” Give me some credit. His mother still lived in my state and I wasn’t the only person from his past he wanted to see. His wife knew he planned to meet a few people. I got the idea it might have even been a sort of Making Amends Tour. And if I’m wrong about that, it was definitely to catch up with more than just me.

When we met, the only thing that seemed familiar from the past was his voice. Not surprisingly, the ease of the emails and the phone call were not immediately at hand (I’ve been down this particular road before). But we managed. He seemed tired, and maybe uncertain about me. I sensed he wasn’t saying something, or was waiting perhaps for a sign from me, although quite what, I couldn’t say with certainty (and I’m fairly good at this if I do say so). As he had in emails, he said he’d like to stay friends but had no real answer when I asked exactly how that might work. (If I may, I will offer that wives as a rule don’t line up suggesting I befriend their husbands.) Please forgive the cliche but I was not at a place in my life where I was in the mood for nonsense or anyone trifling with my feelings. I didn’t want to be the Secret Internet Friend, to provide entertainment or counsel or titillation – if it came to that – on the side. I’ve learned a thing or two or eight and was only interested in entertaining a scenario on the up-and-up, if at all.

He’d made arrangements to catch up with another guy from the old days that evening, someone I’d known but not well. He wanted me to join him. There was going to be a band and a bar on the itinerary. Our time together, and the point of it so far as I intended, was over. I gave an unequivocal no. I didn’t hedge or coyly try to get him to talk me into it. I didn’t say this to him – although I had brought up something related in email – but I knew the moment I got in his car a line would be crossed. “Date” was the word in my mind. Get in that car and I’m on a date. I don’t drink but could foresee the role alcohol might well play in the remainder of the day as he and the other old friend kicked back a couple brewskies and caught up. There I’d be.

We parted without fuss. There was no follow-up. Months later I emailed, with the express caveat it was a one-time thing, to share with him news of another guy we’d both known well and had wondered about when we reconnected. The story I told was way too good not to share, particularly given that back in the day we both had been on the receiving end of sh*t from this other person and it was a bit of a bonding point.

He loved the story, chimed up again that he still thought the two of us should be friends (I’ll resist putting that last word in italics or quotes even if I thought it came across a bit breezy) and that he was in a time crunch, but would write more later. He didn’t. You’re not surprised are you? Neither was I, even if I allow it didn’t make me feel all that great. I kind of saw that he’d already told me all I needed to know. For my purposes here and now. And I was glad we’d reconnected, truly. The bigger questions I’ll keep thinking about.