This weekend we were at a conference with a bunch of people I sincerely enjoy being around, and one person in particular I’m trying to avoid. Because apparently I lack the maturity God gave a fifth grader. He ticked me off earlier this year and owes me a conversation.
I know he knows.
I know he knows I know.
Instead of talking about this thing, we passed each other, again and again, with a quick “hey you, how the heck are you?” and kept moving. We’re both really very busy people.
I could be the one to initiate the conversation. I’ve got years on him. I’m more experienced. I should be an example. I should be a grown up.
There’s a history of my behaving badly in situations like these. It’s my modus operandi.
I graduated from college a year before Mike and returned to my hometown for a job. I spent that time desperately lonely and hating that I’d moved.
Sometime during the year, one of our supposed mutual friends said something snotty about the two of us that got back to me – something along the lines of Mike being out of my league.
This supposed friend was there, in that college town, with all my college friends and my long-distance fiancé, chattering about my shortcomings. It burned a hole in my gut.
And then she graduated too and moved to my town. We’d see each other at alumni gatherings or just out at a bar. It’s not a huge town.
Maybe she knew I knew what she said. Maybe she didn’t. Maybe she didn’t even say it at all, but was totally misinterpreted. I could have asked.
“Hey, did you just … well, like sometime last year … wonder aloud if Mike should really be dating a hillbilly like me?”
That would have been awkward.
Instead, I threw ice cubes at her when my drink was empty and she wasn’t looking.
Sometime after that she and her husband bought a house in our neighborhood and I saw her almost daily. We’d pass each other with a little smile and a wave from our cars.
Sometime after that, a mutual colleague recruited her to sit on a committee for a nonprofit.
It was a committee I chaired.
So we met in committee meetings and politely shared small talk about college days. I never asked whether she actually once thought Mike was slumming. She never said anything about my beaning her in the noggin with ice cubes.
Here’s the thing: It’s nearly impossible for me to sustain a hearty rage toward anyone face to face. As big a talker as I am, I’m not terribly confrontational. Make me face the object of my ire, and any anger I have is usually going to go up like a ghost fart on fire. Fwoop. Gone.
I mentioned something to Mike about this, and he reminded me of a conversation with my Dad I’d forgotten. I had been yakking about giving someone a piece of my mind.
“You know I won’t, though,” I said. “I’ll be all kinds of small talk about the weather and how his kids are doing, and I’ll forget I’m even mad because I’m the biggest damn weanie on the planet.”
Dad speculated that my inability to sustain anger in the face of the person who caused it was less a lack of spine than an overriding instinct for tact.
Dad was great at paying complements I would just about kill myself to live up to.
I wonder about my propensity for taking offense, and whether I’ve already passed it along to my kids.
When Colin is mad or feels like retribution is called for, he tends to puff up his chest and describe some sort of quick and decisive and completely unrealistic action he plans to take.
“Next time I see him, I’m just going to pick up a truck and smash him with it.”
In Colin’s case, the fact that he has never once picked up a truck and smashed anyone with it is probably less an overriding instinct for tact, and something more to do with physics.
So, here I was, at a conference with this guy who appeared around every corner, and the two of us in a crowd that would presumably frown on truck smashing tactics.
I’d like to say I approached him at one point and bought him a beer and we worked it all out.
But that’s not what happened. I had my hands full with tasks I could have shirked and twitter feed to browse. I let the opportunity pass to consign my anger to the fate of a ghost fart on fire.
But the weekend wasn’t without its share of irony.
At the conference there was a contingency of teenagers we were responsible for chaperoning. If you’ve been within arm’s length of any girl at any time recently, you’ve probably unwittingly memorized the entire Frozen sound track.
At a time I was trying to rush past this guy every time I saw him in order to cultivate my preschoolish sense of righteous indignation, it was with the tune they hummed all weekend boring a hole into my brain.
Let It Go.
… but don’t let it go before you vote. I appreciate your support.
photo by: bobsfever