Thursday, January 6, 2011
I frequently sit on a bar stool alongside my friend. Women think he is a very handsome man. Often I sit and I watch women watch him. And often I sit and I watch women scheme to meet him.
One night I sat alongside Mike as we watched a Minnesota Twins baseball game. Mike and I noticed two women who sat near my side. He turned back to watch the game. One of the women began a conversation with me. I wasn't surprised. I am always the wingman. My demeanor is affable; people often approach me. I have a large personality. I am not great looking but my personality pushes me past average. The woman was cute and possessed a perky personality. I was intrigued. She leaned over her friend - who sat between her and I - and asked me a silly question. I laughed. We began a flirt. Soon she asked me to guess her age. I said, "35." Her face fell. I said, "What's wrong?" And she replied, "I am 35." I said, "Yeah, I thought so." And she began to lecture me on male/female relationships. "You should have lied," she said. "Women like to be flattered." And I replied, "No. Women would rather live in trust than be flattered. If a man lies to a woman he makes her live her life without trust." Her nose scrunched into her cheeks and cracked her foundation. She took her index finger and she pointed at Mike and said, "I don't want to talk to you anymore. I want to talk to him." And she stood up and went and stood at his side. I spent the rest of the evening engaged in a conversation with her friend. Her friend is a lovely woman.
If one sentence swirls around all my social spheres it's, "Wow Mark, why don't you tell us how you really feel!" People are perpetually stunned I say what's on my mind or what weighs on my heart. I waste no words. If I don't like a man, I tell him. I say, "I don't like you." I say, "She's a pig." I say, "He's a liar." "She stole that." "She's an anti-Catholic bigot." "No. I'm not doing it." I say, "Don't talk to him that way." I defend their children and their choices in a spouse. I insist on an insult-free and kindness intensive environment. I am intensely direct and extremely forthright.
I'm also the first one to say, "I love you." "You're right." "You're a good man." "You know more about that than I do." I'm the first to praise. I'm the first to pray. I'm the first to inquire. I'm the first to defend. I'm the first to include. I'm the first to invite. I'm the first to introduce. I'm the first to reinforce.
Why do I say it? Because I know it's morally right; I know it's my obligation as a Roman Catholic. Oh, I know the risk. But, I know I can do alone. I'm not afraid of alone.
People lie, cheat, steal, and bend over and grab their ankles, in the hope they won't remain alone. For an opportunity of companionship they will compromise their ideals and their integrity. They'll trade the disclosure of spousal secrets and childish mistakes for an echoed titter or a communal chuckle. Familial pride and dignity are auctioned to mere acquaintances.
I will not buy, sell, or trade for companionship.
I know why people are surprised by my candor. Well, they're surprised for three reasons:
1. I have the courage to say it.
2. Most people accept me regardless of my rigidity.
3. I'm intelligent enough to know the consequences. People are always surprised I recognize their reactions.
There are consequences for my actions. I am often shunned, excluded, and traded. These consequences are of no consequence to me. I'm not afraid of alone. I've done alone.
I've thought about friendship this week.
I know a man who only wants to be around me when his friends are absent. He likes to be the center of attention; I have an aura about me. I can sit quietly and I remain the center of attention. He doesn't want to share a light. So - I only see him when all his other options are absent. When I'm near him, I sit in silence. Well unless the baseline of dignity is erased. He tells his jokes. He catches my eye. He averts my gaze. He thinks I don't know; he'd be staggered how little I care.
I know a man who only wants to be around me so he can be around my friends. He doesn't like me; he likes my proximity. I am surrounded by phenomenal people. I occasionally include him. He mates my invitation with insults. Oh not to me - about me. I stand near my friends and he uses my pride as his punchline.
I know a man who likes me but doesn't have the courage to befriend me. His friends don't like me. And so he calls me when they are absent. He doesn't invite me or include me in any activities. He apologizes for being busy. I don't call him. I don't want to be invited. I have nothing in common with his friends.
I know a man who thinks his wife is too fond of me. And so he stalks around her in social situations like a koolie keeping corral. I have no interest in befriending her. When we've spoken, I've praised her husband. I honor his vows more than he does.
I know a man who knows. He knows I know. He knows I know he knows. He doesn't want to know anymore. So he slips into shadows and shades himself from the sun. He's seen the sheen on my skin. He shuns me.
I know a man who wants my friendship so he can use the acquaintance against his friends. "Mark called me." "Mark and I went ..." "Mark was over ..." "Oh did you get a card from Mark too?" He thinks I'm too daft to see his deeds. I'm not daft; I'm disinterested.
I know a man who lacks social grace. He is awkward. He is rude. He is oblivious to his oddity. He sits beside me so he can have my friends for his audience.
None of these men live solitary lives. They are surrounded by souls. They compromise themselves in the hopes of rising in relevance. I am merely a stone in a coveted illusory pedestal.
Should I compromise and castrate my integrity for their companionship?
Why would I?
Should I silently stand as they disparage their children? Should I clap while they announce their wives foibles for fraternal fun? Should I jeer and cheer while they parasitically feed on their pals' pride?
What would I gain?
I can do alone.
I bought a new telephone. No that's not true. I upgraded. I had a touch screen. I hated it. My pocketed keys dialed people without my permission. My gait bounced text messages without words. Now I have a keyboard again. I love it. Today I tried to sync my cell phone contact list with AT&Ts Address Book. There was a computer glitch. My contacts in my cell phone were deleted and my online entries are scrambled. Random telephone numbers are randomly attached to wrong names. I have no hard copy of the contacts information. I started to panic. I had hope in so many of those entries. I had numbers of women I'd like to speak to again. I had professional contacts. I had my buddies numbers. I had numbers of people I never wanted to speak to again; I maintained the numbers so I'd be alerted when the contentious called.
And then I rethought. I think I like the uncluttered. My cell phone contact list now includes less than ten names. Most of them are family members. My most important numbers were bound on a sheet of paper tucked in my wallet. In the next couple of days I'll gather the information from a few people I don't want to lose. And I'll grab each number as I'm called and texted.
I've decided I'm going to embrace the glitch as a hold bound / let loose moment.
I know alone. I've done alone. And I know, with God there is no alone.
So I thought about that woman in the bar tonight. She was wrong; I was right. But I have to admire her spirit. She didn't intend to waste anymore of her time in a social situation that she deemed unsuccessful. She didn't know it but she aped my words. I haven't said those words in awhile but I think they'll fit my mouth again. "I don't want to talk to you anymore. I'd rather talk to Him."
Yeah. Me too.