At a dinner party about a month ago, i was ambushed by a woman i’d just met over a simple statement of fact. Tonight, during “happy hour” with friends, i encountered a similar sentiment and am now at home – finding myself swimming in a gentle pool of bewilderment and bourbon.
What is it about the human mind that compels us to judge the behavior of others?
Last month, i was invited to an informal dinner party – i was excited to have a chance to get out and play with some new folks. i’ve known Joe for over two decades, and have always found him to have an enticing circle of friends. If he invites me to dinner? i never decline!
Just seven of us, we got started with the forensics of friendship – “So, how did you meet Joe?”. Tom was a friend from childhood, and was there with his wife Gail. He works in building maintenance and she is a surgical nurse. Jim and Nancy used to run an art gallery, and she is a recovered Special Education teacher. Peg is his next door neighbor, and she and Joe are the last two remaining homeowners on the street – preparing to take a stand against the city as they lay claim to “Eminent Domain”, forcing them to sell in the interests of an urban renewal project.
Dinner conversation was lively as we worked our way through film, local politics, the arts and a host of other topics. i knew early on that Gail would be fun, as nurses at the dinner table are easily engaged in all manner of graphic and bizarre medical stories – but i waited until dinner was a happy memory before asking “What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever encountered at the hospital?”.
Shortly thereafter we all agreed that “Prolapsed Rectum” was a better name for a band than a restaurant.
At some point, the conversation turned to my circumstances. Divorced, two grown children, professional geek – and enjoying a grand set of adventures in the current phase of my life. Gail said “Well, I’m sure you’ll find a nice engineer to marry someday!”
In hindsight, i should have just said “Yep. Reckon so…” But that is not my way. i explained that i’m pretty happy being single, have plenty of male companionship, and that i am not, in fact, looking to re-marry. At least for the time being…”
This didn’t seem to register. “Don’t you worry about being alone? What if you get sick?” This drew out the “Ummm… not really. i had cancer three years ago, got lucky and managed to get through it pretty well with support from my friends and children. Not something that keeps me awake at night…”
It then took a rather ugly turn – although in hindsight i’m not sure how – when she said “So you’re just fuck-buddies with these guys, and that doesn’t bother you?” Thankfully, her husband stood up and mentioned that they really needed to get home to let the dog out soon… The rest of us said our goodbyes, and continued on with pleasant after-dinner conversation. Wasn’t really sure what to think of that, but let it go…
Tonight at happy hour, yukking it up with good friends from the office, stumbled into a similar quagmire. Just like the last time, i really didn’t see it coming.
My pals were justifiably giving me a massive ration of shit for the resort-business trip to the Caribbean last week. The Ninjaneer threw a few targeted jabs about ‘cabana boys’… Nope, no ‘workshop nookie’, other than an unexpected platonic kiss from a rather charming European researcher. Whom i later found out was not only independently wealthy, but married.
Female science friend immediately chided me – “Not again! You’ve got to stop giving it away, girl.”
her: Don’t give it away! Respect yourself more than that… There has to be something for you in return.
daisyfae: But i’m not looking for anything in return – other than companionship, intimacy, adventure…
her: Don’t you want to be in love? It’s better when you’re in love.
daisyfae: Not really. i honestly don’t want that. This is what i want… at least for now.
her: Then maybe you just shouldn’t tell people what you’re doing. I’m worried they’ll think badly of you.
daisyfae: But i honestly don’t give a shit what other people think. It’s my life. Let them judge me. So what?
We agreed to disagree, and i know that she cares about me, and certainly cares a great deal more about what others think of me than i do. It’s genuine, not malicious. We’re just coming at it from very different places in life…
Crunching it over, as i sit at home on a Friday night in my pajamas, while enjoying the last vestiges of the bourbon in my blood…
Do we all have to live the same life? Who decides what is moral? Is my chosen lifestyle that threatening to others? Women in particular? Does a man in my position get the same reaction, or the ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ treatment? Should i care what other people think?
i’ve been pretty direct with others regarding my circumstances, usually handling all inquiries about my status with a response of “i’m dating aggressively”. That usually gets the point across.
In the future? i think i’m just going to shut the fuck up. Apparently that would be much less stressful for others. Without a doubt much less annoying for me…