I've been stuck on two writing projects that are not developing the way I want them to. One is personal and requires solitude that I don't have. The other is what was going to be my next post for the past two weeks. I just can't find the time right now to wrestle with the fine points for the post. I'm giving up on it and moving on. Here's the thumbnail, if anyone cares.
Have you ever been exposed to a person or persons that just didn't seem to like you and you don't know why? Maybe you reminded them of someone, maybe your attempts to be friendly were viewed with paranoid suspicion. Maybe you just didn't smell right, or they had some kind of ethnic or racial prejudice, or thought you did by virtue of your ethnicity. Maybe they have prejudices against your particular lifestyle, or condemned you for something that happened when you were kids. Whatever the reason, you just didn't seem to hit it off for some reason you can't pinpoint. If you're like me, this is painful and confusing. You try very hard to overlook the snubs and remain friendly, but nothing changes.
I've had a few of these experiences, and one in particular has been gnawing at me lately. I see this guy a couple of times a year in a summer vacation spot. I've known him since I was six, and he was about 15. He works hard, and has wide experience in carpentry, plumbing, etc., etc., etc. He is loved by his family, and well-liked by his friends, and I have nothing but respect for him. We just don't get along. I can think of several reasons for him to judge me harshly. I was a kid who kind of drifted, there was the drug scene, and other incidents in my life I'm not proud of. I was almost 30 before I figured out I wasn't a kid anymore. He's a devout Catholic and I'm the atheist product of a divorced Protestant family. I'm a non-Christian married to a non-Christian. He's the patriarch of a large family of children and grandchildren, and I have no kids. We have never discussed religion. If it works for him, I'm not going to give him any shit about it unless he tries to evangelize me or something, which he won't.
We don't have a lot in common, except some friends. I don't expect to be invited to any of his barbecues, I just don't like being treated like I'm something nasty he picked up on his shoe. I want to be judged for who I am, not who I was, or who I'm not, or some ancient slight between our two families.
It occurred to me that there is a large number of people for whom he makes the summer more enjoyable, or at least leaves unaffected. To me, he is a sour note in an otherwise pleasant experience. He is poison. I would alter my feelings about him if I could, to the point where I couldn't care less. The problem is, that we are likely to continue to interact, and I do have respect for him and for his lifestyle, religion aside. I could ask him in so many words what particular bug he has up his ass where I’m concerned, but I don’t think I would get a straight answer. Knowing him as I do, I think he would maintain that he had no problem with me, and then continue to treat me as if he did. He just wouldn’t want to discuss it with me.
This is where the post refuses to gel. I did not want to make it all about me, or this quasi-asshole of a guy. Thinking about this made me realize that it’s really easy to ruin someone’s day without meaning to, or even realizing that you have done so. We have become, at least on a part-time basis, a nation of thin-skinned assholes. I will remember this next time I’m tempted to scream obscenities out the window at a driver that might feel stupid enough already. I really don’t do that as often as some, but once is enough.