The View From Away: Who are you going to believe?
I don’t mind that my wife is smarter than I am.
I’ve known since childhood that women are fascinating individually and, collectively, The Borg. You know, from "Star Trek." Hive-like alien collective with a communal mind and the catchphrase, “Resistance is futile.” You could parachute my mother into a market in Turkmenistan, and before the groceries were bagged she and the cashier would know each other’s names, their children’s names, and three identical ways their husbands were stupid. Thanks to a mind-melding telepathy triggered by saying, “I know, right?”
I’m cool with it. Really.
But couldn’t she/they leave me some dignity? Carol and a woman she has never met – and I have not seen since high school – bonded over the destruction of my reality.
The woman was a friend of my high school girlfriend. (Yes, I had only one, because I was a sullen, taciturn loner in high school. No matter what anybody says.) She works for the parent of one of the places I worked. I thought we might compare experiences, sent her the usual re-introductory email, she responded, ending with, “I would love to hear from you. I have such great memories of you in high school.”
A polite, generic statement. Carol jumped all over it, and I quote: “It is becoming increasingly apparent that your self-delusions span breadth and depth hitherto unknown. This successful woman you knew in – what? high school? – remembers you with great fondness and clearly has stories to be told.”
I ignored Carol’s chirpy “I knew you weren’t really a hermit in high school” tone, because I take the high road, and sent the woman a brief update, closing in charming, self-effacing fashion, “So those are the high spots in the road since you last saw the sullen, taciturn adolescent. What's been happening to the ebullient, mature-beyond-her-years firebrand?”
I thought I was paying an innocent compliment. I didn’t realize I was throwing gas on a fire I didn’t even know was smoldering, a fire of female bonding over my faulty memory.
The response informed me, in all caps, that I was not sullen and taciturn, merely full of self-doubt, when she met me on that “hilarious” blind date. I had literally not a single neuron of memory of a blind date with her. And I was, in all caps, a sullen and taciturn adolescent.
There were three possibilities. She had me confused with somebody else (unlikely). My view of myself in high school was flawed (absurd on its face). Most likely: I was so profoundly ill-equipped to be in the presence of a girl, and my behavior so far outside the norm, that my sense of self-preservation had mercifully wiped all trace of the event from my mind.
Now, like Jacob Marley's ghost, the memory of my adolescent hell comes back on the eve of Christmas to haunt me. Am I never to be free of my shame?
What were we talking about?
Oh, yeah, a blind date I may or may not have had in high school.
So I asked Carol if I should cop to not remembering, ignoring her smile of love mixed with maternal amusement at a small child's excessive seriousness, but mostly of vindication for one more piece of evidence that she was right and I was wrong.
Of course I should tell her. She was practically rubbing her hands together like a miser staring at a pile of gold, anticipating the story of this "hilarious” blind date. Don't get me wrong. I'm sure this date happened, and I'm sure it was hilarious. To everyone on Planet Earth but me. My son, Bobby, who shares Carol’s joy at all my discomfort, was also present, burst out laughing just finding out it happened; he didn’t need to know the details. What did he care that the minute I recalled the details, I would be incinerated by a solar flare of embarrassment and shame?
It all went downhill from there. The date story wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. She admitted that I put myself down all night, so I’m thinking, “OK, maybe not taciturn, but sullen for sure.” Then like a dagger in the heart, in closing, some nonsense about being wonderful, smart and funny. Insane gibberish.
My point is this: Carol has never believed my experience of my adolescent self. She calls it "delusional" as a term of endearment. And when her vision doesn’t jibe with mine, the guy who actually lived it, she is able to call across space and time for reinforcements and change reality. Because sooner or later, The Borg will make me believe I am a decent human being.
Resistance is futile.