Whose Word Do You Take?
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Below.
â€œHey,â€ Â a Â colleagueÂ Â says, Â â€œdid Â you Â have Â a Â good Thanksgiving? Go up to Georgia?â€
Then the colleague asks if I know a mutual acquaintance in Â Georgia, though she already knows the answer. She is testing me, based on what sheâ€™s been told. Â Sheâ€™s a little Â surprised, Â she Â tells Â me, Â when Â I Â answer Â so Â positively. Â She Â expected, Â based Â on Â what Â sheâ€™s Â heard Â over Thanksgiving, that Iâ€™d say something negative. Â My colleague tells me the woman knew Iâ€™d never liked her.
Thatâ€™s funny. I was always told she and her friends didnâ€™t Â like Â me, Â but Â that Â they Â just Â tolerated Â me. Â It Â was something I felt from the second time I met them back when I was in college or around the time I graduated; the first time I met them, I was just shy around strangers who were Â importantÂ Â to Â my Â boyfriend. Â Meeting Â your Â boy- friendâ€™s friends can sometimes Â be as unnerving Â as meeting his parents for the first time. Youâ€™re the outsider, the one who doesnâ€™t know the private jokes. All eyes are on you, judging you to see if youâ€™re good enough for their boy. And itâ€™s pretty unsettling later when youâ€™re told the jokes they make Â about you and the comments Â on how you donâ€™t measure up.
I think Â my Â colleagueâ€™s Â comments Â are Â strange. Â She wonâ€™t Â tell Â me Â why Â this Â is Â coming Â up Â now, Â 20 Â years later.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Or where itâ€™s coming from. But obviously I need to address something here thatâ€™s coming up now.
I Â donâ€™t Â recall Â saying Â anything Â negative Â about Â this woman. Â Except maybe in regard to having to limit being around her smoking, but Â then, I have severe respiratory allergies and Iâ€™m prone to sinus and trachea infections so I have to take precautions Â around heavy smokers. Â That never meant others couldnâ€™t be around them, just that I had to be more Â careful or Iâ€™d miss the next coupleÂ of
weeksâ€™ work Â and Â I Â really Â hate Â being Â on Â two Â to Â three rounds of antibiotics and feeling like my cheekbones Â are breaking.
But in spite of my allergies, Iâ€™d always liked her, actually, as well as her husband, and thought they were fairly interesting Â people Â though Â the Â feelings Â were Â never Â re- turned and there Â seemed Â to be a great Â deal of Â literary snobbery Â becauseÂ Â Iâ€™dÂ Â writtenâ€”gaspâ€”someÂ Â romance novels Â back in the 1990â€™s and that made me stupid and anti-feminist.Â Â At Â least,Â Â thatâ€™s Â how Â it Â was Â relayed Â to me.Â Â They were friends with my exâ€”I Â assume they still areâ€”but there was really only one of his friends I didnâ€™t like and an acquaintance I didnâ€™t care for after she chastised me for something I didnâ€™t know until 15 years later, but in both cases, it was because of things said specifically to me.
Now my colleague tells me sheâ€™s heard I never liked anyÂ Â ofÂ Â myÂ Â exâ€™sÂ Â friends,Â Â includingÂ Â thisÂ Â personÂ Â she knows. Iâ€™m not sure where she gets her info from. It wasnâ€™t really that I disliked his friends, with one notable exception, but that I disliked who he became Â around his friends and his repeated comments on their superiority to me.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â They always sang better, played music better, wrote better, did anything and Â everything better than I did. The last thing a wife wants is to be compared unfavorably Â at every Â opportunity, Â so around them was the last place I wanted to be, and in hindsight, I think that probably happened rather quickly.
I try to be a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of per- son, whether what you get is what you want or not. If you donâ€™t like it, go do something Â more fulfilling with your life and stop focusing your valuable energy (or negativity) on me, you know? (Which is why I donâ€™t understand why people who hate me read my journal when they could be doing something more â€œworthwhile.â€) Â And if you do like what you see, well, enjoy! Â But I know there are times when I Â probably lapse back into a certain dynamic with certain people.
Thatâ€™s not really uncommon, is it? People are different around different groups of people. They behave in a certain way with certain people. Â Itâ€™s funny to see grown men who were friends in high school get together and become thoughtless Â teenaged Â boys Â again Â and Â forget Â what Â they promised back when they were grown men. Itâ€™s strange to see our teachers and leaders act more Â like indecisive children Â when Â they Â stand Â before Â their Â teachers Â and Â leaders.Â Â Itâ€™s heartbreaking to see happy Â people pull in their energy when theyâ€™re anywhere near a former abuser, but it happens, Â self-protective Â mechanism Â that it is. I donâ€™t know that this different face is so much a faÃ§ade as it is a familiar pattern or role thatâ€™s just so much easier to slip into than to break out of.
Then again, thatâ€™s another thing Iâ€™ve noticed over the years that has not always been to my advantage: forming an opinion of someone based on what Iâ€™m told by people I trust. Â How Â many Â times Â in my Â life Â has Â someone Â Iâ€™ve trusted told me that someone Â else didnâ€™t like me? And Iâ€™ve stayed away? Or, Iâ€™ve been thrust into their environment or vice versa, only to find out they were someone else than Iâ€™d thought? I donâ€™t know what all the motives wereâ€”some Â wanted Â me Â all Â to Â themselves, Â some Â were genuinely concerned that Iâ€™d be harmed by that person, some saw my friendship with their adversary to be a betrayal, some used it to Â mask their own feelings Â toward meâ€”who knows?Â Â Iâ€™m sure the motives were all different, and they really donâ€™t matter anymore.
But I wonder how many misjudgments Â go on in the world because of something someone else said and how many Â friendships Â never Â come Â to Â fruition Â for Â that Â reason? Not that I wish for my exâ€™s friends. Not at all. He needs his friends, and my interests take me in a different direction. But Â over the last two years, Iâ€™ve made some very caring Â connections Â in Â spite of â€œwarningsâ€ Â Iâ€™ve received Â from Â people Â who Â had Â their Â own Â agenda. Â As Â it turned out, the people who â€œwarnedâ€ me were the dangerous ones. And that, I suppose, is a regret of mine: that I listened to one Â of the unhappiest women I have ever met instead of simply asking the focus of her gossip if it was true.Â Â I didnâ€™t want to believe it, and I did ask him, but I wasted a lot of time in doing so, and my heart ached a lot in the meanwhile.
Now that sheâ€™s out of my life and this possibility has been highlighted for me, from now on I wonâ€™t take some- one elseâ€™s word for Â how someone Â feels about meâ€”Iâ€™ll ask directly.