Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why Don't I Like You? (Reunion Reflections #2)

Miranda was sweet. She was tender and kind. She was the kind of girl who, if she took a walk in the woods, all of God's creatures would flock to her like Bambi or a Disney princess. When she said mean things about other people, it was never mockery, but disappointed criticism.

Miranda would say things like, "He's just not very nice," or "Why would a person behave like that?" or "I wish it wasn't darn so cool to be insensitive and indifferent." When she was angry, she would say things like, "Gosh, I'm angry."

When my roommate would drink himself unconscious -- not quite a monthly event, but at least seasonal -- or when he would be in the emotional throes of a breakup or relationship transition -- not quite a monthly event, but at least seasonal -- when his closest friends would not feed him from the spigot of sympathy and pity, he would flee to Miranda. She was always eager and happy to feed him the unquestioning, uncompromising support, love and pity he desperately sought.

And those of us who didn't play dat? We were grateful for Miranda. She took the burden from us. And she took our wallowing friend away from us for a while, until he wallowed a little less.

I couldn't stand Miranda.

Few things are more unsettling to my psyche than being unable to justify my feelings or opinions. Most of the time, if I don't like you, I've got a damned good reason for it. That reason might not make sense or be acceptable to everyone else, or anyone else even, but it makes sense to me. John Wesley Hardin once shot a man for snoring too loudly, but it seemed sufficient justification for him to pull that trigger. My dislike for Miranda, on the other hand, had no legitimate purchase. I could never find an explanation for it that justified the extent of my dislike, which bordered on a sort of seething contempt.

She would go to football and basketball games with us and keep asking Why questions. Even after three years of attending multiple games every year, she didn't get field goals, or charging, or why alley-oops were allowed. She didn't understand offsides, or why exactly some players were called "down" while others were allowed to continue running. She didn't understand the coach's box, or the shot clock, or the free throw lane. Beyond the notion that the team who finishes with the highest score wins, she didn't understand much of anything about sports.

And all of her questions were so sweet, so innocent, so naive. Even the 20th time she asked the same question, it was still so sweet, so innocent, so naive. There was something terrifically Dory-esque about her.

But I knew plenty of people who were clueless about sports, and I liked many of them. I knew plenty of innocent and naive people, sweet and genuine people, and I liked many of them. But not Miranda.

Flash forward to 2014 and my 20th Reunion. A very small portion of our best friends and good buddies returned for the event. Maybe two handfuls of us.

I'm friends with Miranda on Facebook. I've enjoyed occasionally seeing updates on her life, pictures of her family. She looks happy, as always. Until a few years ago, she was an educator, because she's the kind of genuinely, stubbornly optimistic soul who goes into teaching almost as a religion, as a belief in self-sacrifice.

Miranda was one of the few in our circle who came back for the reunion, and I was looking forward to reconnecting, because I felt ashamed for not being a better friend, for not really liking her, in college. This reunion was a chance to mend that psychological fence in my head. She'd grown up. I'd sort of matured. We were adults with big people lives now.

At the gathering, we all finally caught up and circled around, catching everyone up on the details you don't see on Facebook.

Her son is, as they say, "on the autism spectrum," so Miranda stopped working to manage him. And raise him, of course, but as anyone who knows the parent of a kid with special needs, their duties and responsibilities make the job of a normal parent seem like being a ticket-taker. Yet that doesn't get her down. She talks about the difficulties and frustrations the same way your favorite first-grade teacher talks in an upbeat way about challenges that would level most of us. She is busy being, in almost any measurable way, an awesome person.

So it pained me that, as she was giving us these updates, as my heart was moved by what a great mom and wife and person she had become, a person very much in line with the young woman she was in college, I was also thinking to myself, "Holy crikey how soon can I get the hell outta this conversation?"

I still couldn't stand Miranda.

What the hell, Billy? How much do you suck as a human being that you cannot bring yourself to like someone as decent, wonderful, and sweet as Miranda?

Don't worry. I get it, in theory. Sometimes people don't mix. Oil and vinegar. Or toothpaste and orange juice. Or Crocs and... well, anything. Sometimes it's not that one thing is bad so much as the combo just doesn't work.

But it just doesn't sit well.

There's a saying in poker: "There's a fish at every table. Look around, and if you don't see one, you're probably it." Well, in relationships, there's generally an a-hole. And if you don't like someone else, and that person is sweet, and genuine, and nice, and if that person's worst crimes are being naive and a little flighty? Then maybe the a-hole is you.

So then I went and ordered a couple of shots just to bring the point home.

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