Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Harriet & Maude Meet The Gypsy

Anyone who’s known me for all of… hmmm… maybe 30 seconds, knows that I have a highly sarcastic sense of humor. Anyone who’s known me for… oh… let’s say five minutes, knows that I have opinions. If they’re paying attention at all, they’ll understand that I’m honest and direct, but mostly reasonable. They’ll also get that, although my personality can lean toward the acerbic (amusing that one of the synonyms for that word is barbed), I really am a very kind and caring person.

Anyone who’s hung around the gypsy campfire for any real length of time knows that I don’t make apologies for who I am (unless I trip on a log and knock over your tequila), and that I have pretty much a zero tolerance for bullshit (you have John to thank for the installation of my No Bullshit Policy). They’ll know that I’m fairly laid back and relatively slow to anger. If they’ve ever been unfortunate enough to be the target of my anger - which, let’s face it, includes annoyance, hurt and disappointment - they know exactly when I’m feeling that way and they know why. I’m a good enough sport, but I don’t pull punches. I’m not a game player (unless you’ve got a crispy new deck of bicycle cards in your hand).

I believe that time has proved me to be a reliable confidant - I don’t betray trust. There are things that not even my hair dresser knows. Well, truth be told, I cut my own hair. So you can see just how far that goes. Of course, this trait is something that not everyone can accept, given that it’s reliant on their own level of trust or mistrust in other people. Still, ask anyone in my inner circle if they’ve ever told me something that they didn’t want others to know. Now ask them if they ever heard about it from others in my circle. The answer will be “No.” Even if I know that someone else knows the same thing I do, I don’t discuss it.

By now you’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this. So, enough with my preamble and on to the issue at hand.

A few months ago two different women (we’ll just call them Harriet and Maude) requested that I add them on as Facebook “friends.” They both mentioned knowing me from school. Although I didn’t remember them (I was very shy back then, and after 30 years, there are only a handful of people I really remember), I figured that was reasonable. They also mentioned that they really enjoyed my (I’m rolling my eyes here in self-deprecation) witty retorts and responses on other people’s Facebook posts. Sure, sure, fine. I added them on - the more the merrier, right?

As time went by I got to know each of them better. (It should be noted that they also knew each other.) They each took me into their confidence and poured out various heartaches and emotional issues to me. Again, fine. They both begged me not to tell anyone anything they’d said to me. Understandable. I assured them that my M.O. is to keep a confidence until my ashes get spread over Mt. Pilchuck. Even then, only the wind and rocks will know.

Occasionally, if I was quiet for a day or two (because I’m a busy girl, dammit), Harriet would email frantically asking if I was mad at her, or if I’d decided not to be her friend because of things she’d told me. I had to reassure her a few times that, were either of those an issue, she’d know without doubt. At least twice, Maude asked me if I’d said anything to anyone else about what she had told me. I reassured her as well. At this point I didn’t know if Harriet and Maude had taken each other into confidence or not, and it really didn’t matter to me. These insecurities bothered me, but I confronted them, spoke my piece in friendship, and left it at that. Everyone’s got different sensibilities and sensitivities. I know that. I mean, geez… I’m not made out of stone.

Then, the other day all hell breaks loose (because of ridiculous interpretation on their part) and I find out that these gals still have a very high school mentality, and in that spirit, they view friendship as a chance for duplicity. (Oh yes, you see the direct opposition to my No BS Policy there?) First I received an email from Harriet again asking, “Are you mad at me?” Rather than a more appropriate, “Why did you say/do what you did? I’m curious and a little hurt.” Hey, call me on my own bullshit and I’ll answer to it. So, I did respond rather curtly that I wasn’t angry and I wasn’t going to answer to her insecurities any longer. Trust my friendship or don’t, but enough already.

In return I received more distressed emails from Harriet that included text from emails she and Maude had been sending back and forth… about me! The sum of it was, to wit: Barb was sarcastic in a not funny way. Does Barb not like me any more? Has she said anything to you? Maude never approached me personally to air any of this. Had she, I would have probably been chagrined that something I said caused her such concern. Either way, I would have gladly allayed her fears. Again.

Harriet made mention of all the woeful tales that Maude had told her about her past love life (evidently the same information she’d told me that she didn‘t want anyone else on earth to know about), and she reiterated how emotionally fragile they both are at this point. She went on to figuratively wring her hands and say she didn’t want to be “caught in the middle any more.” She wanted us to all go back to being friends, and… blah blah blah. Well, golly. Seems to me you can’t be caught in the middle unless you volunteer for it. Had it been reversed and Maude had asked me if Harriet was mad at her, I would have responded, “Dunno… ask Harriet.” Done.

Am I angry at them? No. It’s really much too childish. They have, however, trampled the thing they said they wanted… my friendship. Is it unforgivable? No, not at all. But it will take a while for the garden to regrow. Trust is a two-way cultivation.

The friends I’ve had for years are people who love me without any doubt as to my character, who care without judgment, and who understand that, underneath all this phenomenal cosmic power that is Barb Black, I’m just a gypsy trying to make her way through the woods as best as I can. Ultimately, they’re people who can catch my slings n’ arrows and toss them right back at me, then laugh about it all as we rest against each other while the campfire burns low.

If you can handle that, come and sit a spell. Let’s have some marshmallows.

Side Note: To all of you out there in Internet Land... the anonymity that comes with being a faceless entity on the internet can lend itself to an ill-perceived, if not altogether false intimacy. Know your boundaries. Careful what you say out there. The walls have ears.

Side Note: I have no doubt that both Harriet and Maude will read this post, given that I will be adding the link to it on my Facebook page. To the two of you, prove yourselves by showing some grace, deal with your issues rather than wallowing in them, put on your big girl panties and get real. There's a reason that you are both "stuck" in life. And, please... rest assured that what you told me in confidence is still locked down, as it ever will be.

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