Thursday, April 10, 2008

Miss Otis Regrets

I had the experience again the other night that I have had repeated times now. It seems to be a fixture in the gay community according to my gay friends, but I feel pretty sure that the, "straight" folks have the same problem. (I hate the term straight used this way, but homo and heterosexual sounds so clinical.)

I was supposed to meet someone for the first time the other night, I've chatted with him on line a little and I've spoken to him on the phone at length. A very pleasant person and it appeared that we would be the kind who could sit and talk for a good while about any number of subjects. Like I've warned before though, don't get me started on quantum physics, it's just not smart to get me started. (I have no idea what quantum physics is.) I have been told though, that I'm easy to talk to and can talk about a lot of different subjects in an intelligent manner. I take that as a compliment. I've said before, "I read, therefore I am." It's nice to be able to just sit down and carry on a conversation and if the two people can talk about nearly anything short of quantum physics, well, all the nicer. I like to learn this way, it's nice to know where another has traveled, what foods they like, what their opinion is on a movie or what kind of jelly they find to be the best. Of course, "if it's Smuckers, it's got to be good."

Strong friendships can start this way, friendships that last a lifetime. We begin friendships by finding a common ground and often times that common ground can be something as simple as loneliness. I suppose it would be safe to say that loneliness can be one of the driving forces in establishing friendships. If you can find someone to talk to, then the loneliness can ebb. It always feels good to know that you are doing something about the problem of being lonely. When there is someone that you can share with, and someone can share with you, how can that be a bad thing? After all, bearing one another's burdens is supposed to be a good Christian thing to do.

There is a hitch to all of this, if you make plans to meet someone for the first time then it makes all of the talking and friendship building and burden bearing a lot easier if you follow through and show up. I can think of no lonelier feeling in the world than to be stood up.

I have told some friends over the past few years when I have been stood up, they are very quick to tell me that being stood up is all about the other person, it isn't about me. I know what they are saying, they are trying to tell me that it isn't because of anything that I said or did, it's all the other person's problem. "Their insecurities," is what one friend of mine called it. I don't know that everyone who has stood me up did so because of his or her insecurities. Let's face it; sometimes meeting new people is just plain hard. I don't argue that, and I understand it completely. I just want to point out that being stood up isn't all about the other person. It's about me as well, now I've been drug unwillingly into it. Now it's about that feeling in the pit of my stomach that makes me feel like I some how failed the other person. It's the running through the archives of my mind and replaying the conversation tapes. Did I say something that offended the other person and didn't know it? Did they keep it to themselves to protect me?

I have had the situation where when I called one guy's hand on his standing me up he said that I should have called to remind him. We had seen each other at a mutual friend's party and had touched base about time and place. When I talked to him later and he said, "You should have called me to remind me," I simply said, "you need a secretary, I waited an hour and a half at the restaurant and I ate alone.” He didn’t need to know because I didn’t want to say it or to give him the satisfaction that his being the third one in as many months helped me sink into a weeklong depression.

Some say that in this day and age that it’s just simple to forget things because there are so many distractions. There is a great deal of truth to that when you consider how many people are reading e mail and text messaging constantly, to the point that they can’t drive without the phone pressed to their ear. I often wonder how they can have so much to say to so many and how did they do it before they had these modern conveniences? I managed to make a phone call every now and then from a phone tethered to the wall before I had e mail and a cell phone, I still use the darned thing on a fairly regular basis, and I never use it while driving, the cord is too short. I have never sent a text message, I don’t even speak the language, and I think schools offer Text Messaging as a Second Language now.

So, just for the record, it is still considered good manners to call and say, I know that we had plans together this afternoon, I regret that I’m not able to make it.” Miss Manners says that an explanation is not necessary and that the recipient of the news has no right to ask for an explanation either, I can see her point. It is so much friendlier than leaving someone with a whistling kettle on the burner and fresh biscuits on the plate while the Royal Dulton is laid out on the table by the sofa. It should go without saying now that I really appreciate Bette Midler’s rendition of Miss Otis Regrets even more now than I ever did.


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