Foregone Involvements

In a blast of highschool gossipy mood, I submitted the Friday Five question that came up this week:

Please tell us about five people you liked, or who liked you, but with whom you never became involved. Explain why not.

This shouldn’t be too hard. Maybe that’s why I wrote the question, in fact; I knew it would be very easy to answer. But you know, in thinking about this topic, after I thought about the really big hurts, I realized that there were plenty of other times when I could have, but did not, get involved with someone for my own reasons, or for silly non-reasons. Those, I think, are more interesting, and probably reveal more about one’s character than the big painful hurts of outright “rejections” that we sensitive-type guys bring upon ourselves. So, with the exception of the third case, I’m going to focus on the smaller stories that usually get left out in the story of my life that I tell myself.

      Well, first there was Erin, a short, plump, and slightly dark girl I knew in fifth grade. She was one of a group of five or six of us who cycled around the city of Prince Albert together (Erin, Carla, Ryan, Greg, and myself). She was “dating” my friend Ryan, whatever that means in fifth grade; when they split up, she took Carla and Greg out into some playground equipment to tell them, but didn’t take me aside to tell me. I left in a huff, and when I asked her why she’d done that, she told me it was because she wanted to tell me alone. I got the weird feeling that she’d wanted to trade him in for me, but in any case, by the time our paths crossed again, she was a careful middle-schooler and I would have been an uncareful choice as an unbalanced and often-bullied middle-schooler.
      There was Marcie. She was this really big girl, who in fact had an alright personality, but who scared the heck out of me by being the second girl who aggressively pursued me. This was in tenth grade, and I of course was interested in Marcie’s slimmer, prettier, and less intelligent friend. But Marcie had apparently talked to that girl and she always brought Marcie with her when I was around. Well, one night at a dance at school, Marcie asked me to dance. Of course, being a good sport and trying to be nice, I danced with her a little. Being an idiot, I thought this might lead to dancing with her friend. But it only led to more dancing with Marcie, and then more, and more, and more, and it seemed she was hell-bent on dancing with me all night. Finally I said I was tired and retired to the bleachers with my friend Mike, to sit and criticize everyone around us. After that night, Marcie never really tried much anymore.

      Years later, though, I encountered her again, working in a hair salon where I went to get my hair cut for $5. Needless to say, it was a very tense 15 minutes, but she didn’t do a bad job at all. Thank goodness she wasn’t one to hold a grudge about this silly sort of thing.

      Hjordis was the weird girl in my high school. And she was weird. She was a Baha’i in a Catholic school, she told stories of her father having been in prison for selling drugs (and of his abusing her relentlessly), she wrote really weird poems, spoke openly about her painful memories of finding a friend who’d killed herself and of her own suicide attempts… and yet somehow always managed to smile and bounce around the place. I think part of it was that she was so refreshingly honest, in a school where nobody dared be honest about anything. When my sister found out, she said, “The girl with the foot long blond braid weaved into her hair?” The message was: that’s a freak. So I didn’t talk about it much at home.

      Well, Hjordis was one of those girls who likes to have extra guy friends around, especially guy friends who have a bad crush on her, so that when she has a fight with her boyfriend-of-the-year, she can call him or them up to hang out and complain. She dated a guy I knew at school, Phil, and then she dated a friend of mine, Keenan (actually, both of them were people I ended up playing a musical show with; see “Aprocrypha” on this page). She and Mike and I got close, and for some reason I can’t really remember—I think because I told her I was sick of being a friend only when she was fighting with her boyfriend—our friendship ended abruptly. It took a long time for me to get over that. All the books I’d loaned her were sold off to used bookstores, one of which I found again years later; all of the drafts of poems I’d passed on to her to criticize were lost (and there were dozens and dozens). Her story turned bad after that—drugs and babies taken out of her custody and a very clear case of depression—so I suppose I should be happy we never got closer; I might have felt even more badly for her if we had.

      Kala. Kala was a friend of Hjordis. At some point late in our friendship, Hjordis introduced us, I think as a kind of peace-offering or a way to make up for the fact that I wasn’t her kind of guy. Anyway, Kala wasn’t my kind of girl when I was in high school… which is to say she was relatively polite, well-adjusted, unapologetically Catholic, unsuicidal, and not even bad-looking. I think the thing I held against her was her timidity, and her being not-Hjordis. Maybe it was her personality, or maybe just my apparent unreceptivity, but our conversations were all stilted and awkward, and we didn’t relate well.

      I met her years later and she seemed to have become some kind of fundamentalist Catholic; she’d gone to Colorado or somewhere to see the Pope during his visit to North America, and spoke of it with such tones of awe and respect that I think I ended up cutting the conversation off on a fake excuse and hightailing it out of there.

      There was Melanie Funk. When I went to band camp—I know, I know—I made friends with this guy named Matthew, and we became really close. Well, at the band camp dance I mentioned that I thought the coolest girl in the place was the flautist with the curly blonde hair.

      “That’s my sister!” he replied, amused. Well, Matthew and I never did get in touch again, but I did become pretty good friends with Melanie while we studied music together. For a while she gave me driving lessons and we used to hang out as part of a bigger group of music students. I’ve heard that Melanie is doing fine, working at music therapy out on the West Coast of Canada somewhere; I think she studied in Victoria, but she may, in the almost-decade since, have moved to some other place.

    Hmmm. I like these stories better than the big rejections. There’s something more, I don’t know, sensible, and calm, and even kind of funny about them. If you’d like to see more of what could-have-been for other Friday fivers, check out the links on this page.

    2 thoughts on “Foregone Involvements

    1. Hello Gord,

      I know this is just a fun post and not at all polemical, but I must take exception with your use of the term “fundamentalist Catholic” to describe Kala, who, by the way, seems like a very nice young lady.

      The two terms, properly understood, are mutually exclusive. See Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on “Romanism” by “Bible Christians” and Catholic Fundamentalism and “Insufficiently Converted Catholics”.

      “Fundamentalism” is a term with a precise meaning:

      Fundamentalism
      1883, ONTARIO, CANADA
      A conservative form of evangelicalism that affirms the inerrancy of the Bible as the literal word of God.

      [from A Dictionary of the Divine]

      The Catholic may affirm the inerrancy of the Bible, but also much affirm Sacred Tradition (the Magisterium), which asserts that Scripture passages may have a literal, allegorical, moral, or anagogical sense.

      Sadly, the term “fundamentalist,” like the term “liberal,” has lost its meaning in public discourse and is now used only as an epithet.

      Pax,
      Joshua

    2. Joshua,

      Plenty of Catholics are ignorant of all that. You’re a convert, so of course you care about all that business, but people who grow up in the religion tend not to be so interested in the fine print. I’ve met several people who were practicing the kind of Catholicism that was basically practiced by Medieval European peasants, whereas the business you’re on about would only have been discussed in the Universities of the time.

      And by the way, growing up Catholic, attending a Catholic school, among mostly people born into the tradition, I can say the only people I know who actually understand that business of literal, allegorical, moral, or anagogical sense of a written text were lit majors, and more specifically those who were good at theory and/or spent some time of Medieval lit. These concepts may have been mentioned, or even explained, in classes, but not well, and not in a way that stuck.

      And yeah, I’m using fundamentalist as an epithet for “ignorant literalist religious fanatic”. Is that technically wrong? Could not some members of the Catholic church who are ignorant of all you said fit into the category?

      Well, if you’re a descriptivist, then yes, but if you’re a religious prescriptivist, then no.

      Here’s a test: would you accept as a “Catholic” someone who declared the Church (as an institution) corrupt and beyond rectification? Someone who claimed that the “authority” of the Pope and the righteousness of the Church was not rooted in Divine Mandate but rather in human greed and officiousness? Someone who called people to leave the Church (a la Kierkegaard, though yes, he was definitely not Catholic but rather Lutheran) if they truly believed in God and Jesus and feared for their mortal souls? Because you know, the people I’ve met who feel that way, or some more tempered doubtful version of that, have been the most respectable Catholics I’ve known in my life.

      I’m of the opinion that most people who claim they believe something or other don’t actually; if they did, their lives would be radically different. Not just in terms of Sunday morning habits, but in terms of the way their religion’s ethical codes would determine their every action. They would make awfully bad capitalists, they would be pretty poorly integrated into our modern secular consumerist society, and they would have a lot more respect for their convictions. Because let’s face it, even regularly driving a car is, all said, a collossal act of selfishness against the environment and all who dwell in it. If poisoning someone a lot is bad, so is doing it gradually, and driving a car does that. Having a paying job that props up an economy that perpetrates evil; buying products made in a global economic system that perpetrates evil; these things are evil actions too. Why don’t thousands of Catholics drop out and start up eco-friendly, non-sweatshop businesses and business-infrastructures? Sure, they’d be poorer, but they’re be doing no evil.

      As I once put it, “If people actually truly, viscerally believed in the existence of hell and the possibility of their going there, or actually truly believed in the existence of heaven and the difficulty of getting there, they would be living vastly different lives.”

      Sadly, the core values of Christianity, like the core values of liberalism, have been abandoned on the mad rush to join the globalization-by-exploitation-model bandwagon, and the term “Christian” is now used only as a term to designate membership in this or that emotional support-group designed to help people cope with their moral bankruptcy.

      (I’m overstating the case, perhaps. Perhaps not.)

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