Wednesday, July 05, 2006

In Which the Protagonist is Chagrined

So, my buddies Ian and Stephanie were in town for the long weekend. They're living in Dayton where he's working toward a PhD in material science (we keep trying to call him a physicist, but it's "Material Science" apparently) and she's working as a medical receptionist to support the household before heading back to grad school herself (like me, she's a history major. Yay!).

Stephanie and I met when we were 14 via the high school drama department. We hated each other at the time. She was the backstage bitch, and I was the onstage bitch. Our most famous encounter was during a show where - because of the limited resources we had - I was supposed to get offstage from a scene and then go back onstage to move a bookcase once the curtain went down. Stephanie was stage managing, which meant it was her job to make sure all the shit got moved.

Well, you know, one night after a particularly great show where I just thought I was the hotest shit ever to hit the stage, I waltzed back into the green room, absolutely preening, and went to my locker to get some more chamomile tea (I did a lot of yelling in that particular show).

About three minutes after I walk into the green room, Stephanie tromps in - 5'4 and barely 120 lbs at the time - and you can practically *see* the steam coming out of her ears. She storms right up to me and screams, "You didn't move the *fucking* bookshelf! It was your job to move the bookshelf! I just about killed myself moving the goddamn bookshelf! Remember to move the goddamn bookshelf! Do you know how important this is??"

Now, a stage manager storming into the green room and screaming at an actor in front of God and everyone wasn't something that, well, happened. There was the heirarchy, right? If an actor fucks up, well, you come to them later, quietly, and set things right.

Oh, no, not Stephanie.

And never again did I forget to move the goddamn book shelf.

We didn't really become close friends until the theater rivalry was over and we started college and started re-examining what we were doing with our lives. It turned out that we had a lot more in common than we suspected, which is probably why we hated each other in high school. Now I think of Stephanie as the little sister I don't have (I mean, I have a sister, but, well, we really don't have anything in common); that is, someone who's loud and obnoxious like me, and even looks like me (when she arrived in Chicago and stepped out of the car, I saw that we had the same haircut), and who has the same sorts of fears and has overcome a lot of the same things. She also decided one day that she didn't like her life, and she's worked very hard to create a new one.

In any case, because I've always been on the move, and now that they are too, a lot of the "what's going on with Kameron" stuff gets transmitted via my blog (I told Stephanie she really needs to start one, too, but she's afraid it'll all be about quilting and scrapbooking, to which I'd reply, "So the fuck what?").

So, a few times this weekend, the subject of exes came up, and after hearing about the shitstorm that was my relationship with B and hearing a few things via the blog, Stephanie said she regretted not meeting him. I told her it was best she hadn't, because he'd probably have assumed that because I spoke to Ian, I must be flirting with him, and I'd have spent the whole weekend trying to convince him that I wasn't going to screw Stephanie's husband (who is nice and all, but I feel like I'm related to him, so that idea is just, well, *icky*).

And, really, how exhausting is it to reassure someone that you're not going to go out and screw the closest human being around the second he turns his back?

In any case, the four of us went out to a great pancake house in Evanston yesterday morning, and I was blabbing to Stephanie about how I'd had to break things off with B when I realized I didn't respect him, and if you can't respect someone, how can you love them? She agreed that that was a pretty mature thing to do.

"Apparently," Stephanie said, "if you talk to marriage counselors, you can figure out which couples will stay together and which won't by measuring the amount of contempt they have for each other. Once couples start down the road toward contempt, there's really pretty much none who can turn it around. Once you disrespect someone, things are pretty much over."

"It's fucked up, too," I said. "I mentioned him, what, five times in the five months since we broke up, and he thought I was, like, saying these really horrible things about him, that I was attacking him on my blog and calling him all sorts of names. All the stuff I said was true stuff. He's kinda wacky and all, but I never said the stuff he said. I mean, he was posting about how disgusting I was, and how I was a shitty writer and used all my friends and was going to spend the rest of my life alone and without love. Which, you know, I've heard before."

"I didn't get that," Stephanie said. "I thought you were being mature about how you felt."

"Oh no," Ian said, and turned to me. "No way. I totally thought you were trying to destroy him."

Me, Steph, and Jenn all looked at Ian, a little perplexed.

"Huh?" I said.

"I mean, you might as well have kicked him in the balls," Ian said. "When you tell a guy `I don't respect you,' that's the worst possible thing you can say. There's like this heirarchy of things you can do to a guy: kick him in the balls, tell him he has a small penis, and then, worst of all, tell him you don't respect him. It means he's not worth bothering with. Not worth anything at all. It's the worst possible insult."

"You're fucking kidding me," I said.

"Seriously," he said. "I honestly thought you'd thought of the worst possible thing to say to him, the one that would cut him the worst, and then posted it up on your blog to your international audience."

"Fuck," I said, "I so totally didn't mean to do that. I thought I was being really honest about the whole thing. I didn't want to be a jerk."

"Well, I mean, what's the female equivalent of that?" he said.

"What do you mean?" Stephanie said. "Of disrespect?"

"I don't know that a guy saying he didn't respect me would be so huge because -" I began, and then stopped. "Oh. The female equivalent is having a guy tell you he loves you and thinks you're the most amazing person in the world and then once he has sex with you says you're a dirty whore and he was only using you for sex."

"Oh, totally," Stephanie said.

"That's it," Ian said. "Same thing."

"Holy shit," I said. "I acted like an ASSHOLE."

"And I thought it was just a mature thing to say," Stephanie said.

Well, crap.

I somehow always manage to come across as more of a bitch than I really think I am, which is likely why so many people call me one. I mean, I don't *feel* evil.


4 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Steph said...

re: Bookshelfs. Hmmm...ever wonder how different our relationship would be if not for that one incident?

re: Evil Bitch. I don't think it's necessarily that you come across as such a terrible person; I think people (in general) don't always know what to make of you. Despite diabetes/1001 rejection letters/growing up in BG, you radiate strength and self-assurance. People don't always know how to handle that. It's like Ian: I knew peope who thought he was arrogant, but what he projected was extreme self confidence--that attitude of not being any better or worse than anyone around him, but being their EQUAL. I think the problem comes from a society that wants to put everyone in a hierarchy: "you" are lower than "her" but better than "him." And people like you and Ian defy to be catagorized like that so no one quite knows what to do.

And, for the record, I still think it was a mature thing to try to explain to him (and your loyal readers) *WHY* thing didn't work out. You're not male, so there's no way you could've known that you demolished him the way you did...

Kameron Hurley said...

re: Bookshelves. I do, actually. Mostly, though, I just think it would have deprived us of a really good story :)

re: evil bitch.

I think you might be on to something. Me and my peeps were talking about this at Wiscon, and it's something Jenn and I talked about a lot, because I tend to be quiet in groups of people (yes, I know this comes as a surprise to *you* - but in groups of people I don't know, I'm not quite as loud and obnoxious and goofy as I am with people I'm comfortable with), and because I'm tall and broad shouldered, people think I'm being an aloof bitch. They don't think, "Well, maybe she's just nervous and not sure what to say or is afraid she'll sound like an idiot."

They assume I'm thinking about what an idiot they are and how many moves it'll take to floor them...

And, yea, I do think what I did was mature. Sharing it on the blog, maybe that wasn't a good idea :) But when you realize something so fundamental to any kind of relationship is missing, you've got to end it, or you're just going to drag things out and end up tearing each other apart.

Jennifer R said...

Wow, this one blew me away. And suddenly makes me glad I didn't utter the R-word on any of my sites about the last ex. (Though I think he could probably figure out for himself that he was and is acting in a way that would make more people than me lose all respect for him.)  

Posted by Jennifer

Patrick said...

Wow. Despite the fact that I do most of the cooking and an equal share of the laundry and childcare duties, I'm still evidently a guy.

Being told that I was the guy version of a slut would annoy me (whether or not it were true), but yeah, the whole respect thing is just huge. In guy terms, it's like Ian and Stephanie said: it's recognition that you exist in the universe, that you matter. It's like how the word "appreciate" used to just mean "to recognize that something exists; to be aware of," but now it means "to be thankful for." "Respect" might have originally just meant "recognition of and trust in their abilities," but, to a guy, it means everything. It flat-out means "verification that you matter in some way," because it's grown into this huge amorphous "all your being depends upon this" deal.

(Which really just means "recognition of and trust in my abilities" == "verification that I matter in some way" in the average guy mindset. Or at least mine, B's, and Ian's.) 

Posted by Patrick