Thanks For Calling Me An Asshole.

“The logical next step in this email exchange,” Gini told me, “Is to apologize for being such an asshole.”

The pause was glacial.

“You realize,” I said stiffly, “That I came to you because they hurt me.”

“I get that.” She sounded sincere, even sympathetic. “But they didn’t do anything wrong, and you bit off their head. You’re the dick here.”

My fingers twitched.

“Okay.” I breathed in deeply through my nose. “And now I’m pissed at you.”

“And that’s okay,” she said.

I spent the next several hours alternating between furious silence and walking in to calmly explain the subtle reasons why she’d pissed me off. Of all people, I told her, I thought you’d side with me on this one. Don’t you see why this is just like this other thing you agreed was awful?

She listened, never returning my anger, occasionally conceding a point where she didn’t know all the facts. But she retained her overall judgement: you’ve been a douche, and you should apologize.

Seven hours later, I realized I’d been a douche and I should apologize.

And this morning, I got a text from a good friend who called me out on a different bit of assholery in a different way, and I replied “thank you.”

Because calling your friends out isn’t easy. Gini hadn’t had a great day, either, and when she got home she found her husband embroiled in a snakepit of tangled grief and anger and flashbacks, and the last thing she needed was to spend several hours with my rage pulsing through the house, carefully maintaining herself lest those banked embers flare up into a housefire.

But she did it.

So did my other friends who’ve grudgingly carried me through my irrational times.

Looking your friend in the eye and saying “You’re wrong” isn’t something we cherish a lot in this world. We give lip service to the idea of debate, but most friends and lovers are expected to provide support, to drown us in unquestioning love, to dish out sympathy.

Yet when I came looking for a heaping helping of sympathy, my wife looked down into her sympathy stewpot and said, “You don’t deserve this.” And that took courage and strength; courage to turn me down, strength to not make it personal. I was wrong, but she didn’t rub it in, she checked in on me, she expressed volumes of love.

She did everything except agree I was right.

And occasionally, I see someone take on my wife in a comment thread on one of my essays, saying, “You just agree with him because he’s your husband.” And I laugh.

They don’t know my friends. My friends will text me when I’ve gone too far, will look me straight in my eyes when they’re fuzzed with anger and give me that quiet “….No.”

You know what?

I trust them more for that.

When I go to my friends for sympathy, and get it, I know that’s real sympathy. Because I think of last night when I tossed down my bucket into the sympathy well and it came up dry, and realize that if she’s on my side, it’s because she really believes.

And when my friends tell me I’m wrong, that pulls me up short. I was surfing a tide of inchoate anger, and they called me back from shore.

Truth was: I was the asshole.

And I thank them for calling my attention to that fact, I really do. You save me when I’ve lost myself. You remind me of the tenets I’ve told you I should live by. You patrol my borders for me when I’ve forgotten where I set my lines, and you shove me back in when I’m bumping chests and looking for fights.

It’s not often that I have to rely on the grace of your good judgment, thank God.

But when I do, when I wake from the haze and realize what a fool I’ve been, I bless you for refusing to back down out of convenience. Because I know you stood tall out of love, and that means more to me than anything.

2 Comments

  1. Quintin Scott
    Oct 30, 2015

    I like this article a lot.

  2. flask
    Nov 4, 2015

    dear ferret,

    we are not friends.

    i hope some day we will be.

    respect and affection,
    flask

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