"Inappropriate truth-telling is, to her, a way of turning that around. 'I'm not going to lie to you,' she'll say, forgetting that another option is to simply say nothing."
--David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
There are two kinds of people in the world (aside from "people who say there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don't"): people who like everybody indiscriminately unless given a reason not to; and people who don't like anybody unless given a reason to change that. My friend Linda is in the former camp. I am in the latter.
"Don't like," should not be confused as synonymous with "dislike." Not-liking is a very passive thing. Inertia's a powerful phenomenon, and liking and disliking both take a lot of energy, and I don't have any to spare. I might not actively like all that many people, but I don't actively dislike that many either. There are only a few I hate (one and a half to be more accurate -- the Half is mostly despised by association), and maybe half a dozen or so that rise to varying levels of dislike. Unfortunately, I ran into all of them this weekend.
It's the kind of thing that can make for an awkward date, because as much as I don't like conflict and confrontation, it isn't in me to be phony. The well-mannered part of my raising doesn't permit rudeness, but the compulsive truth-telling side of my personality won't let me feign unwarranted and undeserved niceness either. That means there's a fair amount of dodging and weaving that goes with any affair I attend, so I can just avoid the whole mess.
This is what my date this weekend referred to as The Gauntlet. He proved very adept at spotting the UnFriendlies and giving me a heads-up so we could either re-route, or I had time to at least turn my back; put my head down; and avoid eye contact (coincidentally, those are the exact same instructions I used to give everybody who had to meet my mastiff, Martha).
There's that whole Biblical Book of Ruth thing that's something about Moab or Boaz along the lines of "and your people will become my people" (obviously, I don't remember the exact details). And sure, that is all well and good. But more importantly, the way I look at is, my Hate must become Your Hate.
This Gauntlet is further complicated by the number of ex-es I'm likely to encounter at any given social gathering. Factoring in 25 years of dating in this town, there really aren't that many (and only one I parted on really bad terms with, which is kind of miraculous). But if you happen to be out on a date with me, my guess is there are enough. I never know exactly how to handle it, so I always just go with bare and minimal disclosure. We only ran into one this weekend, and all I said was, "oh, there's an Ex.... and Wow, is his date really unattractive or is it just me?" I needn't have worried about any potentially uncomfortable conversational exchanges, because this particular Ex spotted me, and turned right around and bolted out of the room. Which seemed a little extreme, mostly because I was standing right in front of his favorite bourbon.
As far as I know, we didn't part on bad terms. He was an interim boyfriend who came right after a really serious heartbreak, which I recall my friends handling with great sensitivity by constantly greeting him with, "are you our new Daddy?" But in truth, we dated so briefly and so long ago, I'd barely even qualify him as an Ex, were it not for the fact that there are a lot of pictures that put us in the same place at the same time, and maybe half a dozen columns (I'm not sure blogs had even been invented back then, and I definitely didn't have one). We had a nice summer, a good football season (I think it was the first time I ever tailgated...and that's not a euphemism), and then he failed to take me to his Office Christmas Party and as far as I was concerned, that was the end of that.
I've run into him a few times since and I can't recall any unpleasantness, but I'm pretty sure his reaction this weekend wasn't in my head since it was my date who pointed out, "MAN, he got outta here in a hurry." He would've made a clean getaway too if his date hadn't grabbed my date and corraled him into a conversation I didn't hear, because I have learned whenever a girl screams his name and pulls him aside for cocktail chatter, it is best to keep walking.