Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"You're So Vain"

I run across myself on other people's blogs from time-to-time and it's a little disconcerting -- not as a link, but as myself -- or maybe just a character that's playing Me in their lives, in that usual Larry David fashion most all writers employ. Or as my BFF put it, "oh, you mean like people do on your blog every day." (And perhaps this would be the right time to correct the record and point out that she calls me "Raymond" after the character in "Rainman" when she says "don't worry, we'll get you your toothpicks Raymond." I really did think she was calling me Rainman... but I guess Raymond is equally funny, and perhaps more politically correct.)

I work in a public field and I have to take what comes. No one's more thin-skinned than I am, and I think the only time I have ever been quoted accurately is when I said "No Comment," when I was asked to say something for the record about Tubby Smith (I sure wish I'd said it the first three times that happened, although anybody who knows me knows there's no one less qualified to comment on Tubby Smith than I am, even though I agree that he was probably a fine, fine person, but one who simply did not fit the job description -- which is to go to the Final Four -- and yes, we all know he won one, but that was with a team he inherited and he never built his own program, so don't get me started.)

Over the years, I have dated artists and seen myself (Nude) in their shows. I've dated musicians and heard myself in a song or two on the radio. I've dated writers and seen myself in one novel, and a short story here and there. Those have been the exceptions though. Mostly I've stuck with doctors, lawyers, engineers, and architects, and by and large, they've let me do the narrating. As expected, they're pretty good sports as long as they come across lively and charming and delightful, and less so when they don't. To the extent that they insert themselves into, and or withdraw from my life (so to speak), they occupy limited public figure status. I try to be equal parts vague and respectful. I leave their jobs, their kids, and their identifying characteristics out of it. Except for, ok, ok...that one surgeon who had a few irresistible med school rotation stories (better make that two surgeons, because I am now thinking of two different stories -- one involving a melted penis and one involving a severed finger). I have a lot of rules about only picking on people my own size, and if I'm going to willingly embarrass anybody, it's usually going to be me.

That's in Writing. For the blog, for the column, and for the last book (and the one in-progress). In real life, I have even more stringent rules about who's in and who's out.

So the blog I read today (now a few weeks old) reduced me to tears when I realized that as easily hurt as I am, I am all-the-more obliged to look out for those who love me than I am for myself -- especially those who have tenure (defined as 25 years or longer with me). Some things, they don't sign on for. I don't want to link to it (even though it's obviously a public blog), but I will quote a little of the part I found the most touching, in the post "Dreaming About Calculus," -- "my patterns of behavior were pretty much cemented somewhere on the playground in the 4th grade. It is in my nature to greet everyone with a smile and offer to share my peanut butter & jelly sandwiches with them." It was a blog about a recent episode of naivete, and how wrong he felt he'd been about someone (presumably from the time and date stamp, he was likely referring to someone I rather uncharacteristically and cavalierly brought into everyone's lives, who turned out to be not-what-we-thought...not what-was-presented -- not a bad person, we all still hope, maybe just weak). I felt devastated to see my friends so taken for granted when it takes decades to get this level of trust, and we all earned ours. In this case, their kindness was presumed--"so, I guess they're this nice to everybody," --and no, they're not. In truth, no one's ever been invited in. Til now.  It was an honor to be there in the first place, and not one that should've been taken so trivially. The blog concluded, "I've not been that stupid when I've traveled to Cairo or into the slums of Brazil. Reasoning does win out over even the best of our human nature. Still, the self-preservation dance often does give way to simple dopey optimism.

Since I was 17 years old, I have known him to freely share his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, his sandbox, and his toys. (Don't even get me started on the freshman year Slip 'n Slide -- where, as I recall, one frat brother broke his arm and came away visibly chagrined from the phone call to his dad where he had to obtain the family insurance information. I don't remember the exact particulars, but I do remember the conversation ended with, "I didn't have the balls to tell him it was my fuckin' Slip 'n Slide.") 

I'm pretty vain though. With any luck, he was blogging about someone I've never even met.

Because his dopey optimism is one of his very, very best features, and I sure hope I haven't done anything to dent it. (My optimism was never up for grabs.) 

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