I made a classic ass of myself recently. I sent out a large, barely edited, not-quite-tight first draft of some writing to a group of friends to “enjoy.” I feel so bad for them now. In terms of taxing a friend’s patience, it must have been right up there with inviting them over under the guise of dinner, only to pull out a flow chart pitching Amway. Or worse, putting them through a three-hour slide show entitled “1,500 icebergs” taken during an Alaskan cruise. I’ve actually committed these acts of unkindness to friends in years past. I’ve witnessed them pass out in front of me, drool literally hanging from their chins, while I babbled on. Nothing makes you feel like more of an idiot than to know you’re the reason your friends are nodding off, denying the sound that just came from them–the kind of snorting-cough-fart you only hear on long, overnight flights, or during any tedious art lecture entitled: “Why I feel my work is relevant.”
What I did to my friends recently however, was far worse. I now feared they’d all race like game-show contestants for the delete button, should they see future “incoming” mail from me. “Check this out fellas,” I could hear them say, “We’ve got another installment from our pal, Mr. Funk & Wagnalls.“
Asking these people to read 15 pages of diatribe was as silly as asking my mother 45 years ago to let me pin some noon-time craft project resembling a shellacked booger onto her lapel, expecting to hear, “My boy is so talented! Left-handed just like his momma!”
Had I made a dried cat turd mobile, Mom might have proudly hung it on the clothes line for a day or two, or until my head was sufficiently swollen and the dogs were done playing with it. But, thankfully, I was dealing with my friends this time, not Mom, or that writing I uploaded the other day would still be flapping on-line, unabridged in the breeze for all the neighborhood to notice–like the stained sheets of some sick, sad man.
What snapped me back to a less full-of-myself “view of the world” was the following observation made by one dear friend who said, “You had 58 words in the opening sentence–I didn’t make it past the first 30 of ‘em.”
The emotion was simply taken out of the equation and what needed to be done was done. If you have to smack your buddy in the head with a 2×4 because they’ve stepped onto the third rail and they’re starting to smolder, then so be it. You do what it takes to save them from further shame or harm. If they soil their sad self in public, you don’t suggest, “Oh, everyone will just think its spilled coffee.” You don’t patronize. You simply toss them in the back of your pickup and pull under the nearest touch-less carwash.
A few overly kind friends, have been super nice. Saying such things as, “I read it twice!” Which now forces me to wince even harder wondering how could they have read that crap even once?
I would have been a better friend had I handed them all a shoebox full of receipts, demanding they do and pay my taxes this very minute!
For a second and a half there, when I first realized that I might never get another email past their collective spam settings, I wanted to hang myself–right then, after first cutting off my left ear and eating it.
One should never ask friends who already love you, to love you even more. You also can’t expect them to choke down your silly book ideas before at least one thousand total strangers have signed off on it first. It’s not your friends who will buy your books anyway. They’re going to expect a free copy, signed no less right where their name is supposed to appear in the special acknowledgments section.
So I’m here to clear the air and admit it was actually ME in the elevator with the party foul. Sure, I could argue that, “a prophet has no honor in his own country,” but that would be silly. No need to add a messiah-complex to my psych evaluation. The line we draw around our ego, to protect it, is complex. Somewhere between having the full worship of all who know me and not having to ever suffer so much as a hang nail, tends to be my ideal comfort zone.
Now as I see the smoke from an ass-shaped mushroom cloud rise directly above me, and those I’m closest to backing up beyond the blast line, respirators in place over furrowed brows, I can only hope those foggy expressions I see behind their masks are just muffled smiles, wishing that I get well real soon.