What have I become or, The Devolution of Young Geoffrey!
There are times when looking oneself in even a metaphorical mirror is a sobering thing indeed.
Jesus, god, two written apologies in eight days! What in the world has happened to Young Edifice? Did I somehow turn into that middle-aged white guy? The one whose idea of conversation is to "share" his opinions about this, that and especially the other thing, whether or not anyone has asked for it.
The first incident I might have just chalked up to social awkwardness born of my long hermatose years in Ottawa. Outside of Raven and family, and my weekly soccer games, I could count most years' social interactions on the fingers of one hand. So I suppose a gaffe or two might be in order.
The other two, though, were the sort of explosions of ego that I have always found appalling in others; hearing them in myself is frankly a little nauseating.
That first incident happened two Sundays ago, after a soccer game (we won, thank you very much) which featured a former team-mate as the opposing captain.
Robyn and I last played together two or three years ago, and our sole contact since has been a LinkedIn "friendship", and three or four email exchanges when I've been looking for a sub for one of my teams.
She is an athletic young woman, and one with whom I enjoyed talking when we played together and, yes, I liked the look of her as well. Had I been single, she was someone I might have pursued, if had she wasn't a vegetarian. (I know. Not as big a deal as politics or religion, but still ...) Whether any of that contributed to my behaviour a week-and-a-half ago I leave to the judgment of the reader; for me, I don't think so, but it's possible.
Anyway. As opposing captains we shook hands before the game and then, as fellow cyclists, afterwards we talked on the way to the bike rack, and rode off together, catching up as acquaintances will do.
And then, when there was a brief lull in the conversation, I leaned into my handlebars and said over my shoulder, "Well, and with that I will bid you adieu!" And I stepped hard on my peddles and pulled away as if I was being chased by the devil himself.
Why? Why ever would I be so rude to someone I liked? As best I can recall, I was worried that I was presuming too much, that she might feel I was pursuing her in some unseemly way. That, despite the fact she seemed for all the world happy to see me and to be enjoying our chat. And when I made my sudden departure, her "Okay," came with a distinctly confused tone of voice.
It's one thing to not be an aggressive prick, Young Edifice, but you are actually allowed to talk with women. You used to do it all the time. Hell, there have been long periods in your life when most of your friends were women!
Another incident came on a return trip from Montreal, when one of my passengers directed me to where he had parked his car. A 1970 Thunderbird, all bright red paint job and obviously one that had been lovably restored.
As, in fact, the pilot explained. And he asked for a few appreciative words about his classic automobile. His crew made the appropriate sounds but what I heard coming from my own mouth appalled me, even as I was unable to stop the words from spilling forth. "Well, if I was one who liked sports cars, I guess I'd like it."
Jesus. God. What a fucking ass. Did anybody, I asked myself, actually ask whether you liked sports cars, Young Edifice!?! Just say, "Nice car," would that be so hard?
Then there was this past Sunday, another soccer game. (We lost that one, and I was filling in as keeper. Ten balls got past me. It took me a while longer to process my behaviour because of that.)
One of my team-mates is a young journalist (since when are national magazine writers allowed to look like they're barely out of high school? When did Young Edifice get to be so old!) and when she arrived we got to talking, almost as if we were carrying on from a chat we'd had the previous game.
Anyway, she told me that she was covering the NAFTA negotiations — and I fucking cut her off.
Cut her off and — again, almost as if I were listening to some asshole who wasn't me, except that, y'know: it was my mouth that was flapping, my voice that was spouting off.
Because spouting off was what I was doing. "I haven't really been paying much attention to the negotiations," I started off by saying. And then, rather than asking her to fill me in — since she was, y'know, paying a lot of attention to the proceedings — I launched into a mini-rant on how I didn't trust Trudeau &ct &ct &ct.
For some strange reason, that kind of killed the "conversation", though I didn't really notice it in the moment, since we spoke at half-time and it was time to get back out onto the field.
And on the field, I let in another four goals (for a grand total of 10 — not my most shining hour as keeper!), so it wasn't until I was home and recovered from the defeat that I replayed my words and voice in my mind and realized what I must have sounded like: That Guy. That middle-aged white guy whose idea of conversation is to opine, to lecture, and god knows, not to listen — especially not to a younger woman even if she is actually involved in the topic at hand.
I wrote both women letters of apology (the pilot? Well, I don't have his email address anyway), and both graciously said it was fine, but I still don't feel like it's fine. I can only hope that I'll be given the chance to behave better in the future.
I don't think I've always been like this, so what happened? When did I turn into That Guy? Will I soon by loudly proclaiming that all modern music — everything made since I turned 20 or so — is crap? God knows, I keep running into men (and they are usually men, no question) who make such statements with no apparent sense of irony, or awareness that they are surely channelling their own parents, who doubtless said the same about the music they now idolize as The Best of All Time.
Please, Lord: I do not want this to be a taste of my future self. Self-monitoring — intense self-monitoring! — must become the order of the day from now until at last I slide from this mortal coil into eternal darkness.
Emmy the Great describes the type (I don't want to become) with a wonderfully acerbic wit.
You say you're looking for the truth,
Like you got rifles in your books,
But up above your parents' roof
I saw no star tonight,
Only the black from whence you came,
And where they'll send you back again,
And no blue plaque will keep your name
From falling out of sight.
And you can wage this war of one,
And I am still the only one
Who will remember you when you are gone.
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