Maybe I am more sensitive than I thought. I pride myself on the fact that I am not one to read too much into what others say and do. I am pretty good at not getting caught up in the idea that everything (or anything at all) is about me, and I am usually quite hard to offend. Because, well, it’s not very often that people mean to offend.
I figure whatever crime someone has committed against me, surely I am doing the same thing to someone else without even realizing it. I doubt anyone is out to get me, or making a point to make me feel excluded in some way- and I certainly am not attempting such a thing on someone else. These are all emotionally healthy assumptions to make about others.
But I also find myself reacting in unexpected ways. I can’t help it. I judge and rank people in my mind. I decide not to give more to someone than what they would return, and I sometimes make the assumption that they would return nothing. I think to myself, “I am never going to be the one who cares more.” I don’t want to chase after someone’s affection or approval. And I don’t want to be the one who can be counted on for these things, either, because that is a responsibility I will fail at.
We all know the friends who show up and support everything all of the time. That’s great and all, but they don’t miss anything. Just liking all the things I should on Facebook is exhausting. I certainly fail at that (not on purpose, of course). We like to make each other feel guilty for not being this friend, because most of us screw it up. Most of us really do. Human nature is full of (unintentional) hypocritical expectations. The worst part is, the ones who can actually be counted on get taken for granted. Ask them. It means less. It becomes expected.
But when someone unexpected finally steps up to the plate….
Oh, we are weird creatures with all of our social handicaps. I find I do best when I can appreciate people for their failures. I have a handful of friends whose flaws could have kept them out of my circle permanently, yet I love them in spite of it. I may not trust them as a support system, but the unconditional nature of my affection seems truer somehow. I tell myself that my ability to care about them in spite of their shortcomings means our friendship is stronger; that it means more to be able to love someone who is hard to love.
But is that true? Or do I just seek their affection and approval more because it is so hard to come by?
I think I know the answer. And you know what else? It makes me envy them a little. Because I look around and see that everyone else is seeking their elusive approval, too. Their lack of interest makes them Mr. Popularity; throwing infrequent bones to the socially needy (which is, apparently, everyone).
Meanwhile, Ned Nice, who shows up to all your life events and sends you cards on your birthday, is getting nothing at all for his efforts; only expectations that he is going to keep that up- and an occasional cute photo on Facebook with a caption about what a true friend is (that’s for you, Ned).
And Ned will remain true.
The biggest irony of all, for me, is how we put our “sophisticated” social abilities on a pedestal as a goal to be sought. I suppose Teghan will never participate in such strange social games. I’m not sure I would consider it a loss. I enjoy analyzing the complex workings of the human brain, and it is a necessary science if we are going to get along in this world- but there is clearly something to be said about the ability to only take things at face value.
Sometimes we “social sophisticates” are completely clueless. We are crazier than we know. In fact, when you really look closely, it should be considered the bigger handicap. We just share it with so many people that we overlook that reality. It’s all relative, after all.
In Teghan’s world, I suspect Ned will always get the appreciation he deserves. It’s just another example of how normal sometimes gets redefined in this house since she came along.