Sunday, October 4, 2015

You, Sir, are no gentleman...

I used to love watching The Golden Girls.  I still watch it when I come across it on TV.  One of the "girls" is sexy Blanche Devereaux, who loves men and being southern.  One of her lines is "You, Sir, are no gentleman", which she ripped off from Margaret Mitchell's classic character from Gone With The Wind, Scarlett O'Hara.  I am reminded of that this morning as I remember an unfortunate experience I had back in the fall of 1998.

I was 26 years old and had been home from Armenia for about a year.  I lived with my parents as I saved up money to finally launch into the world.  I worked at a job I mostly hated, though it paid somewhat well.  There was enough money for me to finally seek therapy and medication for the anxiety and depression I've dealt with for most of my life.  In October of 1998, I had been on Prozac for about two months.  It wasn't helping me much, though my doctor had said he thought I was having a "partial response" to the drug.

My cousin, who is now a professional musician in Nashville, was also living at home with his parents.  He decided to throw a party at his parents' house.  There's an old barn there and it's great for live music and hanging out.  He invited me to come.  In retrospect, I shouldn't have gone.  I don't actually like parties very much because they tend to make me uncomfortable.  I'm not very extraverted.  I don't like noise or crowds; and while I enjoy meeting people, I often find parties overwhelming and end up saying and doing stupid things.  

Against my better judgment, I went to the party.  Also at the party was a guy I'll call Sam.  I had met Sam the year prior because he'd been hanging out a lot with my family.  He had a wild crush on one of my cousins, although she wasn't at all interested in him.  He was a "citizen soldier" having graduated from VMI, the local military college, though he did not choose to enter the military after graduation.  I knew of one or two of his sisters, who had attended my alma mater and been in my honorary music fraternity.

Sam rented living space from one of my uncles and had gotten close to him.  I got the sense that besides having a crush on my cousin, he also thought my family was awesome and hoped to marry into it.  Of course, he probably didn't know at the time how much booze and depression is part of the family culture.  My family is a lot of fun.  It's full of good, hardworking, fun loving, and talented people.  But like any family, it has its darker side.

I originally thought Sam was a nice enough guy, though he was a bit preachy and pious.  We went out to a movie once-- saw Wag the Dog, which wasn't such a great film.  He was well behaved that night, though I could see why my cousin wasn't interested in him.  I determined that he was a bore who mostly talked about himself and his vision for his future family, which seemed very old fashioned and somewhat unrealistic.  He spoke a lot about what he thought God's plan was for him and the beautiful wife and kids he would one day have.  Maybe he's achieved his vision; I don't know, because I currently have him blocked on Facebook.

I eventually noticed that Sam's gentleman act was just that-- an act.  His actions didn't always match his words and vice versa.  He'd made a big show of opening and closing the car door for me when we went to the movies, but he blatantly ignored me when I tried to get his attention while visiting another uncle's house.  Granted, it was during a football game.  I probably should have known better; though at the time, I thought it was rude.  Later, I noticed him obviously hitting on a girl at church, a nice girl who didn't seem to reciprocate his attentions.  

My cousin's barn party occurred a few months after my movie date with Sam.  I'm sad to say that I got very drunk at the party.  Besides drinking too much beer that night, I had also taken the large, prescribed dose of Prozac my doctor had ordered.  Too much beer and Prozac made me feel weird, out of place, and more depressed than ever.  I wholeheartedly admit that I was a wreck and making an ass of myself in more ways than one.

At some point, while I was in the barn, I tripped and fell down.  I'm not sure if I was walking or dancing and I don't remember if I tripped on an uneven plank on the floor or simply stumbled over my feet.  All I remember is that I ended up falling to my knees, which was embarrassing enough.  But Sam witnessed my fall and proceeded to yell at and shame me.  I don't remember all he said, but I do remember his tone and how his outburst made me feel.  His tirade was humiliating and uncalled for.  While being drunk certainly didn't help my sense of coordination, I can tell you that I could have done the same thing while stone cold sober.  I can also tell you that screaming at a drunk person rarely leads to anything constructive.  He's lucky I didn't scream back at him.  

I don't remember saying or doing anything after Sam loudly and publicly chastised me, but I do remember the incident and it still makes me angry.  First off, it wasn't Sam's party.  Secondly, it wasn't his family's house.  And thirdly, for a guy who talked so much about being a "gentleman" and wanting so badly to date my cousin (who is in many ways much wilder than I have ever been), he sure acted like an asshole.  Even today, I must admit, I have fleeting fantasies of kneeing Sam in the nuts after he screamed at me in my uncle's barn.  I didn't do that, though, because deep down, I am much more of a lady than some people realize.

Though the temptation was there, it's good that I didn't give in...

Last night, I told Bill about this incident and asked him what he would have done.  My husband, who is a "real soldier" rather than just a "citizen soldier" said he would have helped me up and made sure I hadn't hurt myself.  He would have gotten me out of the barn and, perhaps, maybe gently convinced me it was time to call it a night.  I didn't expect anyone to do that for me that night in 1998, but I also didn't expect to be screamed at by some guy who just seemed to want to join my big, fun, colorful family.  

I take full responsibility for the drunkenness.  It was irresponsible, stupid, and embarrassing for me to drink so much, especially while taking antidepressants, though I certainly don't think I was the only drunk person there.  Prozac eventually turned out to be a disaster for me.  About a month after the party, I had a dramatic crisis while at work which led to my having to get off Prozac because it was making me feel crazy and suicidal.  I eventually switched to Wellbutrin, which was a much better drug for me.  That's the drug that helped me stop being depressed and get on with my life.

I love my uncle's barn, but every time I go in there, I am reminded of that night and being screamed at by Sam.  Although I don't think violence is the answer and I'm ultimately glad I didn't rack him, I also kind of think he would have deserved a little public humiliation himself.  Of course, then I really would have been a fool wearing a lampshade, right?  Maybe I would have gotten arrested too.

As Bill and I were having breakfast this morning, I told him that I was writing about my party incident with Sam.  Somehow, our discussion digressed and we got onto the topic of our latest trip.  I wrote on my travel blog about getting really hungry and irritable as we made our way to Lermoos.  After several unsuccessful search efforts at finding an open restaurant that Sunday afternoon, we finally found a place.  It was a busy Italian restaurant.

By the time we sat down, I was in a horrible mood.  About halfway through lunch I noticed a man sitting nearby who had the most gentle, peaceful, serene expression on his face.  He had this aura of kindness and goodness.  I figured he was a religious person and Bill later confirmed that the guy was a monk.  Unlike many religious people I've encountered, this man did not exude the slightest hint of judgment or shame.  He just seemed to radiate this lovely glow of calmness and decency-- I could even say "holiness".  It was a stark contrast to my encounter with Sam, who had a fantastic religious vision of how things should be rather than how they are.

I wrote about the experience on my travel blog and a friend identified the man as Toyoshige Sekiguchi, a Buddhist monk who has been walking around the world to promote peace.  I wonder how many people in that restaurant had even noticed him.  I almost hadn't.  Somehow, despite sometimes being an asshole myself, I have a knack for running into amazing people.  Unfortunately, I also run into fake religious "gentlemen" like Sam.  I'm grateful we didn't date and delighted we didn't marry and ecstatic that we never had kids together.  I'm especially happy that I found my genuine, "real soldier", gentleman in the least likely of places.  I must be doing something right.    

"Sir, you are no gentleman..."

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