Tuesday, October 11, 2005

"How are you doing?"

Yesterday I was supposed to have some phone time in the morning with Sam, but Melissa never called, so i rang over at her apartment, where no one answered.

Duh, I thought. It's Canadian Thanksgiving, so they're probably over at her parents' house, and I dialed their number. Her father, Al, answered.

"Oh hi, Brendan, how are you?... No, Melissa's not here, she's at work; we're watching Sammy for the next couple of hours... yes, I'll tell her you called... Bye now."

"How are you" has devolved into a rhetorical question. No one expects an honest answer: as Jerry Seinfeld pointed out in Seinlanguage we spend our workdays in cubicle mazes asking the same ten people, every time we see them in the hall "Hey how's it going." The answer is always "Fine" or something like that. The question is so banal, you could answer honestly and in detail and no one would even notice.

"My leg was gnawed off by a shark and I'll never walk again."

"Oh good; say, when you see Bob down in fiscal, could you tell him to call me about the Transcom file?

Al's "how're you" was just that kind of empty sentiment, and maybe I shouldn't be so irritated about this, but I've been simmering since he said it.

Let me make one thing clear: since Melissa and I broke up, I have put my de facto in-laws very high on my shit-list. After all, it was they who helped convince her to stay in Canada, dashing two years of waiting for my burgeoning family to move in with me to the pavement, like so much broken china. It's my in-laws who never seem to have the time to help transport Sam to Syracuse where I can pick him up for the occasional visit. It's my in-laws who spent the past year badmouthing me to Melissa when I was unemployed, because they didn't want their daughter wasting her time on a bum like me, and it's those two who badmouth me to melissa now that we've broken up.

So the next time I have to call their house, when Al asks me "how are you," I'm going to tell him exactly how I'm doing.

"Oh not bad, not bad at all. For a guy whose girlfriend had him wait two years while she stayed up in Canada with their son, before she abruptly changed her mind about moving in and starting the family, yeah I'm doing OK. For a guy whose girlfriend's parents successfully lobbied to have her remain those 1000 miles from her son's father, and who refuse to help get their grandchild down to see his father, and who badmouth me behind my back, yeah I'm doing pretty good. I'm not doing badly for a guy who shells out $300 he can ill afford to part with to support a son he gets to see once every two months or so. Not bad for a guy who's been waiting for two fucking years to start parenting only to have a couple of dicks like you play a part in pulling the rug out from under everything. Not bad for a guy who just bought his own place, and now probably has to sell it so he can pull up stakes and move to Burlington, BURLINGTON FUCKING VERMONT IN THE FROZEN FUCKING NORTH WHERE THERE'S NO FUCKING WORK, to be closer to his son, yeah, for that guy, I'm doing pretty OK.

"But hey Al, by any normal measure of personal well-being, I'm doing pretty. fucking. shitty. How do you fucking THINK I'm doing you fucking moron, now that you've helped ruin my fucking life?"

Am I feeling a little bitter today? OH YEAH.

3 Comments:

Blogger Alex said...

How _are_ you doing today, Brendan?

I'm not deliberately playing devil's advocate here, but I think you're being just a bit unfair.

Yes, Melissa weighed McGill, proximity to her family, and health care versus Penn, debt, proximity to you and found Philly wanting.

This hurts you because it's a rejection, and it is. True love is supposed to outweigh other, mundane considerations. Unfortunately, it doesn't.

A couple of years ago I had a similar decision. I had New Hampshire, a really good job, financial stability or Philly, love and uncertain financials. I chose Philly. I could take the risk in the hope that everything would work out.

I was only risking my own well-being, not that of my kid. Melissa has to factor that in, and people with kids are generally risk adverse. Makes sense, since kids benefit from stability.

I understand that you're pissed at her parents, and you think they hate you. Whatever. If Melissa talked to me, I don't think I would have tried to convince her to come back here. And I'm your friend.

Well, you asked for comments from us, here you go.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Brendan said...

I was only risking my own well-being, not that of my kid. Melissa has to factor that in, and people with kids are generally risk adverse. Makes sense, since kids benefit from stability.

Agreed, except change that to "our" kid. Sam isn't hers: he's ours. You know what else kids benefit from? A two-parent family.

No offense, but being childless and being an only child, you have absolutely NO idea what I go through on a daily basis. The closest you get is akin to looking at footage from Iraq and saying "Wow, war's pretty brutal." You have no idea what's going through the minds of those involved in the actual fighting.

I understand that you're pissed at her parents, and you think they hate you.

I wouldn't say that I think they hate me, although I hate them pretty well. When I move to Burlington, I am going to be the biggest pain in the ass they have ever met.

What I AM saying is that once you've deliberately fucked up someone else's life, you don't get to say "how're you doing" casually anymore.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Brendan said...

rereading your comment, I have to say you are speaking to the wrong theme.

This hurts you because it's a rejection, and it is. True love is supposed to outweigh other, mundane considerations. Unfortunately, it doesn't.

The rejection hurts, yes, but this is not about Melissa, this is about 1000 miles of separation from Sam. As I said, he's not "her" kid: he's our kid, just as much mine as hers. That's the crux of the matter.

4:26 PM  

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