I have an acquaintance – certainly not a friend and I would never call her a relative – who is one of the oddest people I have ever encountered. A 69 year old former elementary school teacher, this woman has no affect. Her mode of dress is mid-80s granola-eating hippie unchic. She still uses film in her camera, vigorously decrying the evils of digital progress.
In a family that revels in food, drink, noise and hugs, she is the odd person out, sitting on the edges of conversation with little interest in contributing to the tsunami of conversations. Not because no one is interested in her but because she chooses not to engage. Apparently, we aren’t worth the effort. She’s a deliberate outsider with the warmth of a reptile. In the swirl of riotous conversation and laughter, she drops non sequitur phrase-bombs that chill the environment like a polar vortex.
When I asked a simple question about email, she cheerfully opined that was a ‘blue’ question and she could only answer ‘pink’ questions, meaning that it was a guy thing and she didn’t know. I was shocked at her contented ignorance, as if not knowing how to operate a computer program was a badge of honour. I took a step back and reconsidered – perhaps I was applying my own ‘click until it works’ kick it in the ass approach to life. No. This was not normal. Gloria Steinem would pluck out her hair by the roots at this smug retro woman. But there is so much else about her that I find appalling.
The kitchen is foreign territory for her. She has grown children, but doesn’t talk about them. She used to be a quilter and now she embroiders, but try to connect through a conversation about styles of embroidery or classical versus abstract form and she stares blankly. Her 65 year old husband is a lovely man whose life is consumed with all things automotive – he knows the most arcane details about slant-eight cylinders and lubricants and car finishes. He suffers from work-induced asthma, type II diabetes and chronic sinusitis.
While they were visiting on the weekend, he had an asthma attack and had to bow out of brunch. He was laid up with a nebulizer clamped to his face to ease his breathing. Yes, I was curious and had lots of questions – “How is he doing? Does this happen often?”. Stupid me – I expected that she would express concern. Instead, she characterized his health issue as a ‘nuisance’. The man can’t take a breath and she called the episode a ‘nuisance’? That’s when I lost any interest in her. She wasn’t being ironic, either. Heartless bitch. Why did she marry him? Someone handy for home repair and to change her oil when necessary without cost? She showed more emotion towards their stupid twitchy little dog.
I was shocked. And ashamed of her and her husband for putting up with that shit. But again, those are my values (respect, affection, consideration, passion, friendship). I got the impression she didn’t care that much and had settled for having a man – any man – just because… In retrospect, I think she’s just…empty.
Of course the path of relationships is never smooth but I could never think of Hub like that. Lesson learned. Useless twat.