Today something interesting happened.
DH and I had some errands to run, and we decided last minute to stop in at a favorite eatery to grab a bite for dinner. We so rarely go out on dates that it was a real treat for us to do so and we took advantage of the fact that my mom was over babysitting and we didn't have to worry about the little ones.
Imagine our surprise when we saw a familiar (and unwelcome) face.
This person is such a watered-down entity in the scheme of things that she doesn't deserve an alias for my blog, but for the sake of clarity I'll just refer to her as K.B.
So DH and I walked into this little dive and I immediately recognized the cashier as being one of Exhibit A's friends, whom I've never met in person. No, scratch that. I believe I saw her, once, in person, at one of NMIL's house parties. In fact, I think she was the quiet, overweight, inappropriately-dressed girl who came along with another quiet, overweight inappropriately-dressed girl (whom I would later know to be Exhibit A) at NMIL's unbirthday party for my husband. I suppose I can't say we officially "met" as no one ever introduced us, but I can say I saw her once in person. And I have, without a doubt, found traces of her on the internet. Exhibit A and her friends either want to be found on the world wide web, or else they are too stupid to realize how easy they have made it for people to do so. I like to think of myself as a cyber-sleuth, but in reality, it just isn't that hard to find people who make their online whereabouts as obvious as these girls.
DH didn't see her at first. But as soon as we walked in, I knew SHE had seen and recognized him. I could see this look on her face that screamed, "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. IT'S HIM. THE ONE WE'VE ALL BEEN TALKING ABOUT. THE ONE WE HAVEN'T SEEN OR HEARD FROM IN MORE THAN TWO YEARS." She looked around, almost frantically, seemingly to find someone, anyone, who could confirm that the person in front of her was not a mirage. Actually, it was sort of funny, that somewhat panicked, nervous look on her face. I'm betting she was wondering what she was going to say to my husband when he approached the counter.
I turned to DH with a sort of half-smile on my face and said, "I recognize that girl." The half-smile was for my amusement at her reaction to our presence.
DH quietly shared his surprise to be seeing that particular person, in that particular place, at that particular time.
A bit of back-story:
1. K.B. is Toast's niece. The only reason that's sort of interesting to me is that it continues to boggle my mind how very small his old world used to be. In DH's past life, everyone was sleeping with everyone, everyone was someone's friend, and everyone knew their cousin's husband's step-mother's roommate.
2. K.B. was more a friend of a friend than a friend-all-by-her-lonesome. DH hung out with her because she was always around and because she tagged along with Exhibit A. When asked if he could recollect what she was like or what their relationship entailed, he didn't have much to say because there had never been much substance to it.
3. In my book, she's guilty by association. I know enough about her best friend to make my assessment of her accordingly. I don't like her because I don't like her friend. Quite honestly, I don't feel I need much more evidence or explanation than that.
DH was uncomfortable upon recognizing her, I think because he hadn't expected to see her (or others from her crowd) again.
So we had to do a pinch of verbal communication mixed with a smidge of non-verbal cues, he and I. Whereas I was thinking about the best way to handle a confrontation with this girl, who I am certain has been spreading gossip with the rest of them, DH wanted simply to leave.
I thought quickly, a million thoughts running through my head. If we go up to the counter, what should I say if she addresses my husband? What should he say? Should I say anything at all? Will she spit in our food? Is DH right? Should we just walk away without saying a word? Being superficial with her is NOT an option. No matter what we do, she'll be texting her pitifully small-minded, scum of the earth, low-class friends the moment we walk out the door. We'll be the talk of DH's home town, all because we walked into this pathetic girl's work for two minutes.
We walked out, without looking back. I wanted to walk out because I knew DH was not comfortable and I wanted us to ENJOY our night out. I also walked out because I knew that ignoring her could possibly be a bigger slap in her face than if DH were to acknowledge her. And ignoring her would be ignoring Exhibit A would be ignoring the world he came from would be ignoring his NM would be showing them that he knows exactly what they are and he is no longer a willing participant in their twisted games.
I'm anticipating an online frenzy. I'm anticipating their tiny world being blown apart and shattered to bits all because their old "best friend" didn't say hello to some girl he knew a bunch of years ago. I'm anticipating that we're now the talk of the town and will be for two weeks because those two minutes of recognition didn't lead to an all-out reunion in which DH begged for their forgiveness. I'm anticipating that they'll cover up their hurt by calling my DH a coward for "not even being able to say hi."
But I don't think DH was a coward.
I think, in his fight-or-flight response, he chose flight because it was better than having to deal with K.B.'s inevitable superficiality. I think flight is okay.
I think it took more courage to ignore her, to walk away, to never give her the opportunity to try her charms on him, than it would have to give her what she probably wanted...for him to engage, for him to come back, for him to offer up reasons and apologies and guilt over having left their little group of haters behind.
But my husband is gaining confidence everyday and honing his interpersonal skills. He is learning that not everyone has his best interests at heart, and that the friendships his parents garnered for him do not need to be life-long acquaintances. He is learning how to say no and how to disengage. He is gathering strength. He is recognizing enemies. He is developing a moral-compass and deciding what he wants for himself.
My husband left with things those people will never have: dignity, a sense of self, and an air of realness.
They can have their gossip. They can have their indignation. They can have their pity-parties and their back-stabbing. In the end, I've got what I want: my husband. My deliciously real, loving and lovable husband.
We ended up at another favorite dive close to home. We had a great time. We talked about what had happened for a few minutes before diving into our food. Had we let it, the evening could have been rather overly-dramatic, but we chose not to let it go there. Overall, I'm really glad that our two minutes under old-world public scrutiny didn't ruin our good time. There was no reason for it to.
Like my fellow blogger-friend Mulderfan says, "Fuck 'em."