Insomnia. It’s not something I usually suffer from, but something (maybe the movie?) has got me thinking about we’re often damned whichever course of action we take. Some illustrations:
Scene one: A good friend was planning to get married to the guy she’d been dating for some years. I was a little sad, because they’d be moving away; he had a job lined up elsewhere. I was a lot more sad when I discovered that she didn’t want to move, and I started to get a bad feeling about the whole thing.
I didn’t discover the relationship was actually doomed until the bride-to-be made a pass at me a few weeks before the wedding. I was stunned and horrified, particularly when she matter-of-factly explained that she was marrying the guy because she didn’t think she could do any better. I tried to convince her not to go ahead with the wedding, even though I had no serious romantic interest in her. It was to no avail, unfortunately, and naturally I was invited to the wedding as well. I did my best to detach myself from the situation, which was fast approaching the level of farce. The ceremony didn’t have the “if anyone knows of any just cause or impediment” bit, and I couldn’t have stood up and said anything anyway. I mean, what would I have said? Besides, wasn’t there a chance that it would work out after all, that they’d be happy? (Well, no, as it turned out. Had you guessed that?)
Scene two: A while ago, someone started publically posting responses to a personal ad. At the outset, she said that she wasn’t just going to point and laugh, but that she was posting them for the amusement value. Along with the postings were snarky comments about how the guy’s cat wasn’t really the breed he thought it was, and wasn’t this other guy lame for thinking she meant computer RPGs, and so on. By the time it got to volume 12, it was looking awfully like she was finding any available reason to cross them off the list. With an attitude like that, she probably would end up a cat lady, as she’d been predicting.
Someone made a comment in reply to volume 12, about the sheer number of people she seemed determined to find some fault with. I followed up, agreeing that unfortunately it looked like she had strayed into bad-attitude territory. I got a couple of insulting responses from her; more vitriol. She seemed to think I found what she was doing objectionable. I said that actually I wasn’t offended, I just felt kinda sad for her for her attitude—though I wasn’t sure I should admit it because it would probably provoke even more of a snarl. It did, making her decide I was just a total asshole. (Though some days later, she’s decided to reply to the e-mail in volume 18, so maybe it did some tiny amount of good. Still, hardly worth it from my point of view.)
Scene three: A few years ago a friend was just starting to date a guy she’d met. I didn’t know it, however. The three of us and some other folks met at a Chinese restaurant to eat, drink and socialize. A few weeks later she mentioned the new boyfriend, reminded me that he’d been at the restaurant. I suddenly knew who she was talking about: the guy who had given me a really, really bad intuitive feeling.
See, sometimes when I meet people I get an almost immediate subconscious response, as if some instinct is telling me that Something Is Not Right. This was the first occasion when I got the feeling really strongly. Being a rational person, obviously I decided to ignore it. I was sure my friend’s relationship would work out for the best, because all the objective factors were right—they had common interests, shared values, blah blah blah. She later described the whole relationship as “like a Greek tragedy”. I felt awful for not having said or done anything even to warn her to be careful.
Scene four: A few months ago, a friend was in turmoil. Relationship turmoil. I really didn’t want to get involved, but it was patently obvious that they weren’t suited for each other—and once again, my unconscious was ringing alarm bells whenever I met the other party. By this time, I’d had quite a few more run-ins with my subconscious, and it was doing a hell of a lot better job at predicting bad-to-know people than my intellect. (In fact, it still has a flawless record.)
Besides that, both halves of this couple really wanted to be dating a different kind of person, and had even said so. One was actually trying to be a different kind of person. When I finally couldn’t stand it any more, and told the friend that they weren’t suited for each other, I got the response that everyone said that.
In movies, when everyone says the two of you shouldn’t be together, it means that you’re truly in love and should battle through to the happy ending. In real life, when everyone says you shouldn’t be together, there’s a good chance that one or two of them have some genuine insight into the relationship, and that you really shouldn’t be together. I’ve ignored enough insight to have worked that out.
So anyway… when I did reluctantly try to intervene with a few comments, the advice was ignored. I didn’t push matters or nag, because I don’t actually aim for assholism. The couple eventually became an ex-couple in such a massive slow-motion explosion of recrimination and bitterness that several friendships were ruined by the shrapnel.
So, there we have it. Four little stories. But what’s really keeping me awake is this:
What the hell am I supposed to do?
When it looks to me as if people are doing the best thing they can possibly do to fuck up their relationships, shouldn’t there be a right course of action? Even if they’re doomed to unhappiness, can’t I escape?
If you don’t intervene and they end up miserable, you feel guilty because they ended up miserable and you could maybe have stopped it. So it seems like the best thing is to say something—not interfere, but just make a suggestion. Except that most of the time they just ignore you, and when they don’t ignore you they get really angry at you, so you lose both ways there too.
I dunno, does anyone have a heartwarming story that involves someone listening, not getting angry, acting on hints dropped, and avoiding misery as a result? I know I’m asking a lot here, but I’d like the story to include at least some circumstantial evidence that misery was avoided.
I suppose what it comes down to is that I’m starting to think that giving a shit about other people’s happiness is a pretty thankless task. I guess that’s why god was invented.
Now, can I please go to sleep?