I returned late late last night from my 15th college reunion. On the ride home with two other friends (all of us parents, so staying overnight to get drunken silly was not an option) we remarked on how little people change, at least socially. Fifteen years later, and the socially inept people are still socially inept. The kooky people are still kooky. Obviously, many of the party guys have mellowed as they've become fathers. But we realized that our essential natures seem not to have changed. In most cases this is wonderful, because most people are lovely and well-meaning, however eccentric or "normal" or in-between.
In the case of one woman, it's less wonderful, although wildly funny. Let's call her Julie. Julie is a busybody. Julie is empowered by having information about you, not necessarily for the purposes of helping you or supporting you, but just for the feeling it gives her to be in-the-know. She was like this as a freshman, she was like this as a senior, and she is like this 15 years after graduation. And while it is uncomfortable to deal with her, there is something comforting about showing up at an old haunt to find all of the usual suspects there, doing the same damn thing they always did, even if it's cringe-inducing.
Case in point: Julie is not a friend-friend, but we're connected via facebook alumni stuff. I posted a status when John Edwards cheated on his wife: "I think men who cheat on their sick wives are despicable." Not ten minutes later I got an email from Julie inquiring if all was well at home, and that if I needed anything, I should call her immediately. I swiftly reposted my status to say, "I was talking about John Edwards. Duh," then sent her a terse reply that I was speaking of course about public events, and in the unlikely event my husband ever cheated on me, she could be certain that it would not find its way onto my facebook page. Didn't hear back. Why? Because I no longer was a source of juicy information.
Fast forward to reunion where Julie embraces me dramatically, inquires with that pitiful "cancer face" "how ARE you?!" and proceeds to tell me that she has schooled the reunion helper in our dorm on the following: "There is a lady coming who has undergone MULTIPLE terrible challenges; she may be sick or infirm, so whatever she needs you are to do it for her." She says this to me like she's Florence effing Nightingale, meanwhile I am horrified that some punkass kid has been directed to look for the sick and suffering Miss Haggis with all the "challenges." Like, absolutely not how I'd like to have my reputation precede me in the least. I recovered quickly enough to say with a sardonic smile, "Well, let him know I need a manicure."
She then proceeded to pump me for information about my "situation:" "So you must just have the worst time of it these days. Do you have side effects and fears of germs and are you just so scared all the time?!" I was about to get pissed off, but decided to step outside my ego and enjoy the exchange with this nutjob of a woman. "Nope. Life is good!"
"But don't you just feel so scared every day you wake up?!"
"Nope. Life is good."
"But I mean, what do you eat? How are you even here with people? How terrible was the transplant?!"
"Oh, you know, people have been through much worse. Life is good."
I was just the unscaleable wall of this woman's desire to know all the salacious details of my illness. Don't get me wrong. If I felt for one second that she cared about me in the least I'd have mentioned my actual and real challenging side-effects, my ongoing effort to trust my new immunity, all the very normal stuff involved in getting past a transplant. But I could tell she just wanted the gory details for some kind of pornographic pleasure, so I gave her nothing. Which actually became kind of a fun game throughout the day and evening.
By far, the best exchange came in the early evening when she offered that, "Wow. You are so lucky the BBDD didn't leave you. I mean, most guys would be gone, but he stayed. That is so great and so lucky for you." I seriously almost laughed out loud, because the notion that my husband would have left me because of illness is so beyond the realm of reality that it was like her telling me he was an oompa loompa. I answered, "Oh I don't know about all that. I got lucky years ago when I picked him. ALL OF US should be so lucky."
I was horrified she said it, but in the end glad, because that statement revealed why Julie is the way she is. That statement summed up in relatively few words the emotional and social poverty of this woman's life, and it crystallized why she is so involved in the details of others' lives: her default understanding of relationships is so removed from the reality of love and devotion that she's incapable of finding some for herself. Talk about challenged.