Friday, November 6, 2009

FIGHTING WORDS

And the Facebook conversations keep getting stranger. Yesterday, I had the oddest Facebook instant-message exchange with a former high school classmate, who, I'm ashamed to say, I don't really remember.

It began with those dreaded five words which always signal that the chat to follow will be less than pleasant.

"Can I ask you something?"

I considered logging off and pretending not to have seen it. But my curiousity got the best of me, and I responded.

"What?"

"Do you have a problem with me?

Years ago, a colleague at People magazine asked me the very same question while we were alone in an elevator. I couldn't imagine what extreme lack of self-esteem would possess her to ask me such a thing, especially considering that these were the first words we'd ever exchanged. Perhaps it was the fact that I'd never given her the time of day, never mind that she hadn't exactly showered me with attention -- or even a "hello" in the hallway -- either.

That said, her instincts had guided her to the correct conclusion: She was someone whom I had disliked on sight for no apparent reason (although at that moment, I had a perfectly good one). I dismissed her inquiry as the crazed ramblings of an insecure person and didn't dignify it with a response. This time, I did.

"What are you talking about?

"Someone told me that back in high school you wanted to beat me up."

I laughed at him, with him, on the inside, on the outside, and at the very idea of my beating up anyone in high school. I asked him if he was sure he had the right Helligar. My big brother and cousin were most likely the culprits, as they were far tougher than me and more likely to go around getting into people's faces. I wanted to tell him that I didn't even know who he was, but it was obvious that this guy's ego might be too fragile to handle it.

Instead I explained to him the way I was: a goody two shoes, a book worm, a borderline nerd who made straight A's and was more likely to be threatened than be the one doing the threatening. In short, I was not the guy your mother warned you about. I could sense him laughing on the other side of the IM conversation.

I think I convinced him of my innocence, although I'm still pretty sure he has me mistaken for someone else. We ended up having a pleasant enough conversation which ended with him saying that I had definitely improved with age. All's well that ends well, as Shakespeare once said, but I am a little curious about who made that particular idle threat.

On second thought, who cares? It's time for him to let it go and for whoever gave him that particular piece of information to get a life. High school was forever ago, and if, as this guy said, he's enjoying being 40 (I'm not sure what specific activities that would involve) and looking forward to 50 (Why?), he needs to focus on the present, let go of the past, and permanently banish turning 50 from his wish list. It will come when it comes, and frankly, I'm hoping it gets permanently lost along the way.
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