Years ago I decided to go to Minneapolis/St. Paul with my then-boyfriend for a concert of “his music” (obviously not anyone I was too jazzed to see since I can never remember what they’re called) over Memorial Day Weekend. We rode down with his two best friends, a guy and a girl, who claimed that they were just friends, but who would start sleeping together about a year later.
These were people I knew, had spoken to several times, but hadn’t spent a considerable amount of time with. The fact that I didn’t really “know his friends” was quite a sore subject between then-boyfriend and I, so I figured what better way to get to know someone than to spend a long weekend with them?
When I’ve gone on road trips with friends usually what happens is we talk. We talk in the car, in restaurants off the interstate; when we run out of things to say the silence is comfortable, or we play mad-libs. These people stuck then-boyfriend and I in the back seat of an SUV with a bass drum, and turned up Modest Mouse so loudly that I couldn’t hear anything but that and road noise. The two in the front seat who would later start sleeping together could hear each other fine and conversed easily and basked in the music that they thought was great, but gave me a headache. Then-boyfriend pulled out the copy of Anna Karenina that I had lent him and started reading.
In an effort to really get to know his friends I had done something completely out of character, I had not brought a book. Then-boyfriend, being a slow reader, only had the one book and refused to give it to me, “I was really looking forward to getting some reading done on this trip.”
I watched to side of the road whip by me and vowed never again to be without a book. I also called work to see if I had accidentally gotten scheduled so we’d have to come back a day early. For once, no, and I resigned myself to a boring and uncomfortable weekend, but also vowed to have a good attitude and try to get along with these people who clearly were less concerned about getting along with me. I figured once we started drinking it would be fine, usually it is.
After we arrived in the cities, we went to a dive bar for greasy burgers (grilled cheese for me), and pitchers. There was a sign on the wall that said something like “Even a teetotaler can feel at home in here”, something like that. No one else knew what a teetotaler was, even though you can glean it from the context, so I told them.
“A teetotaler is a person who doesn’t drink.”
The girl looked at me and re-read the sign, “Yeah, maybe. I think it means something else.”
I have always been “the girl who reads a lot”, or “the girl who uses big words.” No one has ever had the audacity to tell me, incorrectly, that I don’t know what words mean. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t make something up, I might guess, and say I don’t know. This girl told me flat out that I was wrong about something that I was right about.
“Actually, that is what it means.” I insisted starting to feel a little silly for pressing the point when it really wasn’t important, but needing not really the validation for everyone knowing that I was right, but more just a bit of acceptance. Somehow, getting along with then-boyfriends friends was distilled down into this moment as if this girl represented all of them and their attitudes, and if I couldn’t make them listen about this one area that I was well-versed in, I would never fit.
She shrugged, “Maybe, but I really don’t think so.”
His friends then spoke around me for the rest of the meal, and the rest of the weekend, and even though I was told afterwards that I was fun and they really liked me and were so glad they finally got to know me, and then-boyfriend was so glad I came along; I can’t remember any of it.