The other night I had dinner with one of my oldest friends. This is a man I’ve known since I was sixteen. Needless to say, he’s been around for some pretty big events in my life- college graduation, marriage, babies, and a few career changes.
I haven’t seen him in more than a year, so I was excited to share with him yet another milestone, the news of the release of my debut novel, NIGHT BLINDNESS. This is kinda how it went:
Me: My debut novel was published a few weeks ago. I still can’t believe this is real.
Him: What makes you think you’re a writer?
Me: Uh, I signed a deal with one of the biggest and best publishing houses in the country?
Him: Well, I’ve never seen you write anything.
Me: You’ve also never seen me poop. Doesn’t mean I don’t do it.
Him: (scoffs) I guess since you don’t have a job now, this will be a good hobby.
Me: (gulps the rest of my drink) Excuse me, Mary? May we please get another bottle of wine over here? And a straw?
Don’t get me wrong, this man is a good soul. He’s exactly the friend I would call if I ran out of gas at three in the morning. Or landed in the pokey for assaulting someone who insulted my children. Or my career. That is one of the reasons I was baffled that he was so dismissive of something for which I’ve worked so hard. It was my good upbringing that prevented me from telling him how much my advance was. Or how rare it is for a debut novelist to get signed for two books. Or that my novel went to auction and five houses bid on it. Or that about one in a hundred thousand people who submit manuscripts to agents end up getting published.
What, I ask you, would have been the right thing to do here? My first instinct was to tell him to shut the F up. But, I was pretty sure he was going to pay for dinner, and I do love a free meal. My second thought was to defend myself, my writing and my career (if this is a hobby, I need to stop working so hard). But, I was afraid that would validate his perception that writing isn’t a serious sport. So, I kept my yap shut and took his unwarranted and completely surprising abuse.
In twenty-seven years of friendship, this guy and I have never exchanged cross words. True- we only get together about once a year. We have horses in common. So, our dinners usually revolve around chatting about which shows I’ve been to, how our mutual friends are doing and me showing him endless pictures of my kids (in case he missed them all on Facebook). He is sweet, funny, and genuine. It’s never been in his character to be mean.
So what should I have done with him? In a very un-me move, I decided to let it slide. Don’t worry, I’m not going rogue and dipping my toe in the nice pool. Yes, my friend said cruel things to me, but he said them in such a lovely tone, while pouring an overpriced bottle of Italian cabernet, it made me think that he had no idea just what a penis face he was being.
While keeping quiet was the magnanimous thing to do, I’m not sure it was the right thing. It’s been almost a week since our dinner, and I’m bothered enough to write about it. Clearly my feelings are still hurt. I can’t say for certain that if I ran into said friend on the street, I would be pleasant. At this moment, I’m totally okay with not seeing him again for another year. So perhaps if not the right thing, maybe the healthy choice would have to been to tell him how I felt. I learned in graduate school that no one can make me feel a certain way, in fact, I choose to feel or react the way I do. In the spirit of making my advisors proud, I will own feeling insulted. I will also own feeling like a fool for not telling my friend to F off while I had the chance
Like I said, we are close enough that I will get over this and he will be none the wiser. But, I will continue to wonder if it would have been a better choice to get my ya-yas out while I was trying to figure out how to turn the bottle of wine and my straw into an IV. No doubt seeing the look on his face after politely asking him to shut the F up would have been worth any uncomfortable moments that may have followed. My friend is a good enough sport and a nice enough guy that he probably would have been shocked, then laughed and finally apologized.
Most of you probably think that I did the right thing by showing rare restraint. However, after much mulling over of the subject, I’ve come to believe that I was wrong by not telling my dinner companion exactly how I felt. True- I could have worded it in a softer way than what I was thinking, but that’s not really my style.
However, while taking a break from writing this to check email, I discovered that NIGHT BLINDNESS has been selected by the Indie Booksellers to be an IndieNext pick. This means even more exposure for the product of my so-called hobby. Perhaps I’ll have to mail my friend some of the fliers so he can see where my frivolous use of time has gotten me. And if that doesn’t impress him, perhaps the next time he’s rude, I will tell him to shut the F up.