Friday, October 21, 2022

The Ethicist: What to Do If Your Life Is an Embarrassment?

photo: Tony Alter

Charles from Utica writes: “My life has been one big embarrassment. Recently I attended my 50th high school reunion. I was looking forward to it. I hadn’t seen any of my classmates over the years. I felt like I wanted to show off. No one would have guessed that I would have become a marathon runner, I was married and had five kids. Back in high school, I was a failure in athletics and no girls liked me. My heart was pounding as I walked into the old gym where I'd spent so much time sitting on the bench even in intramural sports. My wife Muriel was two years younger. When I graduated, she was still only in 10th grade. The first thing I did was to go up to one of the cool kids who never gave me the right time of day, but when I introduced myself, he didn’t even remember me. I wasn’t going to change the image he had in his mind since he didn’t have any. When I mentioned that I’d married Claudia, he just grinned. “Claudia_____?” he asked. There was a look of disbelief in his eyes. “Why?” I nervously replied, “What’s wrong?” Later, I saw him talking to another classmate. He didn’t notice I was looking as he laughed, pointing in my direction. Now I was getting angry. I could have interrupted, but I didn’t have the balls. This is exactly what has always happened to me. I miss my opportunity and then walk away thinking of all the things I could have said. What if I had grabbed my old classmate by the collar and asked “what’s so funny?” I'm always afraid people are laughing at me behind my back, but I’ll save that for another time.


Hi Charles: I wouldn’t worry about it. There are lots of Claudias. He could easily have been thinking of someone else and that someone could even have been in 10th grade the year you were graduating. But let’s take the worst possible scenario in which he had gone out with your wife or knew someone who had? And to be euphemistic let’s say he thinks even worse of her than he does about someone like you who he didn’t give any thought to at all. I have an exercise I use that you might experiment with—think the worst. Imagine what's going through his head. Poor bastard, I never knew him, but I would pity anyone who ended up with her. Marathon, psssst!

read "An Incident of Defenestration" by Francis Levy, Vol. 1 Brooklyn

and listen to "Piece of My Heart" by Erma Franklin

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