Tuesday, April 3, 2012

[OnMult] Giving up the role & making apologies,

This post, once again, concerns a situation with my online community at Multiply.  If you aren't in that group, this isn't going to make sense, but feel free to grab some popcorn and a comfortable chair.
I find that I am having to say the same things over and over again to my friends who contact me about the public controversy concerning and following my departure.  This made me realize that I do owe my friends an explanation, including those who haven't contacted me directly about it.

I haven't offered it before now because I fear there are those who are going to find this information embarrassing, even though I don't.  I changed my mind about this when I realized I have been putting my predictions about the future ahead of the present-day feelings of my friends.  People may not actually be embarrassed, but my friends are actually distressed.

Welcome to another of Richard's mistakes (tm), now allow me to make it right.

I find myself where I am because of a role that I act out in my life as confidant.  I realize I have now gone to ridiculous extremes because of a selfish desire for vigilant preservation of an identity I like to promote--a reliable confidant, i.e., someone who can keep a secret.  In fact, part of the problem originally was caused by this very same mistake--protecting this silly, vain, identity as secret-keeper.  It no longer makes sense to protect this identity, so I am stepping out of the role.

One day last fall, my roommate, DameWendy, sat next to me in my room and said "What do you think about Some Woman & Baldassnewbie?"  She used their real names.

I looked at her blankly, running though the list of people we both knew who have those names, and I finally said "what about them?" hoping that would give me some clue about who she was talking about, still thinking she was discussing someone from our lives in NYC, not online.

She said she wasn't sure exactly what was going on, but she had deduced from their twitter feed that they were romantically entangled.  Then I knew who she was talking about.

I sat back in my chair and said "Really?  Why am I finding out about this from you?"

She shrugged, it was a rhetorical question.  I was hurt.  I had been communicating with both Some Woman and Baldassnewbie regularly, I had just seen them both in person, I considered myself personal friends with them both, and my roommate is telling me about this?

Then , the very next thought I had was that I wished Baldassnewbie had talked to me about this when it came up.  It's not the kind of thing I would expect that Some Woman would discuss with me, but Baldassnewbie and I were developing the kind of friendship where such a development would be a hot topic.  I decided at that point that on my next trip to visit Baldassnewbie I try to help him with the benefit of my experience with Some Woman.  I also wasn't sure if this was a good idea for either of them, particularly right on the heels of their respective divorces.  These were both friends of mine, and I didn't want to see anyone do something rash.

The first thing I thought I should tell Baldassnewbie was about my surprise during my last visit with Some Woman's when she told me that she was still seeing her ex-husband socially right up until the divorce was final.  My impression from her online was that he was persona non grata, and had been for many months.

At the time, I just added this to the list of things that surprised me about Some Woman when I spent time with her in person, which I did on a regular basis because I travel to her hometown for other reasons (religious) on a regular basis.  I didn't think it was wrong, or anything like that, it just really shocked me.  My impression from what she said online was that she couldn't stand the sight of her ex-husband.  She told me they were actually getting together and watching movies on a regular basis during a period when I thought they hardly saw each other (to be fair, I wasn't really paying attention).

So, what I wanted to tell Baldassnewbie was that my experience with Some Woman online and my experience with her in person were such that I'm not sure I really learned anything about the person I was getting to know in person from our interaction online.  Not everyone is like that, but in my experience, she is.

Let's make another thing clear.  I like Some Woman.  I still like her (I'll explain how that is possible below).  I invited her to one of the most important events of my life and asked her to take pictures.  I relied on her advice, I saw her in person every chance I could, and I realized in that process that I was meeting and get to know another kind of person than I thought I knew from online.

None of that has changed.  I can't fathom that the person I had gotten to know a little in person would do what she's done online recently.

A number of friends have asked me if it is okay with me for them to be friends with me and remain friends with Some Woman.  Yes, of course.  All I have ever asked anyone to do is forgive me for my mistakes.  Your relationship with Some Woman is your business.  I have nothing whatsoever to gain from her loss, of any kind.

I knew that Baldassnewbie and Some Woman met in person, and the relationship had started in person.  If it had been me instead of Baldassnewbie, I knew that I would be substantially encumbered by the notion that I knew Some Woman well because of what I had learned about her online.

I am not asserting that Some Woman is intentionally duplicitous.  I doubt that is the case.  Some people just come off very differently online vs. in-person.  Technolust is another example of that.  I don't care for Techonolust's online persona, but he is a close friend in person.  A very close friend.  I have many friends just like this, it is one of the reasons I stay off Facebook.  I'd hate almost all of my real-life friends if the only interaction I had with them was via Facebook.

That was the message I wanted to deliver to Baldassnewbie.  That was a mistake.  I failed to ascertain whether or not he was ready to hear it.    He wasn't.  I failed to ask myself if it would be a message that would help him.  It clearly wasn't helpful and I think I could have known that beforehand.  Saying anything at all was dumb, dumber and dumbest all rolled into one.

I didn't realize all that until very recently.

I did something as stupid as telling new parents that their baby isn't really cute or all that special.

If I had just fallen in love, and a friend came to tell me that my new girlfriend was anything other than awesome good news, I would push that person away.  I might let them think I appreciated the advice, but I wouldn't.  I know this.

But, that wasn't my only mistake.

When Some Woman was deciding if she should go through with her marriage, the topic came up in an e-mail thread between us, and she told me what their (Some Woman and her ex, Some Guy) reasons were for getting married.  She asked me to keep our discussion confidential.  I told her I would.  I told her, emphatically, to NOT get married.

I advised her to wait, give it a period of time, and proceed if it still seemed like a good idea, if memory serves.  Something she told me alarmed me, convincing me that there was no way they should get married right then, but I confess I don't remember what that deciding bit of information was (or even if I would agree with my opinion now), but I did remember I promised not to discuss it with anyone.

So, when Baldassnewbie and I sat down to talk over an excellent Martini, I asked him if he felt like he could talk to me about Some Woman and not tell her what I said.  He said, to his credit, he couldn't give me such an assertion.  I said that was fine, but it meant I would have to not tell him everything I knew.

Well, the truth is I couldn't tell him everything I knew because I had forgotten it, but I glossed-over that fact in my mind because I wanted to preserve this silly, vain, identity as a confidant, so I pretended like I was restraining myself from some juicy disclosure.  Actually, all I can really remember is that their reasoning seemed flawed to me at the time.

My message to Baldassnewbie was you are both just out of a divorce, this cross-over from online life to real life can be tricky, and in fact, I have found it particularly tricky with Some Woman.  I didn't have to tell him about this confidential communication in order to deliver that message, so I just used it in support of my silly vanity.

Did I want the object of my new bromance to have a new girlfriend who was also a friend of mine?  Absolutely not.  I wanted Baldassnewbie as a companion for single-guy activities, things that girlfriends generally do not want their boyfriends doing.  I did not want to be doing such things with a friend's boyfriend, even if everyone says it's all cool.  It never is.

Did I want Some Woman to fall for me?  In a sense.  I've told you I'm vain, I love it when anyone finds me attractive, but I had NO ambitions for any other kind of relationship with Some Woman other friendship.  She is hundreds of miles away from me.  I can't afford to fly to dates.

Things started to happen with happened with Baldassnewbie after I had my stupid talk that badly confused me.  I had an opportunity to be in his town in December and he refused to see me, using Some Woman an excuse, telling me that he didn't want anyone visiting his apartment before she did, then in the very next sentence telling me that his friend Tim was helping him move.

That really, really hurt my feelings.  It ruined my week.  I was offering to help him move, and I was going to bring a truck.  He wanted none of it, and for reasons that didn't add up.....until you consider the fact that he understood that I had told him his new relationship was a bad idea.  The impression I came away with was that he felt having me visit his new apartment before Some Woman would insult and upset her.

I offered to come to town to have dinner only, finding my own lodging.  He refused.  My feelings were badly hurt.  Baldassnewbie gave me a round-trip ticket to las Vegas so I could go on a vacation there.  I wanted to do something real and substantial to show my gratitude.  I was willing to spend part of a vacation week helping him move.

He wanted none of it.  I didn't even feel welcome in his state.

Here's the only thing I am asking my friends to take on Faith.  What I really meant to communicate when I found out about his relationship with Some Woman was that for him to proceed in this relationship as if he knew something about Some Woman from knowing her online was a bad idea.  That's what I really meant to tell him.

That is not the message I actually delivered, but that actually is what I had on my mind.

I honestly don't know Baldassnewbie or Some Woman well enough to make predictions about their future, and beyond that, you can't lead someone to a place you've never been, and I have very, very little experience with romantic relationships myself.

Baldassnewbie invited me to visit in January, and I did, and I thought we had a nice time, and if we talked about Some Woman it was because he asked me about my apparent online estrangement from her.  So let's get to that.

When the news of Some Woman & Baldassnewbie's relationship became public, Some Woman posted a picture of them with a blog that I found offensive because of it's ambiguity and  tone about divorce.  I have a tragic personal history with repeated divorces as a child.  It is not something I joke about.  If you've seen "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" you've seen a typical day from my childhood.  My parents were divorced and remarried three times...to each other.

At the same time, DameWendy, my roommate was entangled with another friend of mine who seeks a lot of attention online.  I found their content tiresome, mainly because of the disparity of what they promoted was going on between them online and what I actually knew was going on with them in person.

This was what hurt about the initial shock.  I felt like I should have found out about two people whom I considered real-life friends getting involved with each other in some other way than being casually asked about it by my roommate.  I felt manipulated, by Baldassnewbie and Some Woman, by DameWendy and her beau, and by some other people whose content kept showing up in my feeds.

So, I went on a deletion and unfollow tear.  I got rid of the spamming ReTweeters, I got rid of the spelling and grammar-challenged, I got rid of the hashtag abusers, and I got rid of people I thought were confusing me about their real lives from what they post online.

I didn't delete and unfollow Baldassnewbie because his posts were clear and unambiguous, he had apologized to me for my hurt feelings, he had explained his rationale for concealing the relationship and he asked me to let him slide on it.  I never heard anything like that from Some Woman.  That hurt my feelings.

As time passed I developed a theory (since dismissed) that I had misjudged my entire friendship with Some Woman.  This theory asserts that I thought I had a friend that I didn't.  I should have contacted her, but I didn't.  This was another mistake.  I thought she would just fade away because I incorrectly concluded that I didn't really mean anything to her.

That was stupid, selfish, harsh and unwise.

Everyone who is concerned about this incident needs to keep in mind that Some Woman was not a witness to my conversations with Baldassnewbie.  She is operating on hearsay, and there's a really good reason why hearsay evidence is highly suspect.  Some Woman is mad at me for saying and doing things that I didn't do.

In a sense, Some Woman has had her perceptions about this directed by Baldassnewbie in the same way that my ideas about her objection to my friendship with Baldassnewbie have been directed by Baldassnewbie.

Now that I see how he really feels, Baldassnewbie should have told me, in no uncertain terms, to shut the fuck up about Some Woman or get out of his life.  That would have been an easy choice for me.  I valued him as a friend, I don't really value my opinions that much.  I find it easy to be wrong, particularly about something with which I have practically zero experience--relationships.

Instead, Baldassnewbie maintained to my face that he was cool with me telling him to watch his step with Some Woman.  He shrugged my message off, saying he can't really expect that the relationship is going to last, what does a woman like Some Woman want with someone like him anyway?...he's old, he's far away, etc etc.

I told him on a number of occasions that I wasn't going to talk Some Woman down in his presence, and I never did, my only issue is that he should know that my experience with her online is very different than in person, and the picture I got of her ex from her online descriptions didn't match up with the person I met (I met Some Woman's ex, aka Some Guy, twice).

In fact, Baldassnewbie reminds me of Some Guy.  They don't resemble each other physically, but the feel I had for them as people in person was very similar.  I met Some Guy twice, the longest direct social interaction we had was over dinner (the other time we watched a movie together), and that was in a social situation with lots of sake flowing and other strangers present.  His conduct there might have very little to do with who he is as a person.

So that's what happened.  I am not proud of my stupid mistakes, but what actually happened is very far from the notion that I am some malicious relationship assassin who only has women in the cross-hairs.  In fact, people who know me well find that last assertion hilarious.  So do I.  I am typically inclined towards sympathy for a gender in relationship conflicts, but the gender is female.

Some Woman seems to have been given the impression that I said something I didn't.  Bladassnewbie seems to have the impression I meant something I didn't.

Baldassnewbie, Technolust and I spent a weekend together in February.  We were together the entire time.  Technolust regards Some Woman has a friend.  Technolust has also met Some Guy, and he did not have the impression of him that I did.  Technolust didn't like Some Guy's conduct with Some Woman much.  He found him inattentive to her.  I enjoyed the time I spent with Some Guy, but I hardly knew him.  My opinion about him, like a lot of my opinions, isn't worth much.

But, I am certain that if I had been indulging in anything like the derision of Some Woman or which I have been accused, Technolust would have stepped in and put an end to it.   In fact, I remember one brief conversation with Baldassnewbie about Some Woman that weekend, Technolust was present, and silent.  I said what I always said, my version of be careful, danger might be ahead.

I have never said that Some Woman is unworthy of love or trust.  I think she is lovable, and I think she can be trusted.

I said I think the relationship might be a bad idea for Baldassnewbie, and I said so because I was asked for my thoughts on the issue (after the first conversation over the Martini, which was probably my idea, though I honestly don't remember).  I did not go down there chanting a mantra of "Some Woman is bad" and I wasn't running around like some bore dispensing unsolicited relationship advice.  In fact, I didn't even bring it up after the first conversation.  I have a witness to that--Technolust.

I was unhappy about Some Woman and Baldassnewbie's relationship because it meant I couldn't have Baldassnewbie along for some of the activities I wanted to share with him.  Not because of Some Woman, but because of me.  There's no way to leave what happened in Vegas in Vegas for me that way.

So, a couple of weeks ago, Baldassnewbie's father died.  I sent him a condolence communication as a personal message on Multiply, it was read but not acknowledged.  That's completely unlike Baldassnewbie.  That's really not the man I know him to be, he would acknowledge such a message from a complete stranger, so I started at that point putting two and two together.   He did not want me around.

My theory now is that Baldassnewbie feels what anyone feels when they are told that their new relationship is a bad idea, he wanted to push the person saying that away. That perfectly understandable, I deserve it.  But instead of doing that directly, it seems now that he did this by using Some Woman as a lever, engaging her outrage as a way to push me away from him.

I can't tell you how much I wish now he had just turned to me and said "shut the fuck up about Some Woman!" during one of the three brief conversations I remember we've had about her so I could know how he really felt.  I know I should have known anyway, but it would have helped if he had been more direct.

Some Woman isn't being a sadistic misanthrope, she is operating on bad information.  She hasn't witnessed any of the three conversations Baldassnewbie and I had about her.  If she had, she would have thought that I was being a wet blanket at worst.  She would have been right.

I owe her an apology for that post I made where I described my problem with an unnamed sadistic misanthrope.  I said all that because I believed at that time that she was trying, against Baldassnewbie's wishes, to alienate Baldassnewbie and I from each other out of jealousy and spite.

I was wrong about that,  I was deceived by my own thoughts about this.  I no longer think that Some Woman had any issue with my friendship with Baldassnewbie.

She certainly would have had no problem with my friendship with Baldassnewbie if she had been a witness to these conversations with him about her.  I told him I liked her,  I told him I thought she is attractive.  I just told him I had found that the real-life person was different, and the descriptions of her ex online didn't match who I met.

The ironic thing is, that's all probably true.  How could I possibly know Some Guy at all?  I spent much more time reading about him online than I did together with him in person.  It's really hard to disagree with what I was saying.  It could just as easily be that I'm really, really bad at reading people.

I know that ambiguity.  I doubt my thoughts ALL THE TIME.  But I realize that other's don't.  I was looking at all this from the perspective of being inside my head, knowing my own heart.  That's not where Baldassnewbie was sitting when he heard my poorly-crafted, ill-conceived message.

Now, my old friend Some Woman has a problem with me of dimensions I haven't seen in her lifetime.

Yes, I had decided that I didn't want her posts about the relationships in my inbox, so I deleted her as a Multiply contact, just like I unfollowed DameWendy, my roommate, and her beau, who is another friend of mine, all in one fell swoop one evening.  That was silly fit of pique, it was wrong, I handled it incorrectly and I apologize to her, and everyone, for that.

But I did not go on a campaign to ruin her new romance.  Not even remotely.

She thinks I did.

Some Woman, if you're reading.  I'm sorry. I was fooled by my thoughts about this.  I should have talked to you about this instead of trying to figure it all out in my head.  I should have had more faith in you, and in our friendship.  I was wrong.  I am sorry. I miss you.

Baldassnewbie, I made a mistake.  I'm very happy that all this crap doesn't seem to have had any negative effect on your new relationship with Some Woman  I should have kept my opinions to myself.  No one likes to be told a new relationship is a bad idea, it was too much for me to expect that you could take that in and then go forward as my friend as if nothing happened.  I failed as your friend by having this discussion in the first place.  I really, really wish I had instead just toasted your good news.  I fucked up.

Beyond that, let me say what I should have said to them both when I found out about this last October:  Congratulations on having found love.  I like,  respect and admire both of you.  It very nice to see two nice people together.  I hope you two are very happy.

To the rest of you, I'm really sorry for this.  That's why I went to the time and trouble to write all this.  You deserved an explanation.  Thanks for reading.