Thursday, May 01, 2008

Purple Crayon

I have known my neighbor Lindsay for over a year now and have known her to being prone to mood swings. She can go from being kind, polite and thoughtful to abrasive and outright rude. Since the only reason we know each other is that our kids are in the same grade and play together, I've always ignored her behavior - that way the kids don't have to be caught in the friction between two adults that has nothing to do with them. I am sure I have my bad days too - I must have looked through her, been cold and aloof because I had things on my mind. There is always a great excuse for less than perfect behavior. But what happened today was interesting enough to provoke this post.

My level of retardation when it comes to cars is quite unparalleled and I am deeply ashamed of myself. I had a very dumb question about mine that I thought Lindsay's boyfriend Jared could easily answer and set my mind to rest. He has this really beat up car that he loves tinkering with. Since I don't know how stuff works, I can work myself to some high levels of anxiety over imaginary things. I've gone into the dealership in the past and come out looking like a prize idiot. I decide I'll save myself the trouble and embarrasment. So I walk over, knock on her door. Jared answers. Lindsay is in the kitchen washing up after dinner.

I apologize for showing up suddenly like that. I explain to them the problem at hand. Jared nods sagely. Lindsay is smoldering with rage. She tells me that I have to figure things out myself and go to a service station if I need help. She keeps repeating " You can do this yourself. You don't need help". This is the same woman who has showed up at my door with medicines and Kool-Aid for J just hearing that she had fever, invited her over to impromptu fondu parties, fed her lunch and dinner more times than I can count.

Her body language and words form a heady cocktail of anger, mockery and indignation. I am not sure what is causing such a strong reaction. I am ready to leave concerned about how far south things will head. Just then, Jared volunteers to walk up to my car and take a look. I can tell she is infuriated but she does not say anything as we walk out the door. Jared tells me all is well with my car and explains his reasoning patiently. It makes perfect sense. I am glad he took the time to help me and I thank him.

Back home, I wonder about Lindsay - was it PMS, an argument with Jared, a horrible day at work, the kids driving her batty or some combination thereof. It could very well be but there was a strong subtext to all that as well - something impossible to miss. She was telling me that I had no right to a free ride. I couldn't just walk in the door and borrow a man when I needed help without putting forth the effort to form and be in a relationship of my own.

She had earned that right and it came at a large cost - both material and emotional. They have been together for a long time now and Lindsay knows a life together may never become possible. He is too comfortable to have the comfort of a home and a wife without any of the responsibility. She is willing to go along with this arrangement because her need for intimacy and companionship is so overwhelming. She was telling me to go get my own and not borrow - not unlike our kids telling each other "This is my purple crayon. You need to get your own".

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