What I Should Have Said Was... Nothing

Recently Skip and I watched Mike Birbiglia's stand up DVD, and with all due deference, since then I find myself generating circumstance after circumstance in which what I should have said was, well, nothing. (So I thought I'd post examples on my own Secret Public Journal.)

Two instances come to mind, and in a minute one of them will make clear why I am ending a blog-silence of over 10 months to share it. Let's start with that one.

1. I've been working out, on and off, for over the last ten years with the same personal trainer. There are a combination of factors to explain this: first and foremost, I just like him. He cracks me up and I appreciate his personal vision and commitment to physical fitness as a doorway to personal empowerment. Also, his workouts are never quite the same so I don't get bored doing the same thing over and over again. Boredom while exercising, I've come to see, is really unnecessary, and kind of a shame. Also significantly: I seem to completely forget what I can do (physically) when I am not overseen by someone to whom I am willing to surrender some authority about my limits. Left to my own devices, I am apt to consider everything that might actually result in strength development just a little too much work. (A shorter way of saying that might be: "I'm lazy.") But last, and far from least, my workouts with him during the process of leaving my first husband and beginning to get to know and then marry Skip cemented a feeling of friendship and kinship. He's seen me through some shit. Though I'm older than he is, we both sort of feel like he's my older brother.

In any case, a good friend who knows that I work out with this guy stumbled upon a blog post by someone who had recently completed Sacramento's first "Fit-Crawl."(Think Pub Crawl minus beer and pubs and plus gyms and workouts -- okay, it wouldn't be everyone's idea of fun.) I wish I could say I had completed it, too -- I'd kind of meant to, and then let my life with small children serve as excuse and distraction. Well, my trainer's location was on the route and the blogger, without naming him, radically misrepresented him and his philosophy to such an extent that I thought it was genuinely funny. It said that he didn't think women like to be strong. I don't really know any man who is more committed to the correction of that popular misperception, so I told him about it. He didn't seem to be as amused as I.

I know, right? What I should have said, was uh, nothing. Well, it gets worse.

He felt publicly attacked. Even though I think she probably intended to be discreet, I had to concede the point; I mean, she did make the comments on her own Secret Public Journal. And I gotta say, even though she didn't say his NAME, anyone who knows the Sacramento alt-gym scene would know immediately who she meant. The friend who forwarded me the blog doesn't work out with him and yet she recognized the reference.

So, not only did he post a long correction as a comment on that blog -- which I can't imagine any circumstances in which if I were the author of that blog I would take in stride and respond to in friendly dialogue, though I think he tried to convey that as his intent -- but then I, not leaving well enough alone, had to chime in. I just didn't want him to look like a crazy person who scours the web for any potential misrepresentation of himself and then responds at length. But as I've read, and re-read, and re-read, and asked friends to read, my own post (which is identified by user name of this blog), it just looks worse and worse to me.

Here, check it out and form your own opinion:

I know, right? What I should have said, obviously, was nothing.

But so, here's why I'm breaking my own blog silence: Just in case, JUST IN CASE, you the Kimberly of yeptheyareallmine find me here, please know: I really did not mean to crash your scene in an intrusive way. I admire both your writing and that you did the Fit Crawl. Really. Especially as a mom with small kids, I get what that means. I'm impressed. In a different setting I think we'd be friends... Well, I don't really know that, but it seems possible...

I do think you got Chip all wrong, though.

Okay, stopping here, on this one.

2. After playgroup today (during which I double-checked with all of my mommy friends whether I'd just gone totally over the deep end in responding to the situation above -- and was not exactly reassured by their responses, probably for good reason), I took the kids to Trader Joe's where we ran into some other friends -- the mother among whom asked me what cheese goes well with Cauliflower.

Tough one -- what do you think?

I suggested Swiss or Jack -- for some reason it really seemed to me that a white cheese would be preferable. (I don't know, orange cheese on white cauliflower -- more colorful, but somehow not appetizing...) At which point a woman of indeterminate age chimed in suggesting that a sharp cheese might be best.

She looked really familiar. And while we all discussed the potential options (settling on a sharp white cheddar), my brain ran through hundreds of possible connections with this woman.

"You look so familiar to me," I said to the familiar woman.

"Do I?" she said with a funny distancing smile.

I tried to laugh, "I guess I don't look familiar to you, then." (I know, right? What I should have said was... well, it gets worse.)

"I often look familiar to people," she said. "I guess I have one of those faces. But let's just say this, I am definitely of a different generation. You have small kids."

First of all, I have to say she really didn't look like someone who was old enough to be my mom -- but that's when I figured out who she was. It's just, at this point, I didn't have the courage to say so.

Instead, I pushed my cart around the store absent-mindedly, trying with one third of my mind to remember what we needed, with another third to keep my daughters in sight and under control, and with the other sorting through memories of her son and my one significant interaction with her (when I called her to tell her that her son had a plan to commit suicide that weekend). I'd met her son in high school. And I'd loved him. Not exactly romantically -- though he was, at the time, the most sexually charismatic person I'd ever met, an effect to which I was far from immune, and not alone in experiencing -- but as a friend. I remember one afternoon, leaving school after an intense experience together in our Peer Counseling class, when he said, "We're going to be friends for the rest of our lives."

And I said, "Okay," sardonically, because, honestly my opinion of myself at the time did not easily incorporate the possibility that this very attractive, very popular, very charismatic boy was serious.

But he stopped on the sidewalk and waited until I turned around to look back for him, and said with a deadly earnestness, "For the rest of our lives. I'm serious."

And then for the next several years he started to convince me. We remained friends throughout college -- long past the suicide scare (which his mom seemed to take seriously at the time I called, though he reported to me afterwards that she was really pissed with him and insisted he call me to apologize for scaring "that poor girl" -- and in retrospect, really, she obviously knew him better than I did). It was one of my most valued friendships. We knew a lot about each other and could start a conversation after a long separation deep in the middle of the gnarliest truths about how we were doing. I really loved him.

But the summer after college I finally slept with him. It was not exactly all I'd hoped it be, for a couple of reasons: (1) midway he stopped, hitting his forehand with his hand and rolling away from me while muttering to himself, "you shit, you shit, not with HER;"and, (2) I was cheating on my boyfriend to be there. And when I told him I'd have to tell the boyfriend, he asked me not to. He rightly predicted it would be the end of our friendship. And in that moment I wanted it to be. I was so hurt by his drawing back, by calling a mistake something I thought I'd wanted for so long, I promised the boyfriend I wouldn't talk to him for awhile. By the time I knew what I'd really lost and was ready to mend fences, he was long gone and out of reach for good.

My life has turned out very well -- wouldn't change anything that got me from there to here if it altered where I'd end up. But memories of that time still have the effect of making me feel embarrassed and sad.

And then, today, his mother and I passed each other yet again in another aisle. "I think I've got it," I said. "Do you have a son named M___?"

I know, right? What I should have said was...

Of course she has a son named M___. And my name meant nothing to her, which was awkward, though she was polite and not unkind. She told me where he is and how he's doing -- you know, at the surface. I could tell she wouldn't even remember me enough to mention to him that she'd run into me, and I seriously, seriously hope that's true.

Because what I should have said, seriously, was nothing. You know, if I were sane in that kind of a way. Which apparently, today, I'm not.



  1. I like the new layout! Hope this means you will be writing mroe. Missing it.

  2. Some people have the ability to make streams of consciousness flow seamlessly into a single river of thought. Your post is a perfect example of that. And wow, how I've missed that!

    Welcome back, Phoebe.


    But if I may, allow me to comment on the singular premise of your stories and take minor exception. It's never wrong to stand up for someone; it's never wrong to be loyal; it's never wrong to care about someone you've loved, no matter how long ago.

    You were simply being who you are, and that's far from a bad thing. Would that we all could be so inappropriate...


  3. Hello! It's Kimberly from the Fit Crawl blog fiasco of 2010! This is hilarious. I read your comment way back when and clicked on your name, but your blog shows up as private, so I could not respond. Well, this morning I was reading a Thrift Town blog, which linked to justjenn...I saw the name of this blog, was intrigued and headed over, and then saw the blog address, phoesable, it sounded so familiar...and BAM! I realized how we're connected.

    Ugh, now I'm tired from all that explaining.

    Listen, I have NO bad feelings toward you at all. I'm sure you've long forgotten about the fiasco, I know I have, but I thought I'd leave a little note just in case.

    I don't mind that you told Chip about the post. Each time I blog, I am putting my thoughts out there for anyone to read. And, I have an open comment policy, so I guess, in a way, I am asking for it ;)

    Well, I'm off to go do the Mom thing! I'll be back later to read your blog - from what I've read here, I really enjoy your writing. Have a great day.