Thursday, January 2, 2014


What acquaintances say sometimes astonishes me. Friends are different. Relationships with friends have gone beyond first impressions. I expect friends to say things without thinking them through. I suppose I shouldn't expect acquaintances to be any different, but I do. I like to think that with acquaintances, I consciously choose whether to blurt out a true feeling or bite my tongue, and that they do, too.

Two contexts come to mind: (1) our choice to live in Arnold's Valley; and (2) our decision to gradually turn "Elk Cliff Farm" back into a farm.

Very soon after we moved here, a physician we met at a dinner party turned up her nose when we answered the question, "Where do you live?" She said, "Ambulances don't go there." She was so certain about this that I had to laugh, "Really? What are those sirens I frequently hear, and those trucks with red flashing lights?"

A retired policeman at another gathering shook his head, "Whoa! The police are always making calls to that area." Funny thing, just before this year's 'monster concert' holiday singalong, a fellow in the fourth row asked me, "Where is it you live again?" After I answered, he repeated the words of the retired policeman. Now, what was that about?

I tend to answer defensively. "Oh, we pay them to say that; we like to keep the place for ourselves," "Things have changed in 20 years" or "Don't you think we have too many policemen, and have you noticed how many of them are related to each other?"

Even more recently, someone reported that he ran into a neighbor who said, "[The previous owner of Elk Cliff Farm] must be turning over in his grave. He was so meticulous about that place. Now animals are everywhere."

Several other people have made that "turning over in his grave" comment. I realize it's just an expression, but my defensive response might be, "Really? That must be a noisy graveyard," or "Well, you should have seen the house he lived in."

"Have you noticed that you don't think any more than they think, before saying something?" says Virginia.

She's absolutely right, and I always -- I mean always -- go home wishing I hadn't sounded so defensive.  Why can't I just laugh it off?

I'll tell you why. Because like most people, I react like a child under stress, and deep down I'm as insecure and jealous as the next person.

No matter where you live, you're bound to have a picture in your mind of a place you wouldn't want to be. That's how we build ourselves up.

No matter what you've chosen for your life, you're bound to be glad, at least in your own head, that you didn't choose what someone else chose. That's how we build ourselves up.

Hey, it's a new year. Be it resolved, I will try to bite my tongue even when I'm taken by surprise, and I will try not to demean other people's choices.


  1. I couldn't have said it better. I'm going to make that same resolution. Maybe you should remind me every now and then to be mature when out with other folks.

  2. It's so hard to find the balance, I think, between making bland, meaningless comments that don't advance the relationship, and saying something that stems from ignorance or attitude and puts someone off. Virtual Virginia probably manages much better.