"All great truths begin as blasphemies." George Bernard Shaw
Pauline and Buns are two of my oldest friends...since high school, in fact, and I think that gives them special props, for having put up with me for over thirty years. Pauline I've known since junior high (although I kind of disliked her, and she me), and Buns was my first "real" long-term girlfriend, even if she did dump me our junior year so she could take a guy she knew was gay to the prom (as opposed to me, a guys she didn't know was gay but actually kind of was...oh, these things get so confusing...)
Anyway, Buns and I have birthdays around the same day, so Pauline decided that this year, Buns should be the person being honored, which I was totally fine with. Saturday night, a party was held for Buns around six, which I promptly attended at seven. Why seven? Parties at six are ridiculous ideas, my friends. When held during the week-end, unless it's a formal dinner party, it's my opinion that seven is the appropriate time to hold a party, to give people some time to enjoy their day off. PS: Aren't I an absolute pain in the ass?
Although the gang was there. Josie and the kids, Buns and her husband, Pauline and her daughter/my daughter Amber, our friend Jo-Ann, who has a cat named Seven. Oh, and Pauline decided to use the occasion to introduce us all to her new boyfriend, Ben.
I disliked him the moment I met him.
You ever get those feelings about people? You know, negative vibes that you just can't your finger on? From the start, the guy reminded of a heavy, balding Boy Scout, with an opinion about everything. He just seemed...bombastic to me. However, Pauline seems to like him an awful lot, and I like that part. Pauline hasn't had a guy she's been serious about in far too long, and watching the two of them snuggle was really cute, actually. Even the guys she's been serious about never allowed her to snuggle, before. That was a good thing, I thought, so I decided I would set aside my feelings and hold them deep inside.
Even after he called me bald, in front of everyone. As a joke, I smiled and said, mock sternly, "And by the way, Ben, I'm not bald...I'm shaved."
"Oh, you're in trouble!" said Amber, laughing.
"It's a good thing I could care less," he replied, bombastically. Good one, Bombast Ben!
That wasn't a big one, frankly. Actually, I didn't even hear the "couldn't care less" comment (Amber had to point it out to me, later.) However, half an hour later, I did start to have reasons to find him irritating.
Slacker Chad started the whole thing out, actually. "Can you believe the latest thing?" he said, in typical Slacker Chad fashion. "Some people are actually calling a Christmas tree a holiday tree. Isn't that stoopid?"
"Well," I said, "Christmas trees do have pagan origins, after all. They were used in Roman times, and..."
"No, that's not true," said Bombastic Ben, interrupting before I could finish. "That's not true at all! It's WRONG!"
It was just the way he said it. Had he simply said "I'm not sure that's right," or "I heard something different," it would have been one thing, but he was so dismissive about the entire matter. He made me feel like an idiot. However, I let the whole thing go, because I didn't want to start a fight.
I didn't say anything more, but when I arrived home, I was upset enough to immediately head to the computer, just to make sure I wasn't going crazy. Sure enough, in five seconds, I read the following: "The Christmas tree, now so common among us, was equally common in Pagan Rome and Pagan Egypt. In Egypt it was the palm tree; in Rome it was the fir; the palm-tree denoting the Pagan Messiah, as Baal-Tamar, the fir referring to him as Baal-Berith." (http://www.carnaval.com/saturnalia/); and "During the Roman celebration of the feast of Saturnalia, Pagans did decorate their houses with clippings of evergreen shrubs. They also decorated living trees with bits of metal and replicas of their God, Bacchus." http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmas_t
Okay, so I wasn't crazy. Well, that's good to know.
About that same exact time, I received a text message on my phone. Weird, a message at one in the morning? I grabbed my phone.
Amber had sent me a text: "Do you hate him as much as I do?"
I had to laugh, really I did. And I didn't hate him, I just found him...well, a bit too forceful.
This evening, as I was driving out of Newark in a rental car (have I mentioned how much I hate Newark, by the way? Newark is what gives New Jersey a bad name, I'm convinced), I received a call on my cell phone, from Pauline.
"So, what's the deal with you and my boyfriend?" she asked.
"Oh, um, what do you mean?" I said, stressed out of my mind, behind the wheel of a rental car, lost in Newark, and in bumper to bumper traffic. And then, the stress took hold. "I don't like him." I swear, it just came out, as if I had Tourette's or something.
"You know, I asked him about that whole Christmas tree thing," she said. "He didn't think it was a big deal! But he did remember what he said, and I said to him, 'Well, I don't want you mad at me or anything, but if you cut me off and said I was all wrong, I'd be pretty mad at you, too.'"
"Well, he was also kind of rude to Corb," I said. "And to Amber, too, from what she said to me. Pauline, let me ask you...is he a...Republican?"
Pauline laughed hysterically. "Ted, you have to swear not to tell this to Amber, because she'll hate him forever. Last week, we were talking, and the subject came up and he admitted to me that he was. And then he asked, is that okay? And I said, 'I used to say that I could day a guy from a foreign country or another religion, that's no problem at all, but I'd have a real problem dating a Republican. But nowadays, I'm just so disgusted with politics in general that it doesn't matter as much.'"
"What did he say?"
"Well, that was the thing. Usually, he's so nice around people in a social setting and everyone loves him! That's why I was so surprised by all of this. But the only other time I heard him like what you just described was that night. After I said that, he went on for about a half an hour on his views about things. He wouldn't shut up! And we were watching the Patriots game and it was really starting to get annoying. And finally even he realized he was getting annoying and said that he'd shut up now. And I said, oh no, now you've had your say...it's time for me to do some talking!"
"So the thing is, Ted, you think this will be a problem for future parties? Can you maybe not talk about politics while he's around?"
"The thing is, at those parties, I like the fact that we can usually say whatever we want, and not have to worry about things like that."
"The thing also it, at those parties, we've also all had the same thoughts about things, so that was easy."
Sigh. I guess so. And I will try and be polite, when I see him next. But if acts so bombastic next time around, I may just need to be bombastic right back. Because I wasn't even trying to provoke a fight, I was just making a point. And what does it matter if the origins are pre-Christian anyway? Seriously, when you get right down to it: