In ’65, a group of fine gentlemen known as The Animals sang these words that could serve as my theme song: “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good; oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”
Being misunderstood is an occupational hazard for any committed bachelor-jokester. Jerry Seinfeld learned that when he and George noticed a gal in the adjoining diner rubbernecking, and decided to have some fun. For the next several minutes, they became bickering, same-sex partners, clueless she was a reporter in town to do a story on Jerry. George’s mother was flabbergasted to learn of his new lifestyle, while Frank Constanza had long suspected.
I too am not gay, nor do I plan to ever become so; not that there would be anything wrong with that. But I felt Jerry’s pain as I’m constantly misunderstood, never more so than a troubling dynamic in play with a longtime friend and his wife.
I’ll explain with a little riddle: What do you call a middle-aged man who freely turns over his cell phone at night to his wife of 40-plus years, exposing everyone’s texts to be read, scrutinized, and unfairly judged? Give up? The answer is: A spineless jellyfish.
Seriously though, my buddy, who we’ll just call Dirk, doesn’t seem to grasp the implications of engaging in such unconventional, abhorrent behavior. Nearly all my friendships are based on mutual, insulting sarcasm and inside humor. Maybe not in a Quaker community, but where I’m from, that’s what good friends do.
Noticing a pattern of chilly receptions from the spouse, I began pumping family members, who pointed me toward my texts being read at night by the Mrs. Apparently she’s concluded I disrespect her goofball husband.
By exposing my biting texts, he commits one of the “7 Deadly Friendship Sins” It’s No. 3, right behind borrowing money and dating an ex. As far back as Biblical times, spouses took great pains to keep private messages private. Joseph’s pals, playing on his predicament, left hilarious messages hidden under a nearby rock, ending with “As always, burn after reading.”
Any spouse reading without a shred of perspective might take angry exception, Probably not Job’s wife, but bear in mind, she told Job to “Curse God and die!”
My friend’s wife though, still kind of likes him. He justifies with, “Well, I go to bed earlier than her, and leave my phone downstairs on a charger. If she hears a ping, she reads.” My answer is, “Do you not know an electrician to install an upstairs outlet? Or are you just stupid?”
If Dirk were a philanderer, I’d understand the text scrutiny, but she knows he’s too old and tired to cheat, plus I would never be friends with a cheater. Don’t you agree he should kindly tell her, “Sweety, those private messages are meant for me, so please respect me and my friend’s privacy?” Then again, he may not enjoy sleeping on the couch as much as I do.
So I guess all my future texts to Dirk will be generic, like, “How are you? I’m well. Have I told you lately how much I love and respect you?”