A normally wry friend recently told me how his ex had pointed out his faults on her way out the door. This had made him especially dejected. I asked, “What faults?” and he explained. “You know, the disorganization, the forgetfulness, the keen desire to have my picture taken with political celebrities. . . .” I replied, “Those aren’t faults. Those are endearing traits, charming to those who love you.”
It’s been said that what attracts you to someone is what later drives you nuts. Likewise, qualities you have that delighted someone can devolve into vile faults demanding extirpation. But it’s a puzzle when someone who is leaving you feels obligated to express exactly why you’re not good enough. Why do that? Isn’t it bad enough they’re abandoning you? I once received a 13-page Dear Jane letter, detailing all I had done wrong. I see, I thought. Yes, it’s clear now. Thanks so much.
What became clear? My shortcomings? No. That the devil is alive and well. He enters people and makes them romance you, leave you, and tell you how you failed. The devil was in the details: in this case elaborately illustrated criticisms. The devil also invented call waiting, data mining, and other vexing details of modern life designed to make us willing to swap with him our souls, for just a few moments of blessed peace.
He also recruits Litterbugs. When I’m behind someone that throws a cigarette or Big Gulp out a car window, I become possessed. I honk, flash my lights, and make impolite gestures. I know this is wrong, and both Litterbug and I could rightfully say (nod to Flip Wilson), “The devil made me do it.”
Discussing this in church, a wry southern friend says with vehemence, “I want to know. What does a litterbug look like?” I know precisely what they look like but the words I’d use to describe one cannot be said in church. We work ourselves into a lather over it. Then, pews away, I hear a Vermonter of many years (90+?) say to her companion, “It always takes me by surprise, spring. It’s such a lovely transformation, especially after a hard winter.” That this woman could still be awed by how our area is like a different planet in spring, after nearly 100 of them, drives the devil right out of me.
I give a wry friend a candy bar named Chocolate Interlude which she promptly renames Chocolate Intervention. Then I think how in these blasted modern tymes how they add an “e” to things (e-billing, e-commerce) and how we can add our own e’s for the heck of it, to our e-underwear and our e-moxy and our e-breath. And how a wry Vermont friend said in Connecticut, “They call these pot holes?” And how nude season is nigh, and the mighty Goliath of mud has been subjugated by gravity and slender blades of grass, and nothing but nothing smells like flowering trees.
Then I attend, despite this column’s deadline, the local Legislative Breakfast. Our state senators and representatives articulatewith intelligence and fairness issues that are ridiculously complex, e.g., the GMO labeling bill just passed—and how VT will be sued by corporations. That the Governor’s so-called “Food Fight Fund” is being established, smartly, with the help of non-Vermonters, is cheering. Someone half my age pays me a compliment. I spot a granny on a riding mower. Finally—get this—technology proves heartening. I choose truelove as a password and it is denied for being “too common.” That its selection as a password is too common says something huge about humankind.
Yes, there is plenty of hard evidence of the devil’s existence, including but not limited to black flies, BP, and the Disgraceful Home Printer Ink Scandal of Modern Tymes, wherein (pricey!) ink tanks mysteriously dry up and your (infernal!) printer won’t even scan without ink. Sometimes we choose between two devils, say, black flies and DEET. A Mainer I know says you can’t go fishing without it. I use it when the biters are so vicious I don’t care if it shuts down my brain, bladder, and kidneys, though I know DEET to be compressed devil in a can.
Some days, the devil’s around every corner, seems like. Yet somehow, with an overheard “lovely transformation” and a too-common password and grannies riding mowers and a posse of wry friends, we remain eHopeful. We soldier on. If you feel disheartened, I’ll give you part of my heart, that as yet unaffected as yet by DEET and other devilment. Good luck. Good day.