I spent the better part of this afternoon trying to personify blame.
It seems strange wanting to give human traits to a fickle emotion, but it’s just how I tend to deal with things that I have a hard time wrapping my head around. I find it easier to understand people somehow.
I can’t decide if he (yes, I’ve decided Blame is a boy. Simply because I am finding him to be particularly difficult to nail down.) is the school outcast – getting thrown around by the more popular kids who don’t want to deal with him and shouldered by those suckered into feeling bad for him. Or if he is the most popular kid in class … who just happens to have a nasty cold that no one particularly wants to catch, but they’re willing to take the risk if it means hanging out with the cool kid.
I went to a mock trial today at the UK Law School. Acting as a juror as a favor for a friend in a law class final exam, I got to hear blame get thrown back and forth between the two parties. Each was so generous … they both wanted the other to have it.
The plaintiff was to blame – she was an unfit mother who had become too dependent on the bottle. It was the defendent’s fault – he was bitter after the divorce and wanted revenge.
It’s his fault. It’s her fault. It’s all your … fault. We try to pass it off on someone – anyone – else because, frankly, it is easier that way. But sometimes we realize a little late that we should have just said, “You know what? It’s my fault.”
I think I’ve been neglecting to take the fault for some things lately.
My friend Stef is waiting on my front porch this afternoon when I get home from the mock trial.
“Where have you been?” she demands. “I’ve been calling -”
“I’ve been at that trial thing,” I cut her off. “I couldn’t answer my phone.”
“For days?!” she screaches. “You’ve been in court for days? Because that’s how long I’ve been trying to call you.”
Blame. It was mine to take on this account.
“Sorry Stef,” I tell her simply because it’s the truth. I should be and I am. “I’ve been ignoring your calls and I’m sorry.”
The continued truth is Stef has broken up with her (unstable) on-again, off-again boyfriend (yet) again and I’m not sure if I can handle the relationship dissection this time around. Really, I’m hardly one to give relationship advice.
“I know you don’t want to hear me obsess over him,” she says, “but honestly, Blair, I just want someone to talk to.”
Cue the puppy dog eyes and subsequent tugging at the heart strings. I know her tricks.
“What was it this time?” I ask her and plop down on the porch step next to her stretching my legs out in front of me and leaning back on my elbows. “Why did you guys break up?”
She starts in on some story about flirting or not flirting or accusations of flirting or something I’m not totally following because I’m not totally paying attention because I can’t say I totally care. Call me insensitive or just call me well-versed in the Stefanie-boyfriend break up saga that is now in its sixth or seventh sequel and not grossing as much attention (or box office gold) as the Harry Potter series. Either way, my mind is checking out of her relationship problems and thinking about my own.
Stef and I used to have this mental check list that we’d made of qualities we expected in a boyfriend. Some of them were silly and exchangeable (knowing how to tie a tie and drive a stick shift), some were nonnegotiable (honesty, fidelity, opening doors, being respectful), and others were just desirable (listening when I talk, laughing at my jokes, loving my mother, holding my hand).
We’d made the list in high school or early college and sometime later had acknowledged that as we get older, our standards in a partner seem to change, if not lighten up. Suddenly things you thought were important once, aren’t so much anymore. Suddenly a sense of humor and a good credit score outweighed the Matthew McConaughey-like abs.
But at what point did we decide – did I decide – that I’d let go of those things that were important to me? At what point did I begin to think that I didn’t deserve every single quality on that list?
“… and if a guy is dumb enough to fall for a pretty girl batting her eyelashes at him, then he deserves to change my tire or carry my bags to my car so I don’t know what my boyfriend was so pissed about. I mean it’s not like I am seducing them to get classified government secrets or the code to their wall safes …” I drift back in and out of Stef’s conversation (with herself) ” … so I just don’t see why he’s mad over something that’s not my fault.”
My fault. Those words again.
I won’t claim to know anything about Stef’s relationship with her boyfriend or to have any real knowledge about why they’ve broken up this time. But I know me. And I know that if I’ve lost track of those qualities and trivial things that are important to me – no matter how long that list may be – it is my fault if I am unhappy with the standard I now hold. And I am to blame if I simply sit back and silently endure the people who don’t live up to those standards.
And as Stef drones on, I wonder if it’s too late now. I wonder if we are too many hands in, with too few chips on the table.
“I just never felt it,” I hear Stef say.
“That passion and devotion to each other. That desire to put the other person above everything else, to race home from work just to see their face. That physical ache when you’re not with each other. That sense of awe when you’re looking into that person’s eyes and jsut feeling so damn grateful that they love you back.
“I don’t want to settle for less than that. Tell me I don’t have to settle.”
“You don’t have to settle,” I parrot back to her, only I mean it. I really, truly mean it. “No one has to settle.”
So in the dim light of the late afternoon, sitting on my front porch step with my(temporarily) broken-hearted friend, I decide to take the blame. Because if I accept anything less than what I want, what I need, what I deserve, it is my fault.
And I think there are probably worse things than taking that blame.