I went to my high school grad with a car thief by the name of Chick. I smile as I say this; this news might be a little startling to the friends I graduated with back then. On the other hand, I’d guess some of them went through their own startling realities – and many would not want the world to know.
I, on the other hand, believe the world would be a better place if we were all more open about most things. I often imagine what life could be like if we all stopped adding to the false picture of reality we tend to share with the next generation.
I grew up in a culture that didn’t talk about the ‘unpleasant’ things in our lives. We didn’t criticize people – to their faces. We were generally ‘nice’(in that Canadian way), demure, well trained in saying the right thing. Or at least we knew we were supposed to be. I’m reminded of our ‘little white lies’ about Santa Claus. I told my children the truth about that too and they survived it. We live in a large city of many sub-cultures and lifestyles and realities and my grown-up kids are not afraid of looking at unpleasant truths.
In my youth, my eyes were gradually being opened by my unconscious attraction to “less savoury” people. Perhaps my vulnerabilities were drawn to theirs. In Chick’s case, his greatest vulnerability was his painful shyness. It precluded higher education, and he was so shy (brutal father), that he would not even think about aiming for a ‘regular’ job. He felt awkward in the white jacket he rented for the grad dance. He’d never worn one before. He trembled when I introduced him to people.
He labored sometimes in a construction job that involved a lot of standing around, but his main gig was car theft. He said it was easy. I imagine it was easier for him to work alone, after dark — invisible. I can relate to that. His sister was married to a pimp, who made enough income to support a wife and kids. They seemed like a nice family, but with low articulation skills.
They took me to ‘after-hours clubs’ I would never have imagined. Memorable amounts of dirt and air so dusty your kleenex was black when you blew your nose. Barely cleaned-up vomit. He giggled at my shock. I always felt safe with them.
He once shyly gave me a silver friendship ring, which I still have. He was actually a sweet person and I want to remember him. But we really had nothing to talk about, and feeling sorry for him was no basis for a relationship. I was, as they say, “outa there’. I was 19.
It had become clear to me why people like Chick would never get to put a foot on any social ladder. And I realized it’s easy to feel confident with people who are not. I doubt that he ever experienced that. What a world. And how lucky I was.
Soon I met the man I would marry at 22, mainly because I believed I was over the hill. That was common in women then. Feminists were nowhere in sight yet. Everyone agreed Peter was a big improvement: a worldly-wise Brit 13 years older than me. “A catch” as they used to say. It was the early 60s, and my parents were so relieved — their oldest daughter was ‘taken care of’. One down and one to go. And thank god she wasn’t marrying someone like Chick. Ah, those were the ‘good old days’.