dirtyteeth“A true friend never gets in your way unless happen to be going down.”  — Arnold H. Glasow

Once, in high school, despite my self-consciousness about my ability to wear such fashions I mustered up the courage to wear a sundress.  It was a tea-length striped dress with wide straps and gathered waist and though I didn’t feel stunning I was proud of myself for overcoming my own self-talk and strutted down the hallway to math class, head held high.  I heard the giggling chatter around me but it seemed typical enough for the environment and I strode into my class a few minutes early.  At which point, a girl I hardly knew grabbed my arm and told me that my skirt was tucked into my panties.  I was horrified and embarrassed and about 2.2 seconds away from running straight home (maybe a side trip for transfer papers first) where I’d hoped there was a rock big enough to hide under for about a century.

Years later I was at my step-daughter’s softball game and thought one of her teammates was yelling at her for striking out. Rising to my girl’s defense, I harshly reminded that teammate that she wasn’t hitting so hot that day either. It didn’t take long for one of the other Mom’s to set me straight. My step-daughter’s friend was yelling about the ump…not her. I quickly apologized but knew I’d screwed up royally. For a moment I was grateful to be outdoors because it had to make that rock-seeking all the easier, right?

To this day I’ll never understand why it’s so uncomfortable to help someone out by telling them they’ve unwittingly embarrassed themselves, but it is. Often, people who know they’d be mortified to be the one beaming whilst spinach flaps from their teeth are still more likely to giggle and point than they are to help you out. Interestingly, it seems to be because people don’t want to…get this…embarrass you. I remember, during both instances, feeling immeasurably grateful to the girl who informed me of my wardrobe malfunction and the mom who quickly set me straight when either of them could’ve been gathering our peers against me to prepare a proper stoning. Once I recover from my mortification I always wind up thinking, “now that’s a true friend.” Even though I hardly knew them they’d both told me the cold, hard truth…my ass was hanging in the wind.

I’m old, wiser and much more cautious and I often find myself being grateful for the people in my life who’ve told me the cold, hard truth about myself. I don’t have very many close friends but the ones I do have are totally willing to call me on my garbage; my friends are the first to tell me when I’m being judgmental or hypocritical or just plain stubborn. I realize how much we rely on the people around us to reflect back what we need; when I need to learn patience I’m surrounded by people and circumstances who try my patience (most often people who are, themselves, very impatient) until I give in to the practice itself and let go the expectation that life should happen on my terms. While I’m grateful for that reflection because it teaches me a little something about myself and gives me the opportunity to grow, I’m especially grateful for the people in my life who just cut to the chase, “hey! You!….you’ve got some schmutz on your chin. Take care of that will ya?!” Translation: “C’mon Triff, that wasn’t nice. Lighten up, will ya?” Yes, I’ll be embarrassed but at least I’ll be able to fix it.

I take a lot of time to reflect about my contributions to this world. I know that I’m sometimes that impatient person giving someone else the opportunity to practice patience (doesn’t that sound better than “sometimes I’m a jerk?”) and I also know that I’m the person who will say and do the uncomfortable to help a person out even when I know it’ll embarrass the heck out of both of us.

There were no rocks available to me either of those days and I had the humbling experience of sucking it up and getting through the rest of the day knowing the truth about myself – and thank goodness I did because now I know the value of being a really good friend…even when it’s someone I hardly know.