Hearing a friend tell a new story or reveal an unknown aspect is always a joy for me. Like a continually opening, expanding flower, the little extras delight me.
Perhaps it was being raised as a Southerner (more on New England in a few lines). Perhaps it’s simply my bent as a delayed gratifier. Either way, I find the relationships best that constantly increment.
I see a link to the candy-box philosophies of my sister and me. We had one distant grandmother, in Denver. She would send us presents, including from time to time a box of candies, usually a Whitman’s sampler — that big yellow box with some of this, some of that and some of the other.
While each of us had our own box (although we shared with the maternal unit), Pat and I differed in ingestion selection. She should immediately locate and begin to devour her favorites. It was as though somehow they would disappear or go bad or something. In contrast, I took my time, starting with the least desired lumps. I would work my way over the days to the dark chocolates with the chocolate fillings. We consumed the same, but she dribbled off in pleasure while I climbed.
Unlike Forest Gump’s mother’s platitude, you did know what you were going to get, at least if you looked at the legend on the box top or had memorized the shapes and decorations on the pieces over the years.
Friendships and marriages can seem like that. The small revelations can be as endearing as the inevitable evolution. Fully defined, immutable relationships are surely among the stalest, most boring possible.
So to New England, and particularly the Boston area, it’s everything on the table in the first seven minutes of meeting. This goes beyond candor and into the realm of challenge.
Up here, it’s what Southerners disdain as bragging on yourself. That’s the private schools and university, sports while there, the pedigree including any points of family fame, and career accomplishments. Think my résumé is longer than yours; so there!
The obvious points there are identifying yourself and even claiming superiority. In a deferential society descended from the British one, it is a logical expression. Oh, but how tediously that sets the tone for any on-going relationship. Everything they think worthwhile has already been revealed.
I think of several long-term friends who express surprised delight when I mention a new-to-them aspect. Not long ago, a chum of 30 years expressed pleased astonishment when I mentioned in a group conversation that I was born in Oklahoma. If I had engaged in that résumé display, there’d be no little treasures.
The spin conversation last week with the bartender in Cambridge reminded me of that. When she mentioned that she was taking spin classes to get in shape for a charity ride, I could easily and reasonably played my I-used-to-teach-spin card. At the time though, I figured that she’d be behind that bar where the four of us regularly visited again and again. There’d be an appropriate time to add that little flavor to the conversation. Meanwhile, it was her moment to talk about her ride and her exercise.
As it happened, two of the other guys expanded the topic immediately and mentioned that they were in my spin classes. That was not quite as delayed as I would normally have it, but even with that, the unfolding details are ever so much more pleasant than talking over someone else’s turn.
A few times, I have heard a New England sort defend a demonstration of family and personal credentials as honest and necessary. I see the cultural differences, but I still prefer my way. I like the little treats that come out of nowhere.