Obfuscation

I am very confused by people who don’t say what they mean and mean what they say. That seems to be the case with a lot of people here in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s why I’ll probably always feel like a stranger in a strange land as long as I live here. I prefer straight shooters.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Seattle area. I just seem to spend a lot of time befuddled by its residents.

But it’s not as if Seattleites have cornered the market on such behavior. As a matter of fact, it should feel quite normal to me. My mother was the poster child for obfuscation. She would do anything, absolutely anything, to avoid confrontation.

For example, when I was about 6 years old, she bought me a pair of Keds tennis shoes. I was a creative and precocious child, so my solution to this boring white expanse of canvas was to take a magic marker and write “dirty” words all over them. (At that age, it was probably words like “poop” or “doofus” or something.)

I was proud of those shoes. By wearing them, I felt like I was pushing the envelope. Living on the edge. I thought I was being rebellious and cool.

Needless to say, my mother was less enthusiastic about them. But rather than say, “Oh, hell no! You are not wearing those shoes in public!” she simply gritted her teeth and let me wear them, rather than enduring the tantrum that most likely would have ensued. (I must admit that I was a brat.)

Then one day, we were leaving a grocery store, and as I got into the back seat, one of my shoes fell off in the parking lot. I said, “Mommy, wait! My shoe fell off!”

She must have thought she had died and gone to heaven. She accelerated. She said, “Sorry, honey. I can’t stop. There are too many cars behind me.”

“Well, then pull over there, and I’ll run back and get it.”

“We’re in a hurry.”

“I’ll run.”

“Too late. We’re on the street now.”

I cried in frustration and confusion as I looked out the rear window, watching my beloved shoe get smaller in the distance.

From an adult perspective, I think my mother was being spineless in this instance. She missed a teaching moment when I first created those awful shoes. She could have talked to me about the use of words, and how they can hurt or offend some people. She could have talked about common courtesy. She could have reinforced some much-needed and ultimately comforting boundaries. We could have sat down together and covered those words over with colorful flowers or something.

Most of all, she could have avoided having me think that the adults in my life are strange, unpredictable, and incomprehensible. Those are scary thoughts when you’re a kid. Instead, she took the easy way out.

Oh, I could tell you a thousand stories about how I came to feel as though the inmates were running the asylum in my household. I spent most of my youth wading through lies and excuses and pure fantasies. The sands were constantly shifting beneath my feet.

This kind of behavior made me prize integrity and honesty and safety and trust above all other things, simply because I didn’t experience those qualities very much. I longed for a world that made sense.

That’s why I say what I mean and I mean what I say. You can count on that. I don’t ever want someone to be confused by me. I hate that feeling of being misunderstood, not only because it hurts on my end, but also because I know how baffling it is for others. I lived it.

So just say I can’t have the damned shoes, already. It will only be awkward for a second. And I’ll respect you a lot more.

Sneakers_over_water

I’m proud to announce that my book is now available in paperback, kindle, and deluxe color edition! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

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