Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My Golden Rule of Relationships: Be There, Be a Good Time

So I’m a nerd. I’m a dork and a geek (which makes me—what—a gnork?). And I always have been. I grew up and currently—and proudly—reside on the outside of the inner social strata of everything, from the playground to the office.

So, as someone on the outside who made her own inside, I’ve noticed that people like me never really learned the conventional social rules. We never learned all those ways to make people like you. The right things to do or say or how to dress or what things to like. For us, it was too often too hard or not worth the effort to fake all those things just to be with people who were faking it for the exact same reasons.

Because of that, my gnorky friends and partners and lovers developed one basic rule that I try to live by in all my relationships: Be there and be a good time.

Be whoever you want to be. Be unashamedly and unabashedly who you are; we will welcome you and love you for it. Love D&D; we may or may not, but we love that you love it. Are you into professional wrestling or 50s fashion or the search for extraterrestrial life? Are you gay? Poly? Asexual? Curious? Are you religious? Maybe atheist? Are you financially strapped or do you have money to burn? Are you into metal? How about showtunes? The older I get, the more I realize that the details don’t matter. The details don’t shape who we are; who we are shapes the way we approach and handle the details.

In every relationship I’ve ever been in or will ever be in, I want you to be all that you are, however you are, because that’s the person I want to know. Just so long as you can be there and be a good time, that’s all I ask.

And, for the longest time, I thought that it was the easiest thing to ask a person. That our little rule was the easiest thing to do. So common sense and intuitive that it should go without saying.

Which is why I was always confused by the people who just couldn’t follow it.

It’s only recently that I’ve realized just how high a bar that is to clear. How hard it is for a vast number of people to accomplish. Because that small, simple rule is inherently asking quite a lot.

Take “Be there.” It just means that, if we have plans, you have to show up. When we hang out, hang out. Seems simple enough, right? Basic attendance points. If we have a party, attend. If we’re bumming at someone’s house, grab a cushion on the couch. If we’re making plans online, chime in. So simple anyone can do it, right?

Except that it requires time, effort, and commitment. It implies that you’re going to dedicate and invest as much in us as we will in you. That the relationship—be it platonic, romantic, sexual, or a buffet of all the above—that’s being built and maintained will never be taken for granted. That the focus of the relationship is never about what we do—from huge, massive, blow-out parties to quiet nights in someone’s basement—and is always more about the fact that we do it together. It’s proof that you’re in it for the long-haul. That you’re going to be there when times get tough in the same way you’re there when they’re easy. Or that you’ll be there when you’re needed and will come to us when you have need. That you can be counted on. It’s proof that you matter and that we matter to you.

Unpacked, those two words mean quite a lot and ask for qualities and conduct that, from my experience and for whatever reasons, too many people lack.

How about “Be a good time.” Be fun. Be smart. Be funny. Be the kind of person who people want to be around. Again, sounds so easy.

But, within that, it means don’t cause drama, don’t be a downer, don’t be a drain on the relationship. It’s not that I expect everyone to always be happy or to never have a bad day. Of course not. Rather, it’s the exact opposite. As a perpetual outsider, I, better than most, know that drama happens. People have bad days. Bad things happen. So much of the really bad stuff hits you uncontrollably and without warning and without logical reason. And loved ones are the people who help you through that.

But to seek drama out or invite it—or worse, to cause it—is ridiculous, pathetic, unacceptable, and cruel to do to the people you claim to love. A single person can disrupt an entire group dynamic. Can bring it up or down with the simplest things.

There’s a Marilyn Monroe quote that people love to tout: “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” And, while a part of me agrees with part of that—like I said, I do think that the people who love you should be there in the hard times as well as the easy ones. It can make a crumbling world right again. But, for the sake of the ones you love, aim for easy. I think sometimes we look at this sentiment and use it as an excuse for bad behavior. See it as an excuse to dwell in our worst or not try to be our best. But, as much as we can, don’t we want to at least try to be our best for those we love?

A relationship should give as much as it gets. It should be fed even as it feeds. In a healthy relationship, it’s so very rarely about a single, individual person and is so much more about how the dynamic feels and acts and works as a whole. Because, when it works, everyone’s happy.

Show up. Be there. Be fun. Be smart. Be funny. Be a good time. Because when you do that—when you make the effort to make sure everyone has a good time—you do too.

It’s a good rule. One that has always served me well and has never steered me wrong. Simple or not, it’s something worth asking of people. Worth demanding of people. Worth placing as the bar for standards. Because, if those in it can’t be there and be a good time, can it really be considered a good relationship?

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