So, a few days ago I was getting a little nostalgic, thinking about my youth and days that held in them more ideas than responsibilities. It didn’t take long before I got to thinking of an old friend from college and so I wrote her a Merry Christmas email.
Bebe does things I can’t do. She always has. In college she would spin around in her little Honda Civic, smoke cigarettes, blow off classes, and eventually blow off school to head to Kenya. She died her hair half black and half blonde…long before ombre was in. Now, these are all little things and truth be told, I did smoke cigarettes and I headed to Moscow. But I couldn’t forgive people the way she could. I couldn’t see things from someone else’s point of view the way she could.
You see, Bebe understood people’s character and because of this, she could explain away bad behavior, bad judgment, or just plain old game playing. In essence, she excused us. She knew us better than we knew ourselves.
Now, this email I wrote didn’t say much, except that I have been doing more thinking lately than I have in a long time (and arguably bailing on my responsibilities). Sidebar: my daughter heads to Israel in two days and I have done nothing to help her prepare except throw a few twenties at her telling her these might come in handy.
Bebe wrote me back with news that is more than bad and way more than sad. It’s not my story to tell, so suffice it to say that Bebe is faced with a pain that is inexplicable and incomprehensible and now finds herself in a role somewhat akin to mother – a role where her gifts of perception and forgiveness will be invaluable assets.
Back in school, Bebe wasn’t afraid to tell me things I didn’t really want to hear. Our senior year I had a collection of friends who would call me every day, tell me how great I was, and otherwise ingratiate themselves. Bebe once quipped, “Your fans called.” At the time it stung a little, but I knew deep down she was right. These weren’t my friends; they were fans preying on my desire to be idolized.
I know Bebe was my real friend for one very simple reason: she and I never competed. Not once. Not in school, not with friends, not with boyfriends, not with money, not with jobs, not with looks, not with any of the ways girls compete.
So I’m thinking of my friend and the changes she is facing and I know she will use her gifts wisely and beneficially. She will assess and define character and ultimately help those around her make better choices.
I know for me, she taught me to try to see the other person’s nature and not to expect too much outside of what they are capable of. And, more importantly, to know your own character and manage it appropriately, lest the sycophants gain entry.