The other day I had a chat with someone who told me she believes everyone is fundamentally a good person at heart and there are no bad people in the world, not really, when you get down to it. I told her that was a lovely sentiment but I disagreed, because I had once dated someone who had a black soul and did not have a single redeeming quality, other than the ability to make a truly excellent oven-roasted tomatillo salsa. I was firmly, unshakably convinced he was Not A Good Person. He lacked some fundamental element of human-ness, some kind quality underneath his incredible ability to charm and attract women. Fundamentally, his ultimate choice was not to be or to do good when it came to others. He was a dam of no-goodness waiting to burst.
She asked how that could happen, and I said I didn’t know, he must have been born that way.
“No,” she said. “How could you have dated him?”
“Oh. Right. That. We were together for nearly a year, too.”
She looked at me.
“Well, the salsa was really good.”
I think every relationship is a learning experience. You learn from the person you date, you learn from the relationship, you learn from yourself. You learn what your limitations are, what you are and are not capable of. You should be able to take at least one thing away, and not just an actual tangible item, although those are nice sometimes. (I did get an iPod for my birthday from the salsa maker, which was great, so to be fair I guess he had at least one other redeeming quality.)
You learn that everyone – all of us, including you and most certainly including me – will be able to list at least one absolute disaster on the personal dating roster, and if we aren’t able to we should make one up or our stories will be really, horribly boring. And by disaster I don’t mean very brief dating horror stories like the Thai Massage Debacle of ’05 (true story, and came after The First Date When the Bread Basket Napkin Caught Fire). I mean things like “yes, he was 41 and still wore eyeliner and was immature and rude to me, and yes my friends still mock me for this, to this day” or “a black-souled human being I called my boyfriend for reasons none of us still can understand, including him, who later wondered how anyone ever dated him, because even he thinks he’s got serious not-funny problems, and not in a self-deprecating or cry-for-help way.”
This what I learned from him, I suppose. Whenever anyone says to me, “That guy’s bad news” I can more effectively tell whether not he is, in fact, bad news of the truly Bad News variety or just, you know, sad. Troubled. In need of a hug. Borderline, maybe. Kind of a jerk, yeah, but not someone who will eventually do things that will cause everyone to whisper and walk away and refuse to discuss exactly what happened because they are that sort of bad indeed.
It’s funny, the things that teach us to try and be more generous toward others. In a way, that relationship, as stupid and gross as it was, gave me a pretty tremendous gift. Where once I might have dismissed people for capital offenses, I try to see them in a more gentle light. Maybe I can’t live with whatever problem you’ve got, but I don’t think you’re actually a bad person. I know what a bad person is! You’re not it.
A good lesson. But really, I wish I had learned to make that salsa.
Source: Flickr / ohheygreat
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