Friday, October 9, 2015

800 Words: How I Spent My Yom Kippur - Shul 4 - Bolton Street Synagogue - Conclusion of Part 4

Friendship between an unmarried man and woman in their late twenties is something completely different than between boys and girls at thirteen. Of course nothing of that nature happened between Kelly and I, and the chances that it ever would have were quite slim at best. Five years ago, I didn't have the confidence to even admit to myself that I wanted anything to happen, and I'm still not entirely sure I did. Nevertheless, it gave me enormous pause when two friends of mine who met her through singing with Voices of Washington, friends who do enormously well with women as every straight singer but me ever seems to do, told me unprompted and separately, that she clearly had a thing for me.

If by some unlikely event she did, I doubt she ever viewed it afterward as more than a small but egregious lapse in judgement. And if asked, she would probably deny it forever regardless of whether or not it was true. No matter how cheap the jeans she was wearing, a girl like Kelly Liebe has to see herself in dire straights indeed to consider me anything but a sidekick.

The friendzone very much exists. It is a convenient country to visit, but a dangerous one to stay too long in. In the State of Friendzone, the right of both men and women to behave terribly to one another while still viewing each other as friends is perfectly legal. It's dangerous to men because it can turn nice girls into beastly manipulators, but it is far more dangerous to women, because it can turn nice guys into beasts.

I used to take rejection from women personally. I'm not an attractive man, and I'm sure that any woman who's ever had dirty thoughts about me probably just needed a vessel for their dirty thoughts. But once you're no longer twenty-two, who cares? None of us looks as good as we used to. It only occurred to me in my thirties that so long as an unattractive man is conveniently present at the right place and time, there will be women around whom, for reasons unfathomable to him, will at some point find him attractive. You never really know where or when or how or why, it just happens. Louis CK put it only slightly differently, "when her life circumstances match your looks, you're the sexiest mo-fo out there."

It was, of course, never to be between Kelly and I, and it would have been an atomic disaster if anything happened. In fact, I'm pretty sure that she brought a friend into the chorus with the express intention of fixing us up. She was nice and funny but also morbidly obese and clinically depressed. Perhaps I was no better, but that wouldn't have been the first time thinner, better adjusted friends try to make fixups like that, and it inevitably feels like they're saying "You're fat and depressed like her, you should be perfect for each other." What is clear though is that things were always going to brighten for Kelly, and the moment they did, it was only a matter of time before she withdrew from the organization, the group, and from our reignited friendship.

This is where, six years later, things still get too painful to think about... and in thinking about it now, this has all been a lot of buildup for very little. It's still too painful to write about the details of it. The facts of it are not dramatic, and I know that it's in some ways my fault, it always is, but even if it weren't my fault, the endgame would have always been the same. Her career was too important and too time-consuming, and my languishing in first gear is ultimately nobody's problem but my own.

It will suffice to say that I hope Kelly gets everything she ever wanted, which I'm sure is at stake in the 2016 election, and that she does not find this victory as hollow as she seemed to find the others.

Kelly Liebe was the daughter that every parent in Pikesville wished they had. The bed was always made, the homework always done, the trash always taken out. She was a veritable machine of 'nakhes' for her parents, for her school, for her community. But she hated every minute of it, and would have given anything if they would have allowed her to just be a regular girl. The values with which we grew up placed the highest possible premium on achievement and obedience. But while they claimed that they lauded the humanity that was in her heart more than any other person I'd ever met: kindness, patience, charity, generousness, humility - Jewish Baltimore would have plucked them out of her soul if it meant getting her another award.

I liebed Kelly Liebe, and I'm sure there's a tiny part of me that still does. As I look back on this first act and change of my life, there's no one outside of family who ever inspired that much love or that much hatred. We were two smart misfits in Krieger Schechter, both of us dumb in exactly the way the other was smart, and both of us yearning for acceptance from people who will never give us their true approval. Twenty-five years ago or so, I realized I was never going to get it, and am living the life of a guy whose every gesture seems to be a rebuke to the values with which we grew up - it hasn't made me very happy, but what other choice was there for a guy like me? Perhaps Kelly's approach: kill with kindness, always make the best possible impression, look for a way to grind their noses in the shit of your success, is the right one that will lead to a happier life. And even if it doesn't, it's gotta work better than my approach.

Like everything that happened at Schechter, this should all be well past ancient history. Yet history always repeats itself. Three months ago, I was the smartest musician in Baltimore, in four bands with no less than three shows at or around Artscape. In the time that's passed since then, I've had to leave two of them, and another is on hiatus until spring. The band I run, so strong seeming six months ago, now looks to be in tatters. The seemingly unbreakable friendship with the colleague who told me when I started the band that no matter how disorganized I was, he had my back through thick and thin, has now been broken. As far as I was concerned, that friendship ended when he did a complete about face and told me, publicly in an email to the rest of the band, that he could no longer abide my disorganization and was leaving the band permanently - in retrospect, I don't doubt it ended for him a while before that. Leaving Orchester Prazevica, my musical home of three-and-a-half years, hurt like a bitch - I was being 'two-timed' by the bandleader with another violinist, who lied about it when I asked him. But ultimately, that was the kind of thing you recover from. However, the friend who left my band after so many assurances of confidence and trust, that felt like a deep stab in the gut, right next to and almost as deep as the wound left by Kelly. How can I ever have the confidence to lead any organization again after both hits? Some people have a steel bravado exterior to conceal the fragile interior beneath. Other people present a surface that is all softness, and beneath it conceal unbreakable steel. I don't know much about where Kelly Liebe is in life today, but I know that in the end, she will come out on top. People like her always do. People like me? Well...

I feel almost exactly back to where I was at the middle of 2010, when Voices of Washington was faltering, and nearly every rehearsal was preceded by a anxiety attack followed by volatility in the rehearsal followed by more flyering the city for people who never noticed followed by incessant letters to old members begging them to come back followed by notices from current members of their departure followed by the same cycle over again the next week. Around this time in 2009, there was a small, oh so small, period when I felt like I did everything right, and there would be a few days at a time when the depressive fog would finally lift and I could breathe freely for the first time in years in a world that finally allowed me a secure place within it. I felt similarly earlier this year when Schmuck was going well and I was in a long-term relationship, at 32, my first - but the longer I stayed in the relationship, the more obloquious and vituperative my girlfriend became, and the more my band members became fed up with my disorganization - no doubt partially brought on by the stress of the relationship.

But this time, I know the drill. It's entirely possible that no matter what I do, I'm going to watch as the edifice I worked and worried about its success is collapsing all around me. Rather than what I did last time - doing everything to bail out the ship when everyone but me realized that there was no hope of keeping it afloat, I am now just coasting along, starting to take gigs for Schmuck as they come, and otherwise checking out of a project that was supposed to signal my genuine success as at least a part-time musician. I have no gigs for the next month, I once again have no allies. I have just completed the three best years of my life, so good did they become that by this summer, I honestly felt as though my life was finally blossoming at least a little bit, and I didn't have to run so hard from depression, because it no longer chased me every day of my life. The goals of this group were so much more modest than Voices of Washington ever was, and I was delighted to settle for success so much less than power and glory that would make the struggle worthwhile, and yet even success this modest was too much to ask of God. When oh when will the next time be when depression relaxes its grip?

So six years later, my revenge on Kelly Liebe is my recommendation letter. Ten people actually read anything on this blog, maybe fifteen on a good day. No employer in the Clinton administration or anywhere else would ever find this unless they were searching with a comb so fine-toothed that the country would go to shit because they're too busy trying to find inconsequential minuscule dirt on talented potential employees rather than pick the best candidate for the job, which Kelly absolutely is. If someone in the Clinton camp ever found this and read it, they would see exactly the sort of person completely moulded in their own image that they want and need: someone who would do everything for the people they love until the people they love got in the way of their advancement. Someone extraordinary who already lifted herself up from humble beginnings to stratospheric heights and will probably do so half-a-dozen times again. Someone whose personal weaknesses only made her hungrier for achievement and acceptance. If a Clinton rejected a work candidate as worthy as her because of a blogpost like this, then there is no chance that the Clintons will go down in history as anything but an ignominious failure. Trust me Hillary, Kelly Liebe is everything you want and then some, and in case it means anything at all, I'm in a position to know - search this blog, I'm as knowledgeable an amateur political junkie as it gets and that's not just the mania talking. If it's organization, she could command D-Day. If it's a policy job, she probably doesn't know enough about it, but she would work twenty hour days and in a few weeks she'd know the subject better than any one of her colleagues and always recommend the most cautious, face-saving option. I might be crazy in every other way, in politics I'm as sane as a day is long, and I'm telling you that Kelly Liebe would be the best of the best.

But the thought that you might not believe me will keep Kelly up for nights on end.

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