Hear no evil and speak no evil is the adjuration we are exhorted to live by so that we can lead a good life and make friends. If you follow that simple maxim, forging friendships shouldn’t be hard. There are tons of people around; you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one.
Some of them are quite likeable. We all know, perhaps may even be, one of those paragons of virtue who are kind, compassionate, and helpful, and have a flashy personality to boot.
Maybe even a flashy personality who likes to wear boots.
Most of us love these people. Not everyone does, because some people are just miserable, and hate all kind, compassionate, flashy, boot-wearing paragons. They especially love the people who are the nemesis of a superhero. Nemeses (the plural of nemesis, I looked it up) hate those paragons.
A superhero is always a paragon of virtue, and wears boots, to boot.
Superheros are very lucky. Life is much more interesting with a nemesis, or if you happen to be a nemesis. Being one is probably as much fun as being a superhero. If you ever had doubts about your own importance in the world you could rest assured of your value by whether you keep a superhero up at night.
Besides the occasional paragon, we know people with whom we’ve had a falling out. These people, if we ever think of them, bring up feelings of anger or contempt, much like when we eat Brussels sprouts.
On days when I am particularly grumpy, I remember every person who has ever ticked me off, starting with my fifth-grade teacher. Some people can go back further than that, to the doctor who smacked them when they emerged from the womb and then held them upside down by the ankles.
Mothers bear the brunt of most people’s anger, but I leave my mother out of it, even though she was the main proponent of eating Brussels sprouts. If she had kept that up, she could have been my arch-nemesis.
It may happen that one day you’ll meet someone with whom you know a person in common. You decide to get acquainted, so you sit down and have a cup of coffee together, and naturally you discuss the person you both know, and with whom you are friends.
You reminisce about how this angel brought you a month’s worth of groceries the time you broke your ankle. Your acquaintance responds with a story about how this friend fed and clothed refugee orphans with leprosy from the inner city.
You both agree that this person is a paragon, and then the conversations lags.
Through a chance remark about something, maybe all three of you go to the same masseuse and he knows the party of the third part had cosmetic refreshment, you both discover you harbor an abiding dislike for this Paragon of a Person.
Eyes start to sparkle, and the conversation begins to sound as witty as a Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde coffee klatch.
You recall this person misspelled a word in the school newsletter, and you both suspect that her husband is having an affair with that mouthy masseuse. The surgeon who enhanced her cheeks is still a mystery, but you’ll get to the bottom of it.
The discovery of a shared dislike of a mutual acquaintance, especially an acquaintance who is admired by others, forges a bond that transcends time.
There isn’t a lot of information about this fascinating aspect of human nature. Truman Capote said that ‘all literature is gossip’, and he not only looked like a man who would know, but his quote doesn’t really apply here, unless you and your new friend find a character you both hate in a book.
Oscar Wilde said that if “You hear no evil, and speak no evil, you will never be invited to a party,” which only goes to show.
Oscar hit the nail on the head. I did find an article in which the author said this situation in Starbucks between two or more people is a deplorable state of affairs, and a poor foundation for a friendship.
If you’ll join me in disliking this woman, we could be best friends.
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