One of my father’s biggest faults was his inability to accept gifts. He was uncomfortable when people did favors for him because he felt pressure to return the gesture. He didn’t even like getting birthday gifts, which was odd since he was generous with others. He was always picking up the bill in restaurants, even when others wanted to split the bill. Rather than finding this quality endearing, I found it somewhat petty and insecure. But he was the oldest of three brothers, and never grew out of the role of the “big brother,” so I understand where he was coming from.
I’ve inherited some of these tendencies. Oh, I’m not as bad as he was, but at times, this insecurity just pops out.
Like this morning.
In the blogging world, there are some special bloggers who go out of their way to make the blogging experience as personal as possible. These bloggers don’t only write comments on your blog, but send you an email after you comment on THEIR site. I really find this an endearing gesture. Of course, I rarely do this myself.
One of these special bloggers is named Abby. (I’m using Abby as an alias to protect the identity of Alison of Ali Thinks).
After writing a typically dumb comment on her blog, I received a humorous email from her. At first, it made me laugh, but then, immediately, guilt set in, both for writing such a shitty comment to begin with, and for never sending HER an email when she writes a comment on my blog. Like my father, I didn’t feel comfortable with our uneven relationship. Why should she send me an email when I rarely send her one?
Out of total anxiety, I wrote her the stupidest email I’ve written in a long time.
As much as I adore getting emails from you in response to one of my dumb comments, you don’t have to always write back to me. I won’t be upset. I know you love me either way! I just hate that I’m giving you all this extra work.
A few minutes later, Abby wrote back:
It’s habit, Neil. And the truth is, sometimes I don’t write back. The funny thing is that as I was hitting send on that last e-mail to you, I thought “He doesn’t want to answer that stupid question you’re writing him, Abby! Don’t respond to comments with questions!”
If it bugs you, I won’t answer your comments. But trust me, I like to do it. 🙂
At this point, I was totally embarrassed. Does she really think it bugs me that she is such a kind-hearted person? Did I just insult her by saying I hated her emails? I quickly wrote back:
Shit, I should have never wrote you that last email. I DO LIKE you writing to me. In fact, I love it! I was just trying to make it easier for you by telling you that I wouldn’t feel bad if you didn’t. Jeez, this is so neurotic. I was worried about you, not thinking myself worthy of your time to write those emails.
Abby wrote back:
And I was thinking that I wasn’t worthy or your time and attention! Gah! Neurotic! Insecure!
After laughing a bit, I wrote to Abby again:
Two people pleasers trying to please the others. Just like I wrote about in my blog post a few days ago. But since I’m trying not to be a people pleaser anymore, I’m going to start asking for what I want. And yes, I do want you to email after a comment. In fact, I demand that you do it every time! Or else.
After I sent off the email, I thought about how this ridiculous exchange would make a great blog post, so I sent her my fourth email of the morning:
I might just write a post tonight based on our email conversation. Wouldn’t that be interesting? Of course, I won’t mention your name, unless you want me to. Is it OK? Again, if you don’t want me to do it all, I’ll understand. Is this being neurotic? Email me!
A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: A Tribute To Teachers