That wasn't exactly the plan tonight - Waffle House, sure, paperback, mmm hm... quiet tears? Well, those aren't exactly something you plan. But the older I get, the more likely I seem to be to get that lump in the throat, that faint brimming. I suppose it's a weird sort of karmic balance that with the extra years also comes the emotional judo that keeps the sort of raw sobbing that I so hated as a child and a teenager from ever happening, even if there's a far more appropriate reason for it than a touching moment in a paperback novel.
But what I found myself thinking on the drive home was - why? Why am I so much more vulnerable emotionally to silly things like that now - and what, precisely, is it that I'm vulnerable to? Why am I more likely to shed a tear at a children's movie than a bonafide "tearjerker", which rarely affect me unless they nauseate me?
The answer to all of the above, and whatever it is that I'm emotionally vulnerable to moments of, can probably be summed up with a single word - but damned if I can think of that word right now. So I'll dance around it with tightly orbiting satellites: Friendship. Loyalty. Trustworthiness. Honor. Nobility.
That's the sort of Moment, well depicted, which can get me to tear up. Because goddamnit, there's not enough of it in this world. I've never really been the sort of person to have a lot of friends - or a lot of fairweather friends. I'm the sort of person who has a few friends, but cherishes them dearly - and who stands by those friends, and knows that they will stand by him.
And as for being more emotionally vulnerable to depictions of that sort of thing now than I was when I was younger... well, an easy answer would be that, frankly, I don't have as many real friends as I did then. Particularly in day-to-day real life. Oh, there are the usual fairweather friends, of course. But not the sort that, without needing to think about it, you know that you can rely on. Even if it's not easy. Even if they have to go out of their way. Because, dammit, you're friends, and friendship is an obligation as well as a pleasure, and one to be taken seriously.
But my own personal and immediate deficit of Real Friends isn't the only answer to the increase in emotional vulnerability, and I think possibly it's not even the major one. When I was younger, I moved in different circles - lower-income circles. And I took the number of people who took friendship seriously - as opposed to the "fairweather friends" - for granted. A little later in life, moving up the economic ladder, I've observed some rather distinct differences in the Haves and the Have-Nots, though.
It was a hell of a lot easier to find truly trustworthy people among the Have-Nots.
Don't get me wrong - snakes and dirtbags, as well as the ethically simply mediocre, are everywhere. But the more people I know in the upper-middle-class-and-up income brackets, the more I realize that the truly successful are far more likely to be the truly opportunistic than the truly dedicated. Which makes sense, really - this is a capitalistic society, of course, which ultimately means that the folks looking out for the bottom line are the folks that are the most likely to wind up on top.
But that doesn't make it much easier to stomach the realization that most of the personal traits that you genuinely like, in yourself and in others, are traits corresponding strongly with... if not failure, then a lack of success.
Growing up hurts.