Something just occurred to me. Like just this minute. Okay, maybe about half an hour ago. It’s this: for the past several years, very few people have called me “lucky.”
You would think people would be saying it all the time, right? I get to hang out with the cutest kids in the world all day every day, I don’t have to have a stupid job, nobody makes me wear socks or long pants or shirts with buttons on them, and my wife doesn’t yell at me for spending all my “down time” goofing around on the Internet. Let’s face it–my life is a beautiful dream.
And no, it’s not just that I haven’t been listening carefully. I would have noticed if people had been calling me lucky. Because I used to get that shit all. The. Time. And I did not like it.
From as early as I can remember, people have been telling me how lucky I am.
“Your dad gots a GTO?! Lucky.”
“Your mom let you watch Saturday Night Fever?! So lucky.”
“You get paid ten bucks an hour ?! You lucky fucker–why don’t you loan me $6.00 so we can go see Saint Elmo’s Fire at the mall? Then you can buy us some ice cream at Farrell’s afterwards.”
“You got into UVA? How the fuck did you do that, you lucky bastard? You almost flunked out of high school.”
“You’re marrying a doctor? Lucky.”
“Argentina for vacation? Lucky.”
You see how it goes. It’s annoying, right?
My so-called friends had no idea how hard I worked as a kid to train my parents to be cool, to convince them that I was responsible enough to see R movies and listen to profanity-laden records (which I totally wasn’t); and they had no idea how many hours I logged waiting for side doors to be left ajar so I could slide into schools, jobs, and relationships where I had no business being.
The one incident that really made me examine how I felt about the concept of luck and being lucky was a conversation with a family friend right before my wedding. This old buzzard said that the one thing that struck him about me, ever since I was a kid, was how lucky I had always been. I wasn’t sure why, but this really vexed me. That’s when I figured out why being called lucky was an insult.
The implication is that all the good things that happen to you are because you have a golden horseshoe lodged in your rectum, and not due to all your hard work and agonizing over every decision life puts before you. You don’t deserve the happiness you have, because you haven’t earned it.
That’s what psychologists call “some passive-aggressive bullshit.”
Thinking about it hours later, I formulated the response that I should have offered the dear old family friend:
“Yes. I’m very lucky. With little going for me but a face that people seem to think looks vaguely like about a dozen different famous people, and a pretty affable nature, I managed to stay alive long enough to snare a smart, beautiful wife with a bright future.
“But if I’m lucky, then so are you. You might look like Ernest Borgnine, but you have the good fortune of being smart, motivated, hard-working, and competent, and you have a lifetime of achievements to show for it. You think it’s easy being a charming, devil-may-care slacker? I defy you to walk a mile in my shoes, pal! You wouldn’t get around the block before you started begging to return to your high-pressure career and the comfort of your vast constellation of responsibilities.”
That would have been pretty cool to tell him, no? Of course, It would have also been really rude and not at all affable, which is not my style. Plus, I would have had to wake him up in the middle of the night to tell him, and he would have been confused and not remembered the conversation that elicited my impassioned response, and the point would have been lost.
But I’ve got that response all ready for next time. If there is a next time. Which doesn’t seem likely.
And that’s odd, given that I’m about to celebrate my ten-year wedding anniversary and, two days later, the second birthday of my twin girls. Do my friends think I’m a poor sap now, stuck at home with a family? Or have they realized that my great “luck” is actually the product of a grand scheme I hatched years ago that has fallen in to place exactly as I planned? Either way, I kind of miss getting pissed at my friends for simultaneously insulting my intelligence and expressing envy for all the luck I have cobbled together out of what has drifted into my path.