I'm preparing my very first band contest as an adult-the last time I did this, I was marching, and it was November 1, 1986, at the state preliminaries in the Big City. I said I'd go, so I will, but I do so feeling a little apprehensive.
My father felt that band was a useless, ridiculous endeavor, and the only reason he let me stay in the band was that he believed it was an "easy A" to add to my grade point average. He held the whole activity in contempt and although I marched from the eighth grade through my senior year, aside from the football games at which he was team doctor, he never saw us perform until the last general competition of my senior year- and that was only because my mother forced him to go.
When I was a freshman, after we were dismissed following halftime, I dared approach him on the sideline to ask about an injury in the first half. He was so nasty to me that the band director, who was a patient and whose aunt was one of Dad's secretaries, came up and gently led me away. The worst part was that no matter the lengths to which I went to hide it, because of that people knew. People now knew, without a doubt, that my father thought I was unworthy of his attention, or even civility. I made up all sorts of reasons why it was my fault, and I never made the mistake of speaking to my father in public again. When word reached my mother, he snapped exasperatedly, "She shouldn't have tried to speak to me. I was working."
My father is a fine physician- I learned to compartmentalize him in this way as a child- but he was not an engaged or affectionate parent until I was in my thirties. I was afraid of him for a number of reasons, and had I not found a fellow-traveler in similar straits, I would've never survived high school.
Something became fairly clear to me last night that brought this back in sharp focus. I realize that there will be several people of my acquaintance floating around today at this competition who will be working. Believe me, I know that, I understand that, and I don't need to have it explained to me in words of one syllable. I wouldn't dare disrupt what amounts to their livelihood, and I have an extremely good memory. Not only do I remember Dad biting my head off, I remember the tightly-wrapped anxiety and focus of our band director on competition days. I'm just not that stupid, folks, although several days ago there was a casual conversation in which a "see ya there" was exchanged...and now it's evolved into a flat, "I'm working."
It stung, but also for another reason. Having straight male friends is tricky because sometimes, you, the female buddy, are going to get shoved onto the periphery while they're in hot romantic pursuit of someone else. It's going to happen, but it's been my experience that the tone of your conversations suddenly change and...well, even if the female in question is not in direct physical evidence for whatever reason, your friend is no longer available to you. He especially evaporates if there's any chance that he might be seen in public with you, thereby "sending the wrong signal" that he's already attached to a woman. You pays your money, you takes your chances, I guess- but I've spent too much of my life being stuffed into a closet like this by friends and boyfriends alike to be comfortable with it.
It probably got to me a little more than it should've because I was tired and it has been a long week. I'm still a little wounded this morning because I take rejection of whatever kind personally. In friendship there should be respect, and I suppose it bothers me more profoundly because I've suffered from that dismissive rejection so often and so long.