Don’t do this

2 06 2009

Or: how not to argue.

I did a little bit of drinking in high school. I mean, I didn’t drink EVERY day, and I was sober during school hours. And it wasn’t like I was hitting the bars every night—not when I didn’t have a decent fake ID. No, until I turned 18 (when I was only at the bar TWThF and Sat nights), I was forced to drink in cars and on country roads and in barns and friends’ basements and at the beach.

It was all very trying.

Anyway, one night my friends and I were at G.’s sister’s house, drinking and. . . I don’t know, playing cards or drinking games or something, when J. and I got into it.

J. was pro-life. Vehemently so. As was/am I, on the other side.

Why we thought it was a good idea to engage in this particular discussion at this particular time is beyond me. (I think I recall something about alcohol and impaired judgement.)

Anyway, I don’t (surprise!) remember exactly what was said, but I believe it ended with me pounding my fist on the table and shouting and her screaming at me and crying.

Helluva party.

A day or so later, sober, J. and I had a little sit-down and decided that, henceforth, we would not discuss abortion. Ever.

And that held, including the time our senior year when the sociology or world politics class we were taking screened an abortion (I think it was prolife) film. Other students were all ‘Ooo, J. & [yours truly] are really gonna go at it.’ Another teacher left his post to witness the fireworks.

J. looked at me and I looked at her and we both shrugged. Nope, we said. We don’t talk about this anymore.

We were such disappointments.

And that was it. We remained friends and drinking buddies throughout the rest of high school, and while we have long since lost touch with one another, I still remember what a truly good and funny friend she was.

There is an important epilogue to this story: At one point after our blow-out/armistice, I asked her if I could ask her some questions about abortion for a paper I was preparing. I don’t want to debate you, I said, or get into an argument. I just want to know.

She was wary, but she agreed. And in the library, just the two of us, I was able to ask her why she was pro-life, what she thought about the women, and what exceptions, if any, she would allow.

Her views, at least back then, were extreme: No exceptions. But she was calm in explaining her reasons why, and I was calm in my questions of her. There was no argument, and I learned something I wouldn’t have, otherwise.

We had re-established a kind of trust. Each knew where the other stood, and that was it. We could talk about it, carefully, without screaming about it.

So, J., wherever you are, thanks.

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