Tragedy: An Excuse for Couplemania? August 13, 2011Posted by Onely in Food for Thought, God-Idiot or Asshole?.
Tags: grieving and coupling, singles and tragedy
First, the background: My sister’s good friend, whom I’ll call Mark, has had an awful year. First he lost his job due to the recession and couldn’t find another one. Then his girlfriend cheated on him and they broke up. Then his older brother, whom Mark idolized, developed a drug problem related to some painkillers he’d been on for an old, ongoing back ailment. Bad times for Mark.
Understandably, he withdrew from my sister and the rest of their circle of friends as he tried to sort out his internal chaos. Knowing that they might well have done the same thing in his circumstances, but still wanting to show support, my sister and their mutual friends left him email, text, and phone messages just to say hi and let him know they cared.
The messages went unreturned, and no one blamed Mark. Then my sister found out that he had reconnected with his cheating girlfriend and they were a couple again. According to the grapevine and Facebook, Mark had enough emotional fortitude to hang out with his formerly-cheating girlfriend, but not to interact with his long-time friends. “I think he just really needs someone right now,” said my sister, aware of the irony of her words yet trying to be sensitive to Mark’s situation. “But. . . her?”
Recently, while under the influence of assorted illegal substances, Mark’s brother crashed his motorcycle into a tree and died. During the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, Mark continues to date his girlfriend and continues to remain withdrawn from his friends.
Copious Readers, in normal circumstances we chastize people who neglect their friends for a significant other (especially a cheating one). But obviously a brother’s addiction and death are not normal circumstances. Trauma can cause and excuse (or at least explain) all sorts of crazy human behavior. So do we suspend all judgment here? Or do we judge Mark’s actions as inappropriate, but excusable? Or do we blame society’s mythologizing of coupling, which may have brainwashed Mark into believing that even an unfaithful girlfriend is a good painkiller? Or is she, perhaps, in fact a good painkiller?
Given that we have little real knowledge of the nuts and bolts of Mark’s situation (including the circumstances of his girlfriend’s cheating–maybe she thought they were “on a break“), how would you advise my sister to interpret Mark’s social choices?
If I were writing this as a novel, I might make Mark’s motivations as follows: He’s struggling with a lot of different feelings and is afraid his internal chaos will negatively color his interactions with the people he cares about–so he avoids them and seeks the company of people he doesn’t care that much about, specifically the cheating girlfriend. However, unfortunately for Mark, this isn’t a novel that can be shaped and tweaked by a good editor. It’s life, where the only editor is God, and he seems like kind of an asshole.
Photo credit: kevingessner