Saturday, July 23, 2011

Indecision: selfish interest versus small sacrifices

What a vague title for a post. Don't worry, I'll explain.

*You may skip this next paragraph.*

(I want to give a shout-out to the MTA subway line. Tonight, I had two fantastic conversations. The first was into Brooklyn around 9:40 p.m. I was digging into my Popeyes bucket on the train when I commented on the New Yorker article this 30-something woman was reading. We start talking, my fingertips greasy and bread crumbs around my mouth. She tells me she likes Mother Jones and The Atlantic. Tonight, she was stood up on a date by a man 10 years younger than her. She writes for Forbes, and wrote a scathing review of this book associated with my non-profit. At the end, she takes down my email address. The second conversation happened riding back from meatpacking to my dorm. Because the F train stops after midnight, I end up on this circuitous route into and out of Brooklyn, changing trains multiple times. Thankfully, this woman sitting next to me has to do the same, and I learn that, though she looks 15, she's actually 25, and has taught 1st grade for 3 years. She tells me about her visits back to the Dominican Republic, her family situation, and her love for her cousins. She tells me she'll add me on Facebook.)

I have this friend from Austria, see. We met at Moma PS1. I told her about the devolution of American modern art and she vehemently agreed. A week after we exchanged numbers, I met her and a friend in Central Park for a concert. We stayed out until 11 p.m. taking the bus around town, making fun of illogical pizza signs, eating gelato. The next day, on Monday, we met at a bar in Union Square and hung out until 7 a.m. If she didn't have a boyfriend of four years, something probably would have happened. Anyway. We're just friends. (The fact that I think she's adorable does not help that thought.)

So tonight. I'm at Celebrate Brooklyn with her. Two of her friends (one her ex-boyfriend's best friend, actually a really cool dude) shows up. We talk for half an hour. All of us take the subway to the meatpacking district so we can meet up with my buddies at 675 bar. I get to the front of the line, and turns out I can't go in. I'm wearing basketball shorts. (As well as: yellow shoes, hipster glasses, and a nice collared shirt.) I tell Austrian friend, "I'm going to go back home to change. I promise I'll be back."

Get on the subway. Aforementioned subway story happens. It takes me literally an hour to return to the dorm and I realize I am so, so sleepy. Remember, I have fundraising at 9 a.m. tomorrow. (Holy shit, that's in 5 hours.) I am dead tired. When I'm in the lobby, I check my phone and realize Austrian friend has texted me three times. I call her. She tells me she's waiting in line. I tell her I'm kind of tired, and so maybe I'm going to go to sleep? She throws a mini-tantrum: "I understand how long it took you, but you promised me, and I've been waiting here for you to come back. The others left a while ago." I say: "I understand, but..." Eventually she says, "I want you to come, but I understand if you don't."

Here's the debate raging in my head:

Comfort vs. Discomfort: If I go back out, I'm going to have to put on pants. It's 90 degrees out. It will not be pleasant. If I go back out, I won't get back until at least 3 a.m. I have work tomorrow. That will also not be pleasant. Staying in? Air conditioned, and a soft bed. I am refreshed for the weekend. Clear winner here.

Obligation vs. Selfishness: I made a promise to myself I would stand up for me more. If I wanted to leave a party, I would do it, instead of pout in a corner. If I wanted to cut my hours at work, I would tell my manager. If I wanted to put on sunscreen, I would ask someone else for his, dammit. So when Austrian friend asked me to come back, I said, "Sorry." I really didn't feel like it. But obligation is a tricky point to maneuver: I promised her I would come back. I didn't add a qualifier. I didn't say, "I promise to come back -- but only if it takes me 30 minutes or less to get back to my room." At this point, it's my word versus my desires.

Friendship vs. Money: Hypothetically, if this bar was next door, there would be no decision. I would change and go hang out. Too bad in reality it was going to take me time and money. A round-trip taxi ride would be around $30. It would also take 30 minutes. That's so much for an hour more at a bar, for a friend who, given the principles of friendship, should understand if one reneges on a promise. At the same time, when I put myself in her shoes, the only thing she knows is that she's waited an hour for me to come back, and now I'm telling her she's alone for the night. That's kind of douchey. And it doesn't build much trust or altruism. If I did come back, our friendship would become more solid, no doubt about that.

In the end, I end the phone call telling her I'm not going to come. That I'll see her next week. After I hang up the phone, guilt wracks me (I gave her my word; I'm going to let money set back a friendship?) and I end up changing into pants and taking a taxi. Round-trip, it ends up costing $20. At the bar, she's happy to see me, tells me that she's glad I've kept my word, and says, out of the blue, "You look cute." I give her a look like, "Just because you're 28 does not mean you can say that, girlfriend." She amends her words: "You look good." Whew.

It's 3:54 a.m. now. Am I proud of my decision? Right now, yes. When I wake up tomorrow morning? We'll see...

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