I am very happy that I’ve been able to make friends since I moved here to Ipswich. I realize that this is New England, where the people have a longstanding reputation for being somewhat standoffish about newcomers. I assumed that New Englanders are standoffish about newcomers because the people who already live here really like all the other people who already live here, and they don’t want someone they don’t like coming in and ruining this place full of people they do like. However, it might not be that simple.
I recently discovered that one of my friends here in Ipswich is unhappy with me. It turns out that he or she doesn’t like another of my friends — even though they’ve both been in Ipswich a very long time — and he or she doesn’t like it that I like the friend he or she doesn’t like. But when this first friend says mean things about my other friend, I just sit silent and wait for it to be over, because I don’t want to disagree with Friend One and make him or her even unhappier with me, but I can’t agree either, because, I’m sorry, I can’t help it: I like my friend, and I like Friend Two, too.
Friend Two, I’m sorry to say, doesn’t like a third friend of mine, even though Friend Three has been in Ipswich much longer than me, and as I said, I thought New England is negative about newcomers, not old-timers. Friend Two doesn’t like it that I like Friend Three, but Friend Two and I don’t talk about it much. Why? Because whenever Friend Two starts ragging on Friend Three, I just sit silent till it’s over, since I like Friend Two, and I like Friend Three, too.
Friend Three, I’m sad to report, doesn’t like my first friend. As in really, really doesn’t like. But Friend Three doesn’t even bother talking trash to me about Friend One anymore, because Friend Three knows by this time that I won’t agree. I’ll just sit silent till it’s over, because I like Friend One as much as I like Friend Three. It’s all quite troubling. I want to show proper respect to Three — and to One, certainly — and, of course, to Two, too.
I realize that all these puzzling repugnances can be very confusing. Let me try to sort it all out for you:
- Friend One says Friend Two is a bad egg because Friend Two used to be friends with Friend Three.
- Friend Two, as far as I can tell, might still be friends with Friend Three to Three’s face, even though Two says bad things about Three to me.
- Friend Three might still be friends with Friend Two, I’m not sure — unless Friend Three knows that Friend Two says bad things about Three — although Friend Three wouldn’t know this from me, because I just sit silent and wait etc., etc., etc.
- This part I’m sure of: Friend Three doesn’t like Friend One because he or she says that he or she said something he or she shouldn’t have said he or she said. Clear?
Yes, New England is a harsh environment. (I mean the weather, of course.) But our forefathers were able to survive the rigors of such a place thanks to tolerance and mutual understanding. Perhaps when they couldn’t agree, they simply sat silent. Which could account for such phenomena as Calvin Coolidge.
Today, we have the privilege of following in their footsteps. Be careful not to trip over the bodies.
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