I find that as I grow older I become much less inclined to argue with people or to defend myself against unfair accusations--and I am wondering now whether this is because I have matured or simply because I’ve grown lazy or apathetic.
I’ll give you an example (as obviously something has caused this to be on my mind, right?).
I have a friend here named Victor. Originally from Stoke, England, he has lived now in Bali for 5 years or so--ever since he married a Balinese woman by the name of Iluh. Victor is a short, aggressive, scrappy sort of guy who had previously lived a rather hard life--in and out of trouble, in and out of bars, in and out of strange women’s beds.
Now Victor has slowed down (at 63), but he still likes to drink, and he still likes his freedom. In the past year I would see Vick perhaps once a week, when he would call and ask if I “fancied a pint.” This, of course, would turn into well more than “a pint,” but then he would go home and that would be the end of it for another week.
However, we have now moved to a house just a few houses up the street from Vick, and so he is now inclined to show up every day, very often wondering if I fancy a pint.
The trouble is, Victor’s rather proper, tea-tottling wife has decided that I am responsible for the beers he drinks and for the cigarettes he smokes, neither of which substances she can abide.
Okay, so I smoke--in fact much more than I or anyone else should smoke--but I’m not much of a beer drinker. The fact is, in the absence of Victor, I generally do not drink at all. I’ve nothing against it, mind you. It’s just not all that tasty, and it’s way too expensive here in Bali with the alcohol tax that is attached.
So yesterday I received a long text message from Iluh in which I was accused of corrupting poor Vick, forcing him to smoke and drink, and so on.
This is where old age comes in--for in the past I would most certainly have been inclined to immediately shoot back a better, harder, ruder message, whereas now I seem more inclined to shrug a shoulder and dismiss the matter.
And yet, it does in some way eat at me, for I wonder if silence is tantamount to agreement. By refusing to speak, do I justify the attack? Do I foster the impression that this sort of thing is appropriate?
On the other hand, I wonder what could be gained were I to join the fray. Would I not then find myself having to bust on Victor? Would I not, out of personal pride, end up merely a tattletale?
And then again I think, well perhaps it’s just better to leave things this way--for Victor will likely show up for fewer pints and fewer cigarettes, which altogether saves me time and money. Right?
It remains therefore a bit of a quandary. In Iluh’s mind, I force Vick to smoke and encourage him to drink. I am not a friend to him, she says. In my mind I am his friend, but not his mother. I somehow just cannot picture myself snatching a cigarette from Victor’s hand or refusing to share a pint, even when I might fancy one myself. He is, after all, a grown man--and an older one than I at that!