We used to have this group of friends we hung out with a little. We liked them for the guys. The guys were generally interesting and intelligent. When you like a group of people for the guys, you have to just take the girls that come with them. I’m not saying you’re more likely to like a group for the guys than for the girls, just that when you like a group for the guys, the woman half of the pair suffers. In this situation, that’s Macy. We would go to these gatherings and me and the guys would be laughing and having a good time, and Macy would be over with the wives picking her way through a conversation about grocery bargains. Sweet ladies and all, but dull as public television.
Then I noticed that she started gravitating to this one girl- the last girl you’d ever expect to see Macy with. One of the more annoying people I’ve ever known, to be honest. A one-upper, a name dropper, an interrupter and an over-discloser, all wrapped up in one, with an extra helping of crazy. The night I noticed Macy talking to her new friend, we left the party and I asked why Macy had spent the night talking to that one woman, when there were several friendlier people around to chat with. “Better a Freak than a Dud,” she said.
Turns out this is good advice. No one wants to be a jerk, but as companions at a party go, you can do worse than a jerk. Chatting with a jerk or a weirdo can often be interesting. They can bring out the worst in you, which can be kind of fun depending on the particular vice that is accentuated- maybe its gossip, or gluttony, or sloth. They’re likely to say uncomfortable or controversial things you might enjoy arguing with, or which you might secretly agree with and enjoy hearing someone say out loud. “Who ever thought of seven layer bean dip?” they might say, “this stuff is disgusting!” And you might smile tightly, signaling a distant agreement while maintaining a slight gleam of disapproval in your eyes. “Can you believe all the immigrants at the mall lately?” the mean person would say, and you would glance over your shoulder to see if there’s anyone to exchange an embarrassed sidelong glance with, and end up horrified all by yourself. Even in the worst case scenario, you have a horrible time with this awful person, but still end up getting loads of quotes and faux pas to take with you to tell at other parties. Freaks bring a long-term payoff. Duds may offer the temporary security of predictability, but so does an anesthesiologist. And you’re no richer a human being when you come to after the lobotomy.
Better this guy than a dud
One time we went to a dinner put on by a law firm in D.C. where I was pretty new. Instead of getting seated with other lawyers, we ended up having to sit with the recruiting staff, plus one anonymous attorney and his mute wife. I was already cursing at this classic dud situation. But you can’t sum up a dud situation before the drinks are served. Several glasses of wine later, we’re taking questions about our Mormon underwear and the mute wife sincerely wants to know how we Mormons get by driving a horse and carriage around the District. Before that night was over, my temple recommend had been passed around the table for careful examination by eight inebriated, indelicate strangers. These guys were jerks– but not duds. Best time I ever had at that firm.
Do yourself a favor and trust Macy on this. Given the choice, go for the freak over the dud every time. Better a rant on the lack of good direct flights to Milan than an earnest smile; better staring down the depths of insanity than nodding through a time freeze. Better a freak than a dud.