Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Prologue



“I can’t believe you want to marry this guy!”

    That was the last thing I ever said to my sister.  At least it was the last thing of any real importance.  Our argument over her fiancé continued on from there, but it was clear she wasn’t listening to reason.  She was “in love,” which meant that her usually impeccable judge of character had been compromised.  Her view of the world was so distorted that she didn’t see that a future with Nelson was not something she really wanted.  She wouldn’t see that not one of her friends or acquaintances understood the coupling.  And she couldn’t see that we all discussed this fact ad nauseam behind her back.  She was “in love,” and neither I nor anyone else could talk her out of it.

    Of course, we still tried.  “We” isn’t really the right word.  Others confided in me that this could only end badly, but nobody had the guts to bring it up on their own.  Friends of my sister with whom I had never had more than a brief and awkward “Hello” with in my entire life would pull me aside to ask what I thought of Nelson.  Upon hearing that I shared their collective sentiment they would tell me I had to fix it.  That I was the only one who could fix it.  Friends are supposed to show support, but family could use the blood is thicker than water excuse to stage a socially acceptable intervention with minimal repercussions.  Thus the only party included in the “we” became “me.”  (Me, myself, and I actually, but what’s the difference?)

    So I was elected scapegoat, which brings us closer to my final line:  “I can’t believe you want to marry this guy!”

    I prefer not to recall any more of that conversation now, but I suppose it’s the best starting point.  She could and should have done better.  She was selling herself short.  Nelson had already proven himself to be controlling and smothering during their courtship, leaving my sister a mere shadow of her former self.  He had already been the death of her with his constant negativity, and he would continue to pull her further and further from her joyous true self if the relationship continued. 

    But it wasn’t too late for her to save her own soul.  Everyone makes mistakes, it’s just a matter of recognizing these mistakes early enough to correct them.  Since the relationship would in all certainty not last forever, the end result would be more easily achieved now before things would inevitably become complicated with wedding plans, shared finances, a home, and children.  (Thank god their union never resulted in kids!)  It would be so much better for everyone involved if she were to get out before it was too late.  I wanted to believe that she could break away, but I knew she’d never leave him.  Unfortunately, I turned out to be right.

    She said I was being unreasonable.  That settling down was just a part of growing up.  “Settling down” is a strange saying.  Conversationally it tends to mean staying put with a spouse and a home and a job and some kids, the good old-fashioned perfect American family.  And once in a blue your dreams come true and that blissful state is achieved.  But far too often people are pressured into initiating this chapter of life before they are ready for it.  The concept of “settling down” becomes very literal:  settle for less than your ideal, a lower mate that may not meet all of your standards just to have the charade of security.  And it is a charade.  Fall in love, settle down, be alone in a lonely town.  Eventually people figure out that this isn’t really the better life they had hoped for, leading to constant bickering, illicit affairs, trial separation and actual divorce.

    I thought I had a valid argument with the statistics to back it up, but as I said when you are blinded by “love” you don’t tend to listen to reason, especially if the “love” is of a more contrived and delusional variety.

    What is love?  What is life for that matter?  One is an illusion and the other is a dream.  But which is which?  They say love is a stream that will find its own course.  You just know it when you see it.  When you feel it.  But humans are often forced into a false feeling of love once the realities of life strip their idealism away. 

    I used to argue that love itself doesn’t actually exist at all, at least not in a concrete sense.  As I said, it’s always contrived and delusional to some degree.  You need to form your own definition and build on it over the course of a lifetime until you are left with the only answer.  That answer won’t come immediately, and you know it don’t come easy.  There will be many pitfalls, red herrings and false hopes along the way.  And in those very cases you need a good friend to set you straight; to show you the big picture and pull you out before you hurt yourself and everyone who cares about you. 

    That’s all I was really trying to do here.  Not that I should have expected to be listened to.  I’m not trying to sound blameless.  The blood is thicker than water concept was certainly good in theory, and had previously proven itself true in practice as well.

    I had always been rather protective of my sister.  This protectiveness most often manifested itself when it came to her selected boyfriends.  Nobody was ever quite good enough, and my opinion was always voiced.  Too mean, too smart, too arrogant, too nice, too mundane, too reclusive, too fake, too erratic of a speech pattern, too promiscuous, etc.  The list of faults went on and on. 

    There were even a few occasions when I attempted to set my sister up with my most trusted friends, but those pairings would also end with my own objections when I came to realize that the qualities I sought in a friendship were not suitable traits in a mate for my sibling.  Some might say I should have held my tongue and let her learn her own lessons, but there was a part of my conscience that just wouldn’t let me.  The voice inside my head that couldn’t let me live with the guilt of knowing that my implied consent could possibly lead to a future disaster.  So my mind was always spoken, and that may have had a lot to do with the sick irony of what actually played out.

    My sister did marry Nelson, and I blamed myself for the entire thing.  Had I not allowed her into my inner circle she likely wouldn’t have been at the card game where they met.  And had I not become known as the boy who cried wolf in my previous boyfriend objections, perhaps I would have been listened to when this most crucial case came along. 

    Everyone tells me it was just a series of coincidences that I had no real part in, but I know better.  Maybe they think I take solace in assigning the blame to myself rather than putting it back on her.  Or perhaps I need to occupy my guilty conscience with feeble attempts to reconstruct what might have been different since this wasn’t supposed to happen.

    You may come to the conclusion after reading this that it really was my fault, though that will depend on your feelings regarding which one of us is me.  But hopefully you’ll also see that it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

    If only...