For my blog post today about Roger Morris' Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician, I'll quote two passages, then I will comment. The subject matter of these passages is Thelma "Pat" Ryan, who would become the wife of Richard Nixon. The setting for these passages is the time when Pat was a young woman, before she married Nixon.
The first passage is on
page 214: "In her absence Francis Duke at Seton was 'moping around all
the time,' an aunt wrote Patricia. But she made no effort to renew the
relationship, and while there were again at USC numerous dates and
offers, she kept the distance and freedom that were now her
habit...After one date, a young admirer sent her a wistful note about
the pleasant yet penetrable hedge surrounding her seductive beauty. 'I
was just struck by the thought that I knew so...little about you after
being at your feet a whole lovely evening,' he wrote. 'There was so
much beneath the surface,' observed a girlfriend, 'and so few had the
opportunity to find it.'"
The second passage is on page 216:
"'Never talk about anybody in Whittier----they're all related to one
another in some way or another,' a colleague knowingly advised her early
in the term...'You take a woman as young and beautiful as Pat Ryan was
then and put her in a faculty of older women,' a friend would say
afterward of the jealousies, 'and you've got certain trouble.'"
These passages bring a number of things to my mind.
I don't date much. Part of it is that I am shy and rather aloof, as
Pat was. Unlike Pat, however, I don't have a whole lot of popularity.
Regarding my looks, well, she was a better looking woman than I am a man
(actually, she was stunning!), but I look all right, I guess. She
probably had more opportunities for dates than I do! She chose not to
date that much, though, because she liked her freedom, and her sense of
distance from men had become habitual. In a sense, I am in that boat.
Unlike Pat, I would like to date more often than I do, but I do enjoy my
freedom, on some level, plus I have been the way that I am for many
years. Not only is my romantic aloofness a habit, but I have difficulty
imagining things being any different in my life.
I should note that, earlier in the book, Morris says that one reason
that Nixon's relationship with a longtime girlfriend (Ola Florence
Welch) worked as well as it did was they they were both shy. (Morris
may have said this, or he was quoting someone who said this. I don't
remember.) I can identify with that: simply being quiet around another
person, and both people in the relationship enjoying each other's
company, with neither having to perform for the other (by being funny,
or witty, etc.). The thing is, though, there were things about Nixon
that attracted her: his looks, his acting ability, his intelligence.
Moreover, she eventually broke up with Nixon because she thought someone
else was more fun!
2. Pat could
walk away from a relationship and ignore it. Why am I so reluctant to
pursue or maintain relationships? Is it because I fear rejection? Do I
believe that socializing with people is a waste of time? Am I afraid
that the relationship will go sour? Do I fear not being socially-adept
within the relationship? Am I so comfortable being alone, and being
able to do what I want in terms of hobbies, that I don't want to clutter
my time with people (even though there have been times when I could use
somebody to talk to, but I've felt alone due to my failure to cultivate
relationships)? Are there people who annoy me? I think that all of
these are factors behind my reluctance to pursue relationships. I'm
afraid to go too deep in terms of relationships with people. But have
there been times when I have had a good conversation with someone about a
topic of mutual interest? Yes.
3. People knew so little about
Pat. I know little about other people, since I don't always know how to
go beyond the superficial obligatory social niceties (i.e., How are
you?). I suppose that I can ask people what they did on a given week,
providing them with an opportunity to share a little about themselves. I
wouldn't want to come across as nosy, but I'd want to communicate that
I'm interested in what's going on in their lives. Would I like for
people to ask me about my week? Perhaps. The thing is, I usually don't
know what to say in response. I feel that my life is pretty
uneventful. But, come to think of it, maybe I can talk some about my
schoolwork, or things that I am reading, or shows that I am watching. I
am often reluctant to do so, since I am afraid that people won't be
interested. Maybe they wouldn't be, but they may politely listen and
express concern for me as a person, the same way that I am not always
interested in what people talk to me about, and yet I am polite and
sincerely wish them the best.
4. The part about not talking about
people in the second passage stood out to me. There's wisdom in that:
You have to watch what you say about people, since those people may
catch wind of what you said about them! The thing is, talking about
others is a way many people bond in conversation. One reason is that
talking about people can entail honesty. If I ask someone what she
thinks about her job or a class, if she honestly told me that she didn't
care for it, I would feel closer to her, since she's being honest. The
thing is, she can't be that honest with everyone, in every place, for
what would happen to her if her boss or her professor learned of what
she said and became offended? I suppose that there are many situations
in which things are this delicate. Many people, however, have someone
who is distant from their job or their school, to whom they can vent.