B came home this evening and reported that she'd had lunch with a friend of hers today. I know her friend, and her family, a little bit anyway. And so I asked: Any news?
B told me that her friend's sister-in-law is getting divorced. It's strange, reflected B, because this woman had lived with the man for about ten years before they got married. Then they had a baby. Now the kid is eight years old, and they're getting a divorce.
Hmmm, yeah, that's kind of strange, I agreed. Seems like they could have figured out after ten years whether they were compatible or not. But, you know, a kid changes things.
B shook her head. Well, I've met this woman, she said. And I can see how it might be kind of difficult to live with her.
I laughed. Yep, that's strange.
But that's not the really strange thing I wanted to tell you about, said B. What happened was, my friend told me that she's friends with this other couple. And they have another couple they're friends with, and the two couples and their families went on vacation together over Christmas. I guess their families had been on vacation together before, several times, but this time the two sons got into a fight. The boys are around 22 or 23 years old. They've been friends their entire lives. And they got into a fight. Over a girl.
Apparently, the kids had been drinking, and they got into an argument and ended up outside in the hotel parking lot in a fist fight. One of the boys was knocked unconscious. When he came to, he got up and went after his friend with a bottle. He hit him, he broke the bottle, cut his friend and drew blood. Both the boys ended up in the hospital.
B and I both shook our heads. How do two kids who've been friends for their whole lives end up getting into a real fist fight? Not just a shoving match, or yelling at each other. But punching each other until they were bleeding and knocked out and taken to the hospital?
I remember the last fight I had. I was in sixth grade. I lost. I'll tell you about it sometime. But the point is, I was 12 years old, not in my 20s.
I do recall, once, two of my uncles getting into a fight. When they were in their 40s. We were at a family gathering -- it must have been Thanksgiving, when my grandmother was still alive and the whole group got together at my aunt's house and played touch football and hiked in the woods behind my aunt's house and spent the rest of the afternoon eating and -- yeah, the adults did a little drinking, too.
My dad's family was a large immigrant family with lots of kids -- my dad had three brothers and two sisters. They were a competitive bunch, especially the males, and even I knew as a child that they had lots of built-up resentments, because the two older brothers were more successful than the two younger brothers, and they were richer, and they felt that they were better than their two younger brothers and made no secret about it.
And I remember one day I was sitting outside on my aunt's front porch, and my dad's older brother was arguing with one of the younger brothers -- I think it was something about their kids. And get this -- the younger brother had had polio as a kid, and now walked with a cane, but suddenly he lunged at his older brother, pushed him back and shoved him up against a stone wall, yelling at him all the time, until my grandmother stomped out of the house and called to them to stop, right this minute -- and my dad, who was the skinniest and nerdiest of the bunch, finally ran up and stepped between them.
But that was, literally, 50 years ago. And a rough-hewn immigrant family. By now, I thought, fighting was a lost art -- that we've all become too civilized to actually get into a fist fight anymore. Instead, we argue, harbor resentments, talk behind people's backs, pass on malicious gossip, withhold affection or give our enemies the silent treatment.
I don't know where I'm going with this. I guess I'm just wondering: Have you gotten into any fights lately? What is really worth coming to blows about? Fighting over a girl? Over money? Over long-held resentments? It all seems like something out of an old black-and-white movie, not something that happened last week over Christmas vacation, among modern, civilized, suburban middle-class families.