Once not a gentleman, always not a gentleman
I met a college acquaintance I hadn’t seen in 10 years for brunch this week, and when he leaned in to kiss me on the cheek he asked if I’d like to sit at the bar while we waited for a table.
“At the bar?” I said.
Sometimes I still think I’m in college, when a pricey drink and brunch would be out of my weekend budget. But my friend deftly picked up the tab for both of us, smoothly dropping two 20s to cover our mimosas. He paid for brunch, too, and I found myself surprised at how easy it was to talk to him. He inquired about my scrambled eggs, politely offered to let me try his smoked bacon, and I wondered if this was the same guy who’d spent a two-hour lunch my sophomore year pointing out his sparkling qualities and then made me split the check.
Apparently, a lot has changed since then.
“A perfect gentleman,” I gushed to a girlfriend later.
In school my friend was a typical financef major: cocky, arrogant, selfcentered. ct
Money-focused and egotistical. Like a
( lot of men I knew (
I know?), he pressed to make sure I understood what a catch he was. TheT better catch of the two of us, he always seemed to be saying. He liked to hammer his message into me whenever we got together, which was less and less frequent over time.
But during the course of our brunch, my memory of the domineering man faded and I developed a new impression of him. Perhaps the abrasive person I’d known had morphed into an expansive, kind fellow.
“People don’t change,” my girlfriend said with a dismissive shrug.
“Well, this guy did,” I answered stiffly.
In the parking lot outside the restaurant, I thanked him for the lovely meal. As we began to part ways, I asked in passing if he played Words with Friends.
“Sometimes,” he said. “I’ll look you up. ”
He sent me a game request before I even made it home. He spelled “H-EN” for his opening salvo, and I shook my head. Novice.
Now, I love Words with Friends, like I love Scrabble, like I love every
competitive game ever invented. But I hate hate to lose. So when my old college friend proceeded to pummel me, I was less than thrilled. And here’s the thing: It wasn’t a soft pummel or a friendly pummel or even a lightly competitive pummel. No, he pummeled me into the ground. Even when the breath had been knocked out of me, even when I limped off the playing field, even when he had a solid 200-point lead, he continued to beat be mercilessly.
Not such a gentleman, after all.
I was quickly reminded why we weren’t better friends in college, why his need to feel superior in every situation grated on me, and why his lack of basic courtesy left me cold. He’d managed to keep that side of himself concealed through the space of brunch, but Words with Friends brought out the worst — and truest — parts of his personality.
It turns out he hasn’t changed at all. ¦