Today’s Sunday Styles section in the Times didn’t hold much interest for me until I spied the headline of “The Age of Dissonance,” a small column that I generally ignore. This week’s entry, How to Avoid, Well, You, struck a queasy chord of familiarity–it deals with avoiding people not because they’ve offended you, but because you’ve offended them. Reading it, I immediately flashed back to a party I held at my house several years ago. My ex and I were friends with a lesbian couple I’ll call Sam and Sue, who were in a years-long relationship and had invited us to dinner at their home several times. A few months before our party, Sam and Sue had gone through a pretty messy breakup. Sam showed up solo at our party, where she didn’t happen to know many people. So I was blithely introducing her around to the other guests; after several introductions, she put her hand on my arm and leaned in close and said “Um, Jen? I’m Sam.” I realized I’d been telling everyone her name was Sue. Mortified that I’d been dragging her around and addressing her as the person who had recently broken her heart, I blurted out a quick apology and fled. For years after that, I would preemptively scan bars, clubs, and restaurants and duck out if I saw her, rather than risk running into this very nice woman whom I’d insulted. Finally we crossed paths at an event, and she was perfectly friendly and natural and probably had no memory of the faux pas that still makes me cringe seven years after the fact.

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