One of many things I learned when I was a young man with a pregnant wife, was that there are people who get some sort of perverse pleasure by telling other people worrisome things about experiences they are facing. As my wife’s belly grew bigger, it became almost common for her to hear tales about other women who’d suffered through difficult deliveries. Sometimes the tellers of those tales were the women who’d had those experiences, but more often the stories were second-hand accounts of people they’d known or heard about—women who’d suffered and sometimes died doing the thing my wife was going to do within a few weeks.
I was young and naïve, and extremely puzzled as I tried to figure out why anyone would plant worry in someone’s mind, or would try to increase apprehension in an expectant mother.
But I’ve seen that kind of behavior countless times since then, and I can almost hear it coming when someone’s about to piss in someone else’s punchbowl; I can detect the change in their tone; I can hear the phony concern intended to mask the malevolence that motivates such people to tell their sorry stories. It’s sugar-coated meanness, with an undercurrent of sadism.
I have been blissfully free of surgical procedures over the course of my lifetime, but I did have my wisdom teeth removed a couple of decades ago. When I mentioned my upcoming extraction to co-workers, a couple of them had stories about people they knew who had suffered dental horror stories. If I remember correctly, one such story involved a guy who died from an infection that followed the extraction of his wisdom teeth. Other stories involved post-op pain and suffering of gothic proportions.
Not long ago, my daughter was talking with a “friend” who engaged in this same sort of anxiety-producing storytelling, sharing things that would have been far better left unsaid.
When my kid told me about her heightened concerns, I asked what had gotten her upset.
“My friend, (name withheld), told me about what had happened to her friend, (name withheld).”
“Kelly,” I told my beloved child, “(name withheld) is not your friend.”
Human nature hasn’t changed a whit since I learned that lesson back when my wife was pregnant. It’s a lesson I’d share with anyone who might ask. If someone tells you an ugly story about an operation you’re about to have, or an experience you’re about to undergo, that person is not your friend. Or, at the very least, not a friend worth keeping.