”If you hurt her, I’ll kill you.” – He said it with a handshake and a straight face. Because this man was her uncle, I took this to be a show of affection for her and a little bullshit male posturing.
I signaled that I understood with an “Okay” or “Yes sir”. It probably wasn’t “Yes sir” as he had already instructed me not to call him “sir”. I knew this was all part of the game. Not that his love for my girlfriend was disingenuous. He loved her very much and wanted to protect her from being hurt. This game was a way for him to haze me, to combine his primitive obligation to the herd with his inability to simultaneously adhere to social protocol and actually threaten me.
It is hard to remember what I actually said, as I was thinking something completely different – “Sir,” (again I go with “sir”) “I really wish I could promise you I would never hurt her. But that just seems unlikely. I love her very much, but we live in a society in which the divorce rate is said to be 50%. I have an aunt and uncle who sleep in separate bedrooms and another aunt and uncle who fight often about my family. It is said they may separate as a result. My parents live in different states and don’t talk. My father refuses to return phone calls from any of his three kids. These are the closest things to models of successful relationships I have. I suspect they have hurt their partners at least a few times throughout their relationships.
I can’t promise I won’t hurt her. I can promise I will never cheat on her or lie to her. I can promise I will love her, enabling her to hurt me. I will do all I reasonably can to make her happy. But I won’t choose her happiness over mine. So I probably will hurt her, just as she will likely hurt me. But I will never act selfishly and will do what I can to make this relationship work, because I love her and want her to be happy.”
Yeah, it was probably best just to say “Okay”…