So Nervous, Old, and Hairy

He said, "You'd best know I am unreliable, that I am a poor friend."
"A poor friend is better than none," I replied...
"I have not always obeyed the law," Glendon stated.
"Nor I my conscience."
He considered me. "I have seen the inside of more than one jail cell. It is nothing I am proud of nor would mention except you have a fine family. Also, I take a drink of whiskey now and again."
I said, "I am a fraud and impostor and for at least two years have lied regularly to many people, including my wife. Very soon now I will be found out and lose what small reputation I have managed to acquire."

- a conversation between Glendon Hale and Monte Becket in Leif Enger's So Brave, Young, and Handsome

Before the grand adventure in Enger's new novel even begins, an honest conversation occurs between these two men. Oh, there's still some cards they're playing close to the vest, but they go this far at least. That's farther than most men go in conversations, maybe even most women.

I tried to imagine this exchange taking place in churches I've known. And hard as I tried, I couldn't conjure up the image. The only time I recall ever hearing anything even remotely close to words like these were from the parched lips of the drug addict or the shifty voice of the high stakes gambler who'd found the Lord, turned from their wicked ways, and set about on the straight and narrow. And even in those examples, there were never two voices heard, but one: the sinner's monologue.

Before you start out on any adventure, be it grand or not-so, it seems wise to go this far at least. There'll be much more that emerges along the way with time and trust. But you've got to put a few cards on the table at the outset; 'fess up to unreliability or a drink of whiskey now and again.

Most of us, at the beginning of adventures such as a job, marriage, friendship, or the school year put out best foot forward. We look our best, shine our shoes, comb our hair, brush our teeth, and mind our manners. First impressions are important, right? But we set ourselves up for a fall, sometimes a great fall. Why? Because we're all poor friends, we've all disobeyed our conscience, we've all lied at one time or another, we're all unreliable, and we're all frauds and impostors.

Everybody wants to be so brave, young, and handsome. I know I do. But I know I'm not.


  1. John, it has been awhile since I've posted to Dirty Shame. Miss you but so glad to stay in touch in this manner. Just introduced your blog to a friend who has been in the midst of job hunting for some time. Hope he'll introduce himself. Enjoyed reading about Mer's description of your AR trek. Just wish that Arkadoo could have been part of it.

  2. That is the key, isn't it? Not allowing our "dirty shame" to get in the way of others' and our own healing and growth. I believe we must release it, but never forget its historycin us.

    Enger's book is on my must read list!