My son was telling me about one of the people he met during an online gaming session. He said this kid was a friend of another kid he knew, which caused me to ask, “So, is this new kid like the old kid? Because as I recall, the old kid is kind of a jerk, and you’re known by the company you keep … “
And that made me remember when I first heard that line.
I was perhaps eighteen. I ran into my old boss one day while walking around the town I lived in, and we chatted and caught up a bit. He told me he was surprised to see me as he’d read an article in the local paper about how a local girl had run off with the carnival and he figured it was me. I was stunned. “Me?! Run off with the carnival? Are you kidding? You must be kidding!”
“Well, you’re known by the company you keep, and you were keeping company with carnies, as I recall.”
“I was not! I was keeping company with Mona, and Mona was keeping company with carnies!”
“As I was saying …”
I think it wasn’t until that moment that I finally understood the whole concept of that birds-of-a-feather thing. I mean understood in my guts kind of way. You can grasp concepts in your head, then eventually those concepts can settle the 18 inches down to your heart where you really feel them, but this one I felt in my gut, meaning I felt absolutely punched by it.
I knew how people thought about Mona. She was a rebel, a wild child, an out of control girl. There are other, worse, words that people used. But she was my friend (for some reason, but that’s another post) and I always stuck up for her because that’s what friends do. I also had some misplaced sense that she needed me to look after her, to make sure she didn’t get herself into even worse trouble. I’m not saying I was an angel or anything, but I wasn’t on Mona’s level of wild either.
But people thought I was because I was her friend.
Up until that day I ran into my boss, I assumed that people knew I wasn’t like Mona. She’d lived in that town her whole life and people knew her. I’d only lived there a couple years. My boss was a Deputy Sheriff on his day job, he only owned the store were I worked as a secondary income. His kids had gone to school with her most of their lives. And he told me that if she’d applied for a job at his store, he wouldn’t have hired her. He almost didn’t hire me because I was her friend.
You’re known by the company you keep.
It had been some months between the time I left that job and the time I ran into my boss, and a lot had happened. Namely, Mona and I had had a falling out, the kind that probably only seventeen year old girls can have. She’d been living with me and my mother, step-father, and step-brother (sorry, can’t even try to say family anymore!) for a couple of years until our fallout and after that, I don’t know where she went. I never renewed our friendship, although she and I did have one phone conversation a few years later. I realized that whatever I thought there had been to our friendship, wasn’t. We wouldn’t be friends if we met now, and we surely shouldn’t have been friends back then. But, it’s hard to know that when you’re fourteen, the age I was when I met her.
The age my son is now.
I can only pass on the lessons I’ve learned, like my boss passed that one on to me. It’s a good lesson! I wish I’d learned it sooner!