End of the Rope

We were at a friend’s home for dinner the other night, the first time since the pandemic hit that we thought about venturing out. Since the vaccine became available and more people are getting their shots, it’s becoming possible to do some things that in the past were ordinary but right now seem special.

The conversation meandered around from one subject to another, as it often does when friends get together, and at one point our host was talking about a young couple he knew who were dealing with an overbearing in-law/parent. He said that the father-in-law tried to provoke the young woman, but she didn’t take the bait. The phrase he used was, “She wouldn’t pick up her end of the rope.”

What great imagery that is. If you visualize ego-driven confrontations as a tug-of-war, then by far the best and easiest way to counter them is to refuse to pick up your end of the rope.

He grew up in the Midwest — Wisconsin, I believe — but I didn’t think to ask him if that was a regional idiom or one he picked up somewhere else (or made up himself). In any case, it’s good advice for all of us, I think. If we find ourselves being provoked into a confrontation, it’s a good technique to try, and an easy solution if it works.

We don’t have to pick up our end of the rope.

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A career working with teenagers on the fringes of society has made me both sensitive to and appreciative of the complexities of character and the struggles, inner and outer, that we all wrestle with in one form or another. My writing emphasizes character development over action, and, as a lifelong Southerner, the rhythms and cadence of the Southeastern United States influence both my spoken and written voice.

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