Whatever Happened to Conner MacBride?

Thoughts of peer pressure bring a parent’s worst fears to mind: sex; drugs; uncategorized acts of stupidity; the fact that our kids cannot be who they are when they are the most themselves. When they get home at night, there is no escape from the peacocking of peers on Instagram and Vine, teasing over twitter, or the torment on Facebook. And even we, in our adult dignity, are not immune. There are the ladies in the garden club with their hats; the bosses whose only ethic is a personal P&L; and gossip at the church fish fry. How many times have we watched as someone was treated unfairly at work, and yet we could not intervene?

There is another kind of peer pressure too.

Peer Pressure, Friendship, Manliness

Rough Boys

One night sometime back in high school when we were still young and indestructible, we were out drinking too much with friends and the friends-of-friends. These were not the “good” kids. They were the ones who smoked between class, if they went to class at all. They got into fights and got suspended. They painted curses on the walls. Several of the boys had used the heaviest drugs, the ones we were taught to fear. Yes, I drank, and I was too young. But I never was tempted by or desired those other drugs.

But on this night of whisky, beer and diminished judgment, someone pulled out psychedelic mushrooms and it caused me to pause. They seemed more interesting. They seemed more aligned with my seventeen year old poetic and philosophic nature. So as the plastic bag was passed from person-to-person sitting in a circle on the floor, my curiosity and interest grew.

To my right sat Conner MacBride. We were friendly, no doubt, but he was not among my closest friends. He consumed the heaviest drugs in the largest portions. There were rumors about is home. Rumors that no one wanted to imagine true. Sometime much later, he would be kicked out of school and sent away.

The mushrooms were passed from hand-to-hand, from stranger-to-friend and to Conner MacBride. Then, suddenly, they leapt past me in a toss. Conner MacBride, that lotus-eater, the child that all of the parents feared, looked me straight in the eyes, raised the whisky bottle level with our gaze, and told me with great sobriety that if he ever heard I was doing drugs, he would smash the bottle over my head. “You are the only one in this room that has a chance,” he said, “you are worth more than this.”

Where did you go, Conner MacBride? What happened to you, and to all the people in our lives, those somewhere between friend and stranger, who watch over us from the margins and shadows like angels who have fallen and know how much it hurts?

Our friends will be there for us time-and-time again, year-after-year, but sometimes they too will let us down. Sometimes our dearest friends are the ones who administer the pressure we fear. They are after all, just as flawed and tempted and confused as any of us. Honor this truth. Forgive them. Keep them in your hearts. But sometimes what we need are our tarnished peers. Sometimes the pressure from those around us is not something to be feared. Tender moments are often shared in the harshest of ways and in the darkest of places.

I don’t know now if I would have tasted the mushrooms on that night. Or if I had, whether the arc of my life would have shifted. But looking in the dilated unblinking eyes of someone no one trusted, I learned that trust was the only thing that mattered. That the day-in, day-out decency we offer one another, that our humanity demands we offer, sometimes makes a difference without us ever knowing. That if we honor ourselves by honoring others, that others will be there in dark rooms giving back, so brutally, so beautifully.

Photo credit to: http://theresablackandwhiterainbowtoday.blogspot.com/2013/02/travel-through-time.html

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8 Comments

  1. Beautiful Sean, that is a wonderful memory you shared… having had a few of those moments myself, you captured it perfectly.

  2. A beautiful essay about honoring others and appreciating the contribution they make in our lives. Well done, Sean.

  3. This post sparked a memory I had not thought of in years. And I can relate to this so much. I was raised with a strict, religious and rigid upbringing however, the people in my circle who were causing the mischief were my 1st cousins. We were a large group and they all had some type of habit whether it be consuming alcohol, smoking marijuana and God only knows what else. I was the youngest in the pack. I would always hang with them because in my case, my cousins were my first introduction to “Best Friends”. The funny thing is I was really scared to experiment with such acts because I was afraid that my parents and grandparents would crucify me. My cousins would all gather at the meeting “spot” and continue to indulge in their recreation but not I. One day I said you now what, I think I I’m ready to try it all. Do you know I encountered the same experience. Everyone shouted in the room and said “NO WAY” you are a “The Good Girl” out of all of us so none for you!…That’s where I can pin point how my Pepsi addiction started. LOL… Great post!…I too wonder if I had picked up such habits would I have achieved what I have thus far. I just read this morning a quote that said “The journey is as important as the destination” – Author Unknown

    • Thanks for your comments, and for sharing your story too, Hope. It is incredible that if we go about being who we are in our best moments, the people around us want to support that.

  4. Wow Sean. I really like this. Truly our whole broader community, even those we least expect, can provide support.

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