something to chew on

"You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him." --James D Mills

When it came time to look for companionship, I decided to use this quote as my guide. During my teens and young adulthood, mother would advise me to take notice of the way a potential boyfriend would treat his mother or sisters, and to carefully listen to how he would talk about his family. "Pay attention to the little everyday things. This will give you a pretty good indication of how a boyfriend might behave as your husband," she counseled.

Either I didn't heed mother's advice, or I was an awful judge of character when it came to choosing a husband. Twice burned, I didn't even consider marrying for a third time. But once I started dating again, I understood my standards would need to be a little higher if I were to ever consider delving into a relationship.

Not every man I dated had a particularly good character, mind you. But in the early days of my singlehood, I wasn't looking for commitment. Still ambivalent about relationships, I only sought attention, excitement, and the momentary pleasures that dating brings. But after going out with eighteen different men over a period of two years, I met Max. I knew he was different on our very first meeting, but didn't fully appreciate the depths his character.

Then we went shopping at BJ's, a membership-only wholesale club that Max, a bonafied power buyer, frequents. Ordinarily after shopping at BJ's with my boyfriend, I come away with one thought: "Why the heck does this man think we need a 5-pack of barbeque sauce?" But on this particular shopping excursion, I left realizing that I was the person who walked away with such a find.

Loaded down with what turned out to be $400 in merchandise after an hour of shopping, Max and I proceeded to the self check-out stand. It took some time to not only scan but also pack the large amount of groceries into the shopping cart, even with two people working together. An impatient woman, accompanied by a small child, couldn't wait for us to finish checking out. Max and I still had more than half the items to load, when we noticed her groceries barreling down the conveyer belt and into our purchases. Max said nothing, as we carefully tried to discern what was hers and what was ours. It wasn't until we left the store that Max spoke.

"I can't believe how rude that woman was! Why didn't she let us finish?"

Still, it was a small inconvenience. Shrugging it off as we loaded the car, I noticed a pack of Bubblicious bubble gum, and started to make fun of Max's purchase.

"I didn't see you get this. Are you a 12-year old, or what?" I dangled the gum in his face.

"It's not mine," he replied. "I guess it belongs to that woman or her son."

"Oh well! It's their loss." I began to fling the gum in the car when Max stopped me.

"No. Keep an eye out for them. See if they exit, and we'll return the gum," he requested.

I thought this effort to be a little ridiculous, but complied with Max's request. By the time he finished loading our stuff, I still hadn't spotted the woman or her son.

"They must have left already. Let's get home," I said.

But Max disagreed. He took the Bubblicious back into the store, and located its rightful owner.

"That's ok. The clerk already gave me a new pack," the woman flatly stated as she walked by without stopping. There was no "thank you", no "sorry about the confusion." This woman had been rude during check out, why should Max be surprised that she wasn't more polite on their second meeting?

You can easily judge the character of a man (or woman) by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.

However, the Bubblicious not withstanding, it was actually my bubble that had been burst. I recognized that while the woman hadn't showed much in the way of character, neither had I. With a small, simple gesture Max had shamed us both. He wasn't trying to demonstrate his superiority to me or anyone else. Max was just being Max. He took another few minutes to return the Bubblicious to a check-out clerk, who thanked him for his honesty. I thanked him for his example.

I always felt that I was a good-hearted, honest person with a strong character.Still, I would not have made the effort under similar circumstances. Max's was a small gesture, but it spoke volumes as to his character. And, hopefully, I got the message loud and clear. When contemplating a relationship, it is a good to pay close attention to your partner, just don't forget to also examine youself.


Siryn said...

Well said. You have a good man, there!

Egan said...

You have a good man there in this Max guy, but hats off to you for noticing how your jugding of the rude customer wasn't great. I like this post very much as I catch myself doing stuff similar often. (got here from Jennifer: Open Book's blog)

Just a trumpet player said...

Could you please clone Max ? Or does he have a brother ??

utenzi said...

From what you've said in the past about Max, Diane, his behavior is just what I would expect. Exemplary.

David said...

Maybe he just doesn't like Bubblicious?? LOL

All kidding aside, sounds like a great guy.

mollymcmommy said...

diane, i really like this post, my heart is sighing over max :)

what a great guy you have :)


├ůsa said...

Diane: your mom gives great advice!

Max sounds like such a through and through good hearted person. You must be too since he loves you. I’m glad you found each other. Good comes to them who waits.

Mindless Dribbler said...

Daaang, your Mom is one smart cookie.

Tell ya what, Max is a better man that I am. I would be blowing bubbles with that gum on the way home.

meno said...

A small moment that turned into a big moment.

AmyD said...

This doesn't surprise me a bit - Max is a solid person all around, and you are BOTH lucky to have one another! Such a great example of what little things can do...even if that rude lady didn't "get it," you did...and look where it took you! Such a wonderful love story. :o)

Sarah said...

Wow, what Max did... I bet only 1 in 100 would do the same.

ms chica said...

Above and beyond. I never knew shopping together was such a tell all. I always thought a good assessment was how a person responded in heavy traffic.