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Commentary: I Can Always Bail

By Rawlins Gilliland, KERA 90.1 commentator

Commentary: I Can Always Bail

Dallas, TX –

My Dad, like his Dad before him, made it clear to me that he considered a commitment of one's word to be the gold standard when measuring one's character. My question is, is it me, or have we become a society where, in the vernacular of the street slang, "I can always bail?" Meaning: "I have an out when and if I choose to terminate anything." It's like our 2005 code of conduct has been rewritten by shady lawyers.

Oh, for the good old days when the main place one heard a meaningless promise was at the end of the evening, when a date said "I'll call you." Today, to the general populace, "It's a free country" seemingly means, "I'm free to reevaluate anything at any time and in-the-moment intent is what matters, not eventual follow-through."

I've been honestly shocked at the otherwise well-intended personal promises made to me that have, when the time came, become inoperative. I've also been reminded by friends or family that a promise I have made to someone else was not, "written in stone." In other words, "Rawlins, you can always bail."

When I say to someone, "But you said you would," I hear the impatient, defensive, retaliatory rhetorical, "I meant to, I usually do, I will next time, I wanted to, I always have in the past," etc. This from someone who emphatically assured me that, absolutely, they would, in fact, do something. When pressed, their ultimate position becomes "Get over it." This snide dismissal means, "Anything to which I commit is strictly contingent upon evolving variables." In other words, when push comes to shove, "I can always bail."

Marketing tells us anything's replaceable and everything's expendable. We've become fickle. People change homes, cars and jobs more often than Ivana Trump changes clothes. Fickle, and cold. Friends get pets, and after I meet them, they disappear. "The dog was too hyper for me," or, "The parrot was cute but it talked all the time!" Imagine!

I've known persons who, the minute they suffered financial reversals, filed for bankruptcy. A close friend's daughter casually announced she'd had her third abortion. At 30 years old, she's "not ready to have children." She could have fooled me. This same daughter told her mother that, "When you get old, I'll take care of you!" Wanna take that bet?

One couple I know drove to pick up their sons at camp two weeks early because the "boys were ready to leave." After 11 years of marriage, they said they're filing for divorce because "we both need room to grow." Grow into what? Narcissists? Sounds like the Yuppie, Gen-X, Gen-Y and Gen-Whatever anthem is that old Sammy Davis, Jr. song, "I Gotta Be Me."

All this mousy vacillation discourages me. Take this one to the bank: the grass has always seemed greener. But the spirit of today is, "Life is short, so I should run barefoot through as much grass as I can." I think someone is going to wake up one day, alone, with green feet. But hey, "I gotta be me...what else can I be but what I am..."


Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas. If you have opinions or questions about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.