Sunday, 17 March 2013

The dangers of reminiscing!

I have a couple of very old friends. We've been friends since we were all 14 years old.  That's 35 years of friendship. We've just had a week-end of pampering in a Spa Hotel together - a joint 50th birthday celebration for us all (one of us is 51, I've just turned 50 and one is due to be 50 in a few months time)

We don't see each other that often, but enough to keep the friendship going. As is often the case, there is a fulcrum person - the one who is friends with each of the other two, more than the other two are directly friends with each other. That's certainly the case with us (and it's not me). The fulcurm person is fighting cancer - deeply worrying, but so far so good. We don't talk about it - other medical friends have been pessimistic, but so far so good. Who knows how long she's got? I keep expecting to lose her in a matter of months, and then she seems fine again so I think 'oh, maybe she WILL beat the odds - she will be the one who does get to have more years than those medical friends suggested was likely'.

But that doesn't stop the normal grittiness and difficulties of a friendship - although it does stop me wanting to tackle the issues with her.

Basically she really hurt my feelings today - and opened a wound she'd only opened quite recently, by retelling the exact same anecdote (if you can call it an anecdote) which I'd forgotten all about. I got upset but didn't want to explain why - and I had the feeling that both my friends wrongly assumed I was upset about C's cancer - which would obviously have reflected much better on me than the truth!

I am still really REALLY cross with her, mixed with the feelings of mortification and self-loathing that she stirred up. And I can't help thinking - 'If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all, DEAR.'  The spiteful, judgemental subtext of what she said seemed to me to be 'Here's how awful you were back then, when you were fourteen - you embarassed me in front of my dad and I still haven't forgiven you.'

I just wish I hadn't opened the door to the anecdote in question - all I did was follow our other friend's jokey comment about her own teenage daughter's friend being boy-mad by making a passing comment about how boy-mad I myself had been back then (in a rueful jokey way). And then BAM! Again with the 'treating my dad like a taxi-driver' recollection. Snearing, lip-curlingly distainful, angry, mortified - the emotions still seemingly accusatory and fresh. Her father's dead - does that make it worse for her? But it's HER I offended really - SHE was embarassed by me, and she really wants to rub my nose in it.

I can't change the person I was at fourteen, but I hate that you've spoilt my sense of who I was back then. I can accept I was silly, but I didn't know that my best friend was carrying this, and could take such glee in puncturing my self-image, and my image of what our friendship had been back then. If that's who I was back then, I don't want to know about it - and I don't want to be reminded that THAT is who you are remembering - and not with fondness, it seems. I am no longer sure of the value of old friendships if they carry such a sting. Who I was, who I became. It's not helpful to hate your younger self. There is much that baffles me about my young self, much I regret (much more from university days too!) And I don't care to be reminded like that. NO. Just NO.

Here's the email I drafted but won't send:
Dear C_,
I'm not sure if you want me to apologise for embarassing you in front of your dad back when we were 14, but you've told that disdainful anecdote twice now (to my face) and it seems to carry quite a heavy emotional load for you - the way you spit it out with such harshness. If it means anything after all these years, I am sorry for the way I acted back then.

But you need to know how hurt I have been by your decision to reiterate such a mean-spirited anecdote. I was very hurt both times, particularly this morning. I can't change the past, but it upset me to discover that you were carrying such deep negativity about the teenager I was back then. I don't want to get embroiled any further in the incidents that mortified you so much back then, nor do I know whether you spoke to me about it at the time, to try to get me to modify my behaviour. I hope you did, but have no memory. 

You made me ashamed of the me I was back then when there's nothing I can do about it now. I can't change what I did or who I was. And to be honest I'd rather dwell on nice memories. It would be like me trying to trawl my mind for anecdotes that reflect badly on you from back then, although to be honest I don't think I have any - at least not ones I've elected to retain. 

I know you'll probably wave this away as me over-reacting or reading more into it than intended. The dynamic in our friendship seems to involve quite a lot of you feeling and acting superior to me and judging me. I am not sure I can....

and that's where I broke off.