Thursday, January 20, 2005

My Friend, My Friend....A Clever Ruse?

Dear You,

Driving home I thought words would fail me once I got somewhere where words were possible. Apparently they haven't, at least not just yet.

I've known you ten years. I've known you since before you met your husband. I've known you since we were all virgins. Today is the first time I've ever been ashamed to know you. Today is the first day I haven't wanted to spring to your defense.

People mocked you. You were always a little slow -- not mentally, but socially. You've never had much control over the filter between your mouth and your brain, and people thought that made you stupid. You're not. But you were always a little behind us, not quite as sophisticated (or what we thought was sophistication), not quite as "with it." We loved you anyway. We never let anyone give you any shit for being yourself.

So we grew up, and college, and y'all got married and I became -- myself. You've always been easy to shock. You've never quite been down with some of the things I consider normal. It's OK. I didn't need you to change your religion or your sexual identity. I remember coming out to you, how I was afraid it would make things different, and it didn't, and I took that to mean we were all on the same page -- not doing the same things, not loving the same people, but I thought you were grown up. Like we are. I assumed that tolerance meant understanding. I was a junior. I maybe should have reevaluated sometime before now.

You just got skinnier and skinnier, and we worried, and we talked and you didn't listen. And when you were tired of us talking, you hurt our friend -- who's been your friend since before either one of you knew me. You hit her right where you knew it would hurt the worst, and as far as I know you've never said you're sorry. That's not my fight. But it makes me think, now, that maybe you're not sorry because we've always been too ready to make sure you weren't blamed for being in the wrong.

We chalked that hateful night up to the disease, and we agonized, and eventually we pulled the plug. We called in the troops, the people who could force you to listen instead of just begging, because you were wasting away in front of us and we loved you too much to let that happen. And finally you admitted it. You said the words, you started to walk the walk. We were cautious. We were hopeful.

There's a lot you don't know. You don't know that ten days ago she wasn't sure she could be your friend any more. You don't seem to understand where you're at, what you're doing, how your cause creates effect. You're the same oblivious little girl you were freshman year, just floating along in the world where we always cut you a little slack, where you've always been a little behind and we let that be OK. You don't know that she was grieving for you as if you had died, because she wasn't sure if you still existed inside. I told her I was sure you did. I'm not sure now.

I've known your husband for years. Actually, longer than I've known you, albeit not as well. You don't bother to tell us how much you're spending, that he's halfway across the world and broke because you think you can solve your serious problems with your self-image via Mastercard. He told me, but it was none of my business. I didn't bring it up. I won't bring it up. But it weighs on my heart, just another gram weight added to what I already carry, and a heavy heart can turn bitter in a minute when you season it with the wrong comment, the wrong reaction, the seeds of things dark and unpleasant.

It isn't even about the politics now. It's not about what was said or how you meant it or whether you meant it at all. It's about the contempt for yourself that has turned into contempt for everything we never bothered to make sure you understood. We've always stepped back a bit in respect for your reserve, for what we didn't call prudishness because you don't call your friend a prude. But that's what you are and tonight I'm mad and hurt enough to say so, at least to myself. You're hidebound, you're reactionary, you're judgemental. And if using the word "disgusting" isn't a judgement, I may need to get a new Revised You Dictionary, because I don't think we even speak the same language any more. This time it's more serious than JCL versus Spanish Club.

We were too easily deceived by our hope. I was too ready to believe that it was just about you, about your issues with your body. Apparently, it's about your issues with the bodies all of us have. How can you live in your skin? How the hell? What the fuck? The words are failing me again.

You sat Art History with us. You can spot a Willendorf Venus at fifty paces. You know about objectification, about body image, about all the things Dr. M---- tried to teach us all before the world could tell us different. Did it just all wash over you? Did none of it take? Did all those people telling you to love yourself for who you are from the time you were twelve just never sink in? Were you behind because you weren't running? Were you oblivious because you thought "love yourself" was advice for everyone else but you? Should I blame this on your fucked-up family? Should I even bother to place blame? Do I fish or cut bait?

This is what I know: I feel worse than I have in a long time, and it's your words, your language, your descriptors, your reactions that make me feel this way. I've held you so close to my heart for so many years that I don't know how to stop the one from causing the other.

I'm not casting stones. I'm not denying I have problems; I admit them, and work on them. According to you, you're working on that. But your issues aren't what we thought they were. They go deeper than that. They're apparently centered inside your cunt, because it's not just your nonexistent fat you find disgusting, it's the way your body is made. The way all our bodies are made. That disgust and dislike apparently seems perfectly normal to you. May I remind you that two weeks ago you were defending what was left of your malnourished, non-menstruating body as "healthy" and "normal"? Is it unfair of me to think, if only in my head, that you may not have any clue what those words mean? Does it make me judgemental, or just discriminate?

I've never even tried to mold you into someone more like me. There ain't another one like me in all the world and I'm not trying to rectify that. I'm not going to make you look at hentai with me. I'm not going to make you put your hands on your beautiful bleeding cunt if it takes you outside your comfort zone. That's not my job; I'm not Annie Fucking Sprinkle over here. I'm your friend, or at least I think I still am. Tonight, for the first time in over a decade, I'm not sure about that. And it hurts like a kick to the kidney, because I've always defended you. I've always made allowances. I've done it for so long it's second nature, and now I'm playing Scrabble with a stranger. I came to your wedding reception just over a year ago and I felt free, like everything was coming together again, that my people were back here with me and all would be well. How could it not be? You two were a net I could fall into when I got too adventurous on the tightrope of my life. Y'all have always been there to set me straight when my eccentricity took me too far off plumb. You were so normal, and I didn't want to be that, but it kept me on the safe side of madness to have you in my life, you and her both. It's a fucking knife to my heart to admit that if I met you now for the first time, I'd never want to have coffee with you again. I can't breathe. It hurts in a way I didn't know I could be made to hurt. I'm used to the broken heart that comes from losing a love. This is a break in a different place.

Once in my life I've had to drop someone from the roster in my heart, to do what my mother would call "disfellowshipping". That was a sacrifice, the first really hard decision I ever made, to deliberately excommunicate someone I loved -- someone who was once so wrapped up in my history that it was hard to think about life without her. Five years now, and I don't think of her at all. I don't even miss her much, because I knew at the time that the difference we had could never be resolved, wasn't even worth trying. I hardened my heart to her because I knew I couldn't change her, and couldn't keep her, and now when I see her it's like it never was, like we never were, like we weren't inseparable once. But I was still a baby when I made the choice between my identity and the acceptance of someone who was ready to jerk her love away if I decided to be who and what I was and am. It was easier then, because she was gone long before all the really hard decisions, and now she's just another person I outgrew. I never in my life thought I'd have to go through it again, go through it without a cause as severe as that one.

I could summarize the reason she and I aren't speaking now in a sentence. This time it's different, and worse, because this time it's not about me being me. It's about communication, about me being able to speak to you as I do with a friend. Driving home I realized I can't remember the last time I had a conversation with you about something that mattered deeply to me. I don't even bother to bring things up any more. Once upon a time it was a respect thing, a sensibility to your pudeur. Now it's a "what's the point?" thing, and in all honesty I don't know if you can call someone a friend when everything that matters to you has to stay out of sight so everyone can have a nice time. She and I have pulled together, so close. I'm trying to figure out just how far you and I have grown apart.

But tonight, it seems so far that I can't see you at all -- just a misty outline that might be you, might be a mirage, might be a memory of a girl who hasn't existed for many a long year. It's too late tonight to figure it all out, so, for now, I'll sign off on this the usual way --

Your friend,



At 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

zennie, querida, my darling: please know that this is SO not about you. it is ALL about her. i know that you love her, or that you DID love her, and that you have been everything that a loving friend should or could be. the rest is really up to her. sometimes losing something dear is what makes you (her) realize that change is not only desireable, but NECESSARY, because you can't go on living that way -- and that, in fact, you WON'T go on living that way -- because if you keep it up, it will kill you. perhaps she will realize that, and perhaps she won't.

but i don't know her. it is YOU i care about, and YOU i am concerned about. you have told her you love her. you have done all that you can. step back, take a deep breath, and let her do what she needs to.

i'm here if you need me.

big BIG hugs, tes

At 8:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Zen, this just broke my heart - I can't even say how sorry I am that you're in this space. I have lost friends in this way, although not for the same reasons - doesn't matter, it's always just as hard and it sucks. It's got to make you wonder if you ever really knew *her*, if she was just that good at hiding her true feelings or character, or if she actually changed that much? My sincere sympathies, darlin'.



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