Take Me Back

I just finished a cute, and apropos, book called Time Flies by Claire Cook. It’s about Melanie, a recently divorced woman on her way to her high school reunion. My reunion (that I am happily skipping) is in November so I empathized with Melanie’s quandaries. When she gets an email from her ex-boyfriend, she looks through her yearbook and realizes she doesn’t remember most of them and other than a few best friends, only vaguely remembers the others. She flirts with the ex via email and decides he is reason enough to attend. She eventually learns that imagination is so much better than reality and he is an ex for a reason.

While the actual reunion is a minor plot point, the events leading up to it are more interesting. And that is exactly where I find myself. At age 48, my life is so much more interesting than getting together with people I don’t know, barely know, or cut out of my life for reasons. Like Melanie, I spent some time looking at names on the facebook group and I honestly couldn’t remember 95% of them. Of the ones I do remember, it’s either because we were great friends or because I couldn’t stand them. I’m actually only personally involved with a handful of people anymore. While I’m still facebook friends with several, it is because I like who they are now, not because I remember anything about them from high school.

I had one friendship of 25 years that ended six years ago when I got tired of her judging my life and particularly my parenting, one of 37 years that ended after the election. I have one of 38 years that is still going strong. Whether they are still active friends or not, the point is that I stay in contact with the people who mean something to me.

Maybe reunions are great for people who went to schools that weren’t so deeply divided into cliques, but my high school was passionately divvied up into immutable circles. Although I’ve had several people tell me that things are different and people change, my ten year experience was that yes, people change but generally not for the better. The assholes became more asshole-ish, the bitches bitchier. People I was relatively friendly with had so many issues, it wasn’t worth getting caught up in the toxicity. I went back because I thought I was in a good place in my life, but going from personal success to being treated like the socially ostracized geek girl that I had been was more than a little jarring. It took me six months to emotionally recover from a six hour experience.

I’m not saying people can’t change. I know they can. I’m not the same person I was a year ago, let alone 30, or even 20, years ago. But it took decades of effort to get here and I just don’t see 200 people putting in that much effort. As for me now? I’m far from perfect, but I am finally happy with who I am, where I am, what I am doing. I don’t need to show up or show out. When I’m asked if I’m going to the reunion, I truly mean it when I say, “No thanks, I’m good.”


They Talk About Us

images (2) For those of you just joining us, a little background information is necessary:

When I was a kid, my parents did something a little unusual for the time (not so unusual now), and moved into a specific area just for the public school district. They couldn’t afford private school, and my dad had graduated from this high school, and they wanted me to have a good education.

While I did indeed get the best public school education that our city offered, it came at quite the cost. No, not a financial cost, obviously, but a social one. Although my mom is now Republican, when I was a kid, she was extremely liberal. For years, my parents were the managers of an eight apartment building, where half the apartments were occupied by gay and lesbian couples. I would often go with the guys from upstairs to the tennis courts and play with their golden retriever while they played tennis, or I would go down to “CarmenAndYolanda’s” apartment to play with their little girl, with whom I shared a great love of all things Barbie. I’ve spent almost my entire life as a liberal in an area populated with stereotypical Texas Republicans.

In kindergarten, things were still somewhat socially equal, as five year olds in the 70’s weren’t so label conscious as today’s five year olds, and only judged people based on who was interesting or funny. I was interesting, and funny, so I was friends with pretty much everyone in my class (minus a few of the boys). I spent weekday afternoons and weekends at my friends’ mansions (that is NOT hyperbole), where old money seeped from the pores of the houses themselves.

However, the older we became, the more my friends were influenced by their families, and the fewer friends I had. By the time I graduated, I had a core group of about seven people, and another handful or so of close friends who belonged to other groups but weren’t snobs. It was both a blessing and a curse that my parents moved twice, but within the school district, and also that the district was rezoned once. That meant I attended three of the four elementary schools; I was also in the Gifted and Talented program, so for two years, I spent one day a week at the high school with all the GT kids from the other schools. I knew most of them (because geeks can sniff each other out, even at the youngest of ages), and this also allowed me to get to know people from the one school that I hadn’t attended.

One of the GT kids, whom I shall refer to as LL, was one of the two-faced ones who would be nice to me as long as no one saw her doing so. We were decent enough friends in third grade, and then again during 5th and 6th, but by the time we hit 7th grade and everyone was wearing Pat Magee t-shirts, Izods, Laura Ashley, and embroidered dresses from Oaxaca (pronounced Wha-ha-ka), I was no longer acceptable to her. I had one Pat Magee shirt (a birthday gift from a friend), dresses made from Laura Ashley patterns, and a dress that my mom machine embroidered for me that was gorgeous. However, that was not enough to allow me into the seventh circle of hell that was the second highest social group, nor did I ever desire admission. LL was Latina, and while it was fine for the clones to say they were diverse and allow her to be their friend, there was no way she would ever be allowed into the 9th circle of hell, where blonde hair was (and still is) a requirement. Perhaps that’s what made her meaner?

Zoom a billion years forward, and enter the era of facebook. I found myself becoming friends (real friends) with people I never bothered with in high school (and who never bothered with me). Oddly enough, I’ve also found myself NOT friends with people that I used to be friends with, because they kinda grew up to be assholes, although I’m sure I fall into that category for plenty of other people. My best friend and I have a three day rule; no matter who you are, we will accept your friend request and give you three days. If you’re still who we think you are, then you are quietly deleted on the fourth day.

This is how I came to be fb friends with LL’s older sister, whom I shall refer to as BSC, because I’m too lazy to continually type out “bat shit crazy.” She is one of those people who friends every single person who ever attended our high school. However, after a day and a half of her irritating self-aggrandizing posts, I deleted her, never realizing that I had just released a Pandora’s box full of crazy.

One afternoon shortly after having deleted BSC, I made a comment on a post by a mutual friend. BSC took the opportunity to hijack the post. She called me “dear” and “sweet’ and said she remembered my always being at their house because I was such good friends with her sister. It was the phoniest, smarmy piece of bullshit that has ever been directed at me…on facebook at least. I commented back that I was not friends with her sister, that she and I had never met, and that she had me confused with someone else. I stopped following the post after that.

FOUR YEARS LATER, about five days ago, I find a message in my fb inbox from BSC. Other than removing the names to keep from granting her the attention she so desperately seeks, this is what I read:

February 15, 2013 New York, NY USA

Dear Carolyn-

My apologies…

I had once mentioned on FB that you and my sister LL were good friends in Texas. You were taken aback by the suggestion. It was your classmate (perhaps relative) CB I was referring to in confusion. (Adorable girl and yes, my sister’s friend)

Again, sorry for the confusion. We laughed about it. Since I didn’t know of you and your names are similar, it was a simple mistake. Best. -Marisol

This brought to mind several points:

1. Who the fuck puts the date on a facebook message? FB oh so graciously already does it for you.

2. Typing out the city, state, and country in a facebook message? Really?

3. The not so thinly veiled suggestion that I am neither adorable, nor worthy of being her sister’s friend.

4. The idea of my being her sister’s friend was SO ABSURD, they laughed at the impossibility of it.

5. I was too insignificant for her to know who I was/am.

While I would never, ever respond to her message, I did find myself writing a response in my head:

Dear (BSC),

Thank you so much for writing to tell me about the confusion of names from four years ago. I am relieved to have the entire thing straightened out! I’ve often woken up in the middle of the night with a strange niggling fear, only to realize that it must be because BSC has me confused with someone else, therefore all is not right with the world. Now I can finally rest easy after reading your thoughtful explanation.

I appreciate you taking the time to not only apologize for such a horrifying transgression, but for also being so kind as to remind me what day it is, what city you live in, and what country that state is in. I often lose track of the days and what states are part of the continental US. Since I’ve only been to New York City five times, I can see how you might worry that I’ve forgotten where it is.

By the way, I was sorry to hear about wikipedia deleting the entry about you and your chosen career path. It was just cruel for the editors to say that you have no demonstrable cultural significance, with no discernible importance or visibility in the industry or culture as a whole . Ouch!

I do hope that the acyclovir is working for you. Your ex-boyfriend is one of my best friends, and although he shouldn’t have been telling tales out of school, he let it slip that you were having a few issues with your medication.

I wish you all the best! -Carolyn

“Can you hear them? They talk about us, telling lies, well that’s no surprise. Can you see them? See right through them. They have no shield, no secrets to reveal. It doesn’t matter what they say in the jealous games people play. Our lips are sealed. Careless talk through paper walls, we can’t stop them, only laugh at them Spreading rumors, so far from true, dragged up from the underworld, just like some precious pearl. Pay no mind to what they say. It doesn’t matter anyway. Our lips are sealed. There’s a weapon, we must use in our defense: silence. When you look at them, look right through them. That’s when they’ll disappear. That’s when you’ll be feared.”