When a friendship ends, unanswered questions and gilded memories often join up with the other Ghosts of Friendships Past and together they occupy brainspace like unwashed, disgruntled youth joining an urban camp-movement with others of the same ilk.
So here on the cusp of 2017, maybe it’s time to clean up the camp–make sure the others we surround ourselves with are truly of the same ilk, and not just a bunch of hangers on–scene kids–usually seen blending in.
Hey, ho, who needs to go?
My friend, Charmaine once told me, “There’s a reason some people don’t make it from your past to your future.” The older I get, the more spot-on her statement is.
But I never realized I could–or should–be the one walking away from a friendship. I always considered loyalty a virtue, but perhaps loyalty should begin with oneself.
I’m aware the Millennials are accustomed to this sort of housecleaning, at least via social media, for every once in a while I see posts to the effect of, “The friends list will be shortened tonight, and if you make the cut, you are one of the fortunate ones.”
I say bravo to this kind of self-confidence and self-preservation, but now it’s time to apply this virtual world best-practice to real time.
Women like me who came of age before Facebook and Twitter–when phones were still attached to kitchen walls and a friend was someone you built a brick-and-mortar relationship with over the years–well, we grew up trying to please everyone. Almost to the point of paranoia, since there were no text messages, posts, tweets, etc., with which to gauge someone’s fidelity to the friendship.
Of course, we didn’t have cyberbullying either–we had it worse–gossip, innuendo, backstabbing, the silent treatment, and the not knowing…
Maybe that’s why sudden apathy, betrayal, or trash-talk hurts so much… makes you feel like a beige rotary phone hanging on a forgotten wall, collecting dust…
Cue the chorus: “Smiling faces… smiling faces sometimes… tell lies…” Interesting that the band who recorded that nugget was The Undisputed Truth. Huh. The Wisdom of Motown.
And so, with the coming of the new year, I resolve to stop giving The Ghosts of Friendships Past any more head space. Time to kick them to the curb. And not out with the recycling where they keep turning up like a sharp little Lego blocks under one’s bare foot in the black of night.
Hey, ho, they need to go… Older and wiser, I know if a person can count her true friends on her toes, she is rich indeed.
I got to thinking about this a couple of weeks ago when I saw a former colleague at Panera Bread. Sandy was a school secretary where I taught thirteen years ago, Dangerous Minds High (DMH), and she not only remembered me, but she asked specific questions about my children and my health.
Mind you, we were passing work acquaintances who never shared the actual trenches of our jobs–never even ate lunch together, but she remembered things that some people who had actually been closer friends could have cared less to ask about.
Closer friends like this woman who was new to our school and our town. I befriended her, and in hindsight, she used me as her unwitting beard for a few years.
I thought I was gaining a shopping buddy in Nicole, but alas, I was just an alibi for her to cover up her affair with a likewise married math teacher. (I also took care of her dogs when she traveled, gave her lesson plans to teach, and helped edit her grad school papers–what are friends for?) She’s since moved away, and our friendship has moved on.
But I digress. I left DMH behind years ago, so Sandy’s kindness and interest in my life touched me deeply. Since last we met, I had transferred to Crown Jewel High where I had two real friends during my six-year tenure there. Most of the other faculty members at CJH ignored the teachers who were new to the building. A few were plain mean.
But when the principal retired unexpectedly, his replacement was The Peter Principle personified–a woman who made Grendel’s mother and Lady Macbeth look like the Virgin Mary–I transferred to Joe Blow Vocational High (JBVH). Hey, ho, I needed to go.
Six years and a cancer diagnosis later, hey, ho, time to go. I left teaching to get my treatment and then write full-time, but I still consider many Joe Blow coworkers as friends.
So when a former colleague and friend posted, “How do you get rid of foot fungus?” I gave him a tongue-and-cheek reply, as did a couple other former teachers from JBVH. After all, Dr. Google is for medical information and social media is for entertainment.
This was the same day I had seen Sandy at Panera, which made what happened next so much more of a revelation.
That night, I received a personal message from He Who Has Foot Fungus via social media.
Apparently, my benign comment based on a well-known faculty room legend, “Don’t put your wet socks in the microwave” became the grist for a personal attack that began with “Go fuck yourself” and then got uglier from there.
After reading and rereading the man’s message, I’m ashamed to say I gave this friend any more of my head space, but I did.
My natural tendency to make nice no matter what dies hard. But die it must, as it goes out to the curb with the rest of the garbage. Hey, ho, you need to go…
It’s 2017 or as good as. I can count my true friends on my toes and you know who you are. One of you has been there for me since the Nixon Administration, another two since our wild years in L.A., and the rest of you, long enough, and that’s not too shabby, indeed.
And for those who aren’t in the toe-row, so to speak, I pray I can be the kind of friend to you that Sandy was to me–someone who cares enough to ask questions and take a genuine interest, no matter how far away in the rearview mirror we appear to be from each other.
Keep your feet warm and your powder dry. May God bless you and yours in the new year!
Hot Flash Suzi
Cartoon is from Toothpaste for Dinner http://www.toothpastefordinner.com/