Here’s something I assume has gone the way of the rotary-dial phone and the dashboard cassette player: notes written to a friend during class and shoved through the vents of her locker. (I’m saying “her” here because my brief and unscientific survey determined that guys didn’t do this.)
Last January, when I went through every single piece of paper I’d saved for sentimental purposes, I set this pile aside. I didn’t want to keep it, but I wanted to go through it. These were all from Shelley (who I’ve written about before), who lied to me and everyone for much of a year.
She was dying of cancer. This might be the last note I ever get from her. Her mother and her mother’s boyfriend were Satanists who kept trying to rope Shelley into their rites. They wrote “Satan” on her arm in permanent marker. Her mother’s boyfriend hit Shelley. Shelley had anemia. And a kidney infection. And nosebleeds at skating practice. And her mother was kicking her out in favor of the boyfriend. And she met her real father who wanted her to live with him. She had to go to a funeral for four family members in one day. She was moving to the country with her mother and the boyfriend. She was a Christian. She wasn’t a Christian. She was a Christian. She wasn’t. Someone was leaving nasty notes to her and writing my name on them — did she believe me when I said I didn’t leave them? Her friend thinks I’m nice. Her other friend thinks I’m using her. Am I mad at her? Is Carol mad at her? I’m head of a clique in a school club we both belonged to. The club is lame under my leadership. Why do I sometimes act like I don’t want her around? She can always talk to me. I’m such a good listener. She doesn’t mean to always unload on me. She’s sorry she made me upset. How did I manage to forgive her for lying? Do I still think of her as a liar? Am I really still her friend? I needed to choose now.
I’m exhausted just typing that.
Not really. More like bemused and grateful. Bemused, because she gets all wrapped up in telling me everything her other friends say about me, and references big blow-ups, none of which I remember; I don’t even remember these other girls. At all. And grateful because I do not have people like that in my life anymore, people who constantly manipulate their friends and try to keep them off-balance and entranced by the constant drama and conflict. At the time, I forgave her and remained her friend (as much as anyone could be her friend) because I figured the lying came from deep insecurity and neediness, and she was still insecure and needy, so I couldn’t abandon her. Which makes me wonder:
Are all teenage girls emotional adrenaline junkies?
Probably, to some degree. Which is making me dread the coming few years. I’d thought my daughter might be inoculated from that after two little girl bullies “fought over” her in second grade, but I see entrancement with drama coming back. Sigh. I’m sure there are good developmental purposes to it, maybe practicing in preparation for real difficulties in later life. I don’t have to like it, though.
There are so many more venues for drama and conflict now: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, texting, and whatever new platforms develop between now and May, when we are finally nice enough to get the dear daughter her own phone. Now that makes me nostalgic for notes shoved in my locker.
But not nostalgic enough to keep them. I’m not even keeping them in the name of writing research.
I will choose to be free. Both of these notes and of people who seek to manipulate through emotional drama. There is enough real pain and suffering in my world — I need all my energy for that.
So what will you choose to be free of this year? This month? Any little papers you’ve been holding on to that you really should let go of?