I don’t write about politics because I’m not qualified. Politics have always bored me and I am only now paying attention because it’s necessary.
Our country is so polarized right now that most people have drawn a line in the sand and will not tolerate crossover from the other side. I’m there. I want to live my liberal life talking liberal things with my liberal friends and in my mind all things Trump and red/orange are the racist, misogynist, greedy, nature-razing devil we repel as best we can via protests, voting, petitions, and facebook posts. Doesn’t seem like much of an arsenal, unfortunately.
I usually delete anyone uber-right leaning out of my social media friend lists. It’s not the most open-minded thing to do, but it’s less extreme than many of my friends. I have a few Republican friends and I am able to hear them out and we joke back and forth. But we are careful to be gentle with one another because we’re shaking hands over a minefield. They let me post what I want without comment, I do the same for them. It’s a small group, because most of us are too strident with rage and frustration at this point to entertain that kind of courteous finesse.
So I have this childhood friend…
I grew up in a traditional upper middle class Midwestern home. Mom, dad, me, four siblings younger than me (Catholic). My parents worked their way through college and my dad ended up making a decent amount of money while my mother stayed home and did mostly traditional mom stuff. We lived comfortably and without want, at least until he died unexpectedly during my first year of college in NYC.
My best friend in early childhood (grade school) was the second to the youngest of five sisters, parents divorced. It was a classic 70’s divorce–their father lived a happy bachelor life with his new girlfriend in a house on a lake. They had a pontoon boat and booze in the fridge. They were fun and loose and we loved going to their place in the summer. Their mother had full custody of the girls, worked a full time job and wasn’t nearly as fun. She was overweight and angry. She was weary. She was a caring woman and did her best, but even at 9 or 10 years old I could see that she was pissed off. And why wouldn’t she be?
The three older sisters were the most beautiful creatures I’d ever seen–cheerleaders with athletic, lithe frames and long, wavy blonde hair. They would lay out in bikinis for hours in their backyard in the summer; their tan, concave stomachs glinting with baby oil in the sun, the radio playing top 40, which was great back then. They were funny and sharp and had no problem getting boyfriends as they marched fearlessly through the world, always in the right clothes. In my mind they were the real life incarnation of Charlie’s Angels and I worshiped them as goddesses.
Things were great with my friend, who was the second to youngest. We talked about how much we hated both of our younger sisters and taped songs off of the radio holding the mike to the speaker and drew pictures of horses and fantasized about owning horses and had sleepovers that involved many snacks and marking the softcore sex passages in romance novels. There was an ease and ability to be ourselves that you only find with a handful of people throughout your life.
Until we put away childish things. Around the 5th or 6th grade everyone began noticing that my friend was blossoming to be even more gorgeous than her stunning sisters. I on the other hand, was not faring as well. I lumbered awkwardly under the weight of coke-bottle glasses, crippling shyness, and a terrible haircut that resulted from a miscommunication with my mom. I was too uncoordinated and introverted for cheerleading. The neighborhood boys were not amused or interested.
I avoided my friend and socializing in general, retreating into a heavy shell of dark classic literature, where I could stay in my room reading and fantasizing about being the plain, yet noble and brilliant heroine. It was easy enough to separate because we went to different schools, me private Catholic, her public, although we rode the same bus. I began sitting with the chubby, acne-prone red-headed girl who sat closer to the front of the bus, while my friend sat in the back with the cool kids. She would have included me; it was my choice to move. The chasm between myself and those kids was too wide for me. But it made me even sadder. I liked the chubby girl, but I didn’t love her like my friend. And I felt angry that the world so capriciously divided people into worthy or unworthy categories.
Shortly after that period my family moved to a new town, so the issue became moot. I think we might have written letters back and forth for a while, and much later, I think the year after our senior year of high school, I traveled back to visit her. I was doing better then; I wore contact lens and listened to punk rock and had a cool boyfriend who adored me, all which gave me confidence enough for the trip.
But shortly after arrival I dropped back into the old insecurities. She was even more gorgeous and athletic and everything she wore looked amazing on her. I was beautiful too; everyone looks great when they’re 18, but I didn’t know it or feel it.
Always the writer, I penned copious pages of notes to my boyfriend describing everything around me. I don’t remember what I said but it was shitty enough that she stopped speaking to me when I unwittingly forgot them behind for her to read. I wasn’t mature enough to understand what I was feeling and I must have said some very mean things.
Decades passed before we reconnected. I am fuzzy on the details. She says that she reached out first when my father died. I do know at some point she sent back some sunglasses I’d also left behind with a letter outlining her reasons for not responding. I felt ill when I read it–so guilty and sad. It nagged at me for years, until I finally sent a letter to her mother’s house apologizing. My friend responded right away. We exchanged photos and became friends on facebook. She was divorced with children, a runner, a businesswoman, still beautiful. I was me–pets, tattoos, rock and roll, organized chaos. Very different, but it was such a relief to feel that we had healed and connected.
Or so I thought. Because politics.
There we are–me and my liberal kinsfolk, my mom, my friends, my siblings, all posting away feverishly about baby goats, global warming, corporate greed, #45, and Kavanaugh. All 100% in agreement that he should not be on the Supreme Court.
My friend started quietly with small disagreeing sentences on my mother’s posts. Dr. Ford was coached to frame this innocent man. She’s lying. She’s evil.
I though, is it possible? Can it be? Is my friend one of them??
Then I posted a statement about rich old white men and the shit really hit the fan. You could feel the angry keystrokes as she hammered me in comments about unfairly labeling wealthy old white guys. She was PISSED.
My reaction was, “Huh??” It seemed an unnecessary cause to get behind. But I kept it polite because I don’t want to fight with friends, especially ones that I already screwed up on. Plus my current crew is rabid and brilliant, much better informed than I, and I knew would handle it toute suite. Which they did:
And which of course made things all the more intense. But my friend stayed focused on me and called me out on what she viewed as a privileged upbringing and our problems of the past. The energy was weirdly emotional and confusing.
My guru mom opined privately that maybe something beyond politics, something deeper and more personal, could be coming up from within her to be examined and healed. Beyond superficial details, I don’t really know what my friend’s inner life has been since we were children. Maybe some crazy shit happened that now fosters a protective urge toward wealthy conservative dudes. Or maybe my life with my (outwardly) intact family unit looked better from the outside than hers felt?
And sadly, maybe it’s simply that some relationships aren’t meant to last forever and you can’t fix everything. Maybe in some cases it’s like trying to glue a broken vase together. You can make it look decent but it’s always on the verge of coming apart, with glue lines and chips missing.
I feel bad about that. I’m sorry that I hurt her. I’m always sorry for any hurt I cause. Except maybe my ex because I apologized so many times that it became a mantra that almost killed me, while he never owned up to anything. He can eat a bag of unwashed dicks and then apologize as many times while picking pubes out of his teeth.
After that initial sadness, I realized I am no longer so deeply invested in making sure that she has forgiven me or sees me as a good person. There’s this new, quiet release of not having to internalize all these outside opinions and I don’t feel the fear of being “less than” anymore. I’m doing the best I can at whatever level I’m at, at the time. Most of the time most of us are doing the best we can. She genuinely believes in her politics, I believe she’s wrong, nothing more to discuss. Life moves forward and people come in and go out of our lives according to the randomness of the Universe.
The upside to getting the shit beat out of me–by my ex’s lack of empathy, loyalty or accountability, my other ex’s girlfriend going for the jugular because I posted a couple of 20 year old photos, Spiker and Sponge’s pathetic but pervasive laptop-based smear campaign, and finally my childhood best friend freaking out on me for labeling rich old white guys as rich old white guys–is that I finally, blissfully, magically, miraculously DON’T GIVE TOO MUCH OF A FUCK ABOUT WHAT OUTSIDE PEOPLE ARE THINKING OF ME.
This is an entirely new feeling, and it’s AWESOME.
So the lessons for now are:
–People can be obnoxious for no easily apparent reasons that probably have nothing to do with you.
–Sometimes shit is too broken to fix but it’s okay because other new shit comes in to take its place. Sometimes you were supposed to break it in order to make space. So forgive yourself once you’ve done what you can to make it right.
–Republicans are crazy! Okay, maybe this one isn’t fully true but it makes me chuckle to type it.
–Not everyone is going to like you or forgive you and the more you can let go of the insecurity that drives the desire to achieve this, the happier you will be.
That’s probably it for today. Nothing too mind-blowing.Although I will say that knowing these things in your head is much different than carrying them around happily in your gut. So much easier said than done.
Thank you life for all of your crappy, unhappy, excruciating lessons that inch me toward enlightenment at an unbelievably glacial pace. And thank you friends, as always, for your kind indulgence.
And you’re welcome for that humiliating photo.