Friday, 12 February 2016

A letter to my ex-best-friend

Dear E,

It's been a long time hasn't it? Sixteen years since we last saw each other, at my first wedding. I invited you because you were my oldest friend. We'd been inseparable throughout secondary school, almost from our first day as new girls. We used to spend every Monday night together, either at my house or yours, after school. We grew up together. We did each other's hair, experimented with make-up, went clothes shopping for the first time without our parents, did our homework together, ignored our siblings together, went on holiday with each other's families. Like I said, we were inseparable, closest of friends.

And then... what?

Sometime during our last year at school something began to go wrong, and to this day I'm not entirely sure what. Being me, I assume it was something I did. Something I was. Some deficiency of mine. Some way in which I hurt you and you needed to lash out. You became increasingly hostile. Aggressive. Cruel, even by the standards of teenage girls in a single-sex school. So many throw-away comments to cut me down. So many ways in which you disapproved, disagreed, sneered, condemned. I was never good enough. I was "too big for my boots". I was nothing special. I was no cleverer than anyone else. I was no good at sport.  You didn't see why I was bothering to apply to Cambridge, it's not that special. You looked down on me for wanting to study Physics - apparently I was only doing so because my brother did, and my parents expected it. Whereas you were going to study medicine because you wanted to, not because your mother was a doctor, not because both your parents worked for Big Pharma, oh no. I was dictated to and led by my family, with no mind of my own, but you weren't.

Writing it down, it seems as though maybe there's an obvious explanation. Maybe you were jealous. Maybe I was arrogant about being top of every class. Maybe our teachers did heap praise on me, and never enough on you, despite the fact that you were just as bright, but always in second place. Maybe I should have realised that. But I couldn't change the teachers. And I certainly wasn't going to deliberately do less well than I could. Was it my fault? I don't know. But now, finally I know, that I didn't deserve the way you then behaved.

I didn't deserve the constant belittling. I didn't deserve to be told I ranked as "probably 6/10" for attractiveness. I didn't deserve to be told that I was a "soggy chicken". Repeatedly. And I certainly didn't deserve to have our friendship permanently and irrevocably severed, with no warning. Perhaps it was for the best, perhaps a "friend" like you who had reached the point of making me feel less than I am was not worth keeping. But twenty-three years after leaving school, and sixteen years after the last time I saw you, I am still hurt. Hurt to have been rejected by the person who I had been closest to for my formative years. Hurt to not be wanted, but to never know what I did wrong. Hurt to lose the friend who could make me laugh until I cried.

So, when I organised a get together of some old school friends last weekend, and one of them asked "Did you invite E?" my answer had to be "No. I have nothing to say to her and no desire to see her again." But it turns out I was wrong. I have a lot to say to you, and for a week I've been saying it in my head, and punishing myself for all my imagined failings. It's time I stopped doing that. In truth it's time I stopped doing that in many areas of my life, but I'll start with this one:

You behaved foully towards me, and I didn't deserve that.


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