Sunday, September 27, 2009

This is what happens when self-delusion collides with Rashomon-style reality.

I've been thinking about how social media are forcing us to reexamine the choices we made along the way to becoming adults, and while I haven't written anything on that issue yet, I know that on some level, we're becoming more aware of "our version" of pivotal events in our lives, as well as "everyone else's version." I think it might create a level of anxiety and uncertainty that people fight to avoid as they get older, especially in a culture where personal reinvention is both hard-fought and worshipped, and yet the very act of change is attacked as inauthentic.

I'd forgotten about the non-social media version of that, and last night I found out how painful that really is.

You see, a million years ago, after I'd finally broken up with D, I'd chosen to forgive and forget. Forgive because we're all human -- forget for the sake of my sanity. Move on because there is a good friend beyond all the history. His wedding to E yesterday forced me to remember: because he wanted me there as a witness, because she didn't want me to talk about how we'd been dating when they met -- and as I'd suspected at the time, had started their relationship -- and because her father gleefully talked about how they'd met and were starting to get close AT THE VERY TIME I WAS STRUGGLING TO HOLD ON TO A RELATIONSHIP I KNEW WAS IN TROUBLE.

When M talked about seeing D on TV for the first time, his description was heartfelt: Here's the guy who's stealing my daughter's heart, and isn't he a talented, well-spoken man, blah blah blah. This is a guy who has two big dogs and hails from the west and rides motorcycles and plays guitar in a band and has long hair and climbs mountains and blah blah blah...

I am sure the look on my face was one of straight-up horror. I'm hoping enough people were drinking to not notice. I was sitting behind him -- so maybe that shielded me from the room.

If you think about it, marriage isn't just about how two people start a new chapter in their lives. During M's toast, I realized that it's also about trying to rewrite the past as you join a proper, sensible community of couples who try to meet the standard of no-drama marriage. M's version of how they met -- E's fears I'd say something outrageous and destroy the illusion of their early days together -- D's asking me please to "not go there..." It was collusion. THEIR version of events is the way things now are -- a fairy tale, scrubbed of the messiness that makes up life, predicated on a joint agreement to stay quiet. For the collusion to take hold and become the truth, "the best person" now has to melt into the past for their sake, taking her version of the story with her -- a version where she was the aggrieved party and finally threw in the towel.

The realization kept me in tears all night. Not only have I lost a friend -- I am once again face to face with my inability to find a love of my own, with my knack for selling myself short when I try, with my habit of refusing to see the truth, and with absolutely no power to stop the clock. Paradoxically, I am also face to face with the fear of not just being rejected on an intimate level, but also on a level where I just don't fit in with others' expectations of who THIS woman is supposed to be.

This is what happens when self-delusion collides with Rashomon-style reality.

Now what?