When I was eight, my friends and I decided to make a “Friendship Club”. We all had matching t-shirts and my mom wrote in curly letters “Friendship Club” with this t-shirt ink that changed colours when it heated up (what can I say? It was the 80’s and Babysitter’s Club and Chip and Dale shirts were the thing). There were four of us. We were going to be Best Friends 4 Evah.
We even had meetings and took minutes (that was probably pushed by me). But then one day, one of the girls invited someone else. Someone without a matching t-shirt. And she didn’t ask me first. I made her leave, I wouldn’t let her stay. She left in tears after we had a group vote (while she waited in the hall) and I refused to budge. I don’t remember Friendship Club after that, and I don’t know why I was so mean to her. My bossy, stubborn nature, my controlling side? My inability to accept change well? The way it made me feel good to exclude someone I had always envied?
I had kind of forgotten about this whole incident until last fall when I went to a bachelorette party of one of the girls. We were talking and someone brought up the Friendship Club. The girl I had outcast met my eyes over the table and I felt about two feet tall. I looked away and the conversation moved on, but I’ve found myself wondering over this past year, why didn’t I just apologize?
When I was 21, I had a one-night stand. I was completely black-out drunk and woke up the next morning with the equivalent of a sledgehammer lodged in my skull, a boy I had gone to high school in my bed and a used condom in my garbage. I won’t go into the dirty details of the evening, but I was beyond ashamed of myself. And when I ended up at the bar again that night and saw him there actively ignoring me while toting around a hot blonde on his arm, I felt like throwing up. Not that I had any expectations or hope of a relationship of any kind forming, I just had never planned on being some slut he banged.
For years, I raked myself over the coals for that particular incident. Degrading. Slutty. Pathetic. Embarrassing. You name it, I thought it. Looking back, it was quite a severe reaction to one minor (and at least protected) indiscretion, but I refused to forgive myself for that.
If you pick at a scab, it continues to bleed, healing almost enough until you start scratching again. If you can just convince yourself to leave it alone, eventually the scab falls off on its own, and even the pink scar fades until it’s only visible if you look very carefully. Eventually, I did leave it alone enough to heal and got over it.
I’ve yet to forgive myself for the mean things I’ve done and said to many people. Sometimes as I lay awake at night, I considering just writing an email to apologize to people who are essentially strangers. It feels contrived though, and perhaps even arrogant, assuming they would remember some offhand callous remake I made to them over ten years ago. Obviously it matters much more to me than to them. Would they think I was weird? Out of line? Obsessive?
But maybe the reason I assume that they haven’t forgiven me is because I have such a hard time doing so. Maybe if I just let the things from the past go, it won’t be pretending it didn’t happen, but simply moving on.