You know how it is
As the cliché goes, it’s complicated. We met about six months ago and argued about almost everything and about two months ago we came to an understanding. It’s very special. Quiet. Grown-up. A lot of the time we don’t say anything. Not very me-words at all. On Sunday we’d both had too much to drink and something was said I took badly. It was my ego that did it. What was said could have been true, just in the context it was said. I took it to mean in every context and I was hurt and upset. I did the stupidest thing I could chose out of my massive long list of utterly stupid things I keep handy, lightly oiled and ready for instant deployment for situations like this. I wrote on Facebook. I deleted it before I could send it. I wrote another, more restrained, much more bitter and pretentiously self-pitying version. I deleted that too.
Then I did a hugely uncharacteristic thing and thought about why it bothered me. The answers were pretty simple. Because I had drunk too much. Because I can see how it could have been true. Because of how I took it. Because of the stuff in my head. Because I was thinking like an idiot, projecting my own doubts and insecurities onto the words someone else had said and saying ‘you said that!’
That’s the trouble with words. Once they’re out you can’t decide what anyone else is going to think about them. You can say ‘I didn’t mean it that way’ but it doesn’t matter. Once it’s out you’d better hope the other person thinks the same way you do because there’s nothing else you can do but hope. You can’t decide how someone else is going to interpret your words. You can’t decide how they’re going to feel.
Brand New Degree
Once upon a time someone worked for me who as a brand new graduate said one of the most stupid, 100% gold-plated guaranteed just plain wrong things I have ever heard and trust me, I’ve heard a few: “I say what I like. People have to take me as I am.”
I don’t know what they teach in universities these days, but they don’t. People don’t have to do anything you think they have to do or say they have to do, unless they have a gun at their heads. Even then it’s still their choice, not yours. People don’t have to take you as they are. You don’t have control over what’s in their heads. But you need to be aware of what’s in yours.
So I didn’t send it. Nothing at all. Not even, ‘we need to talk.’ Because we really didn’t, not then. In the morning I checked to make sure I didn’t send the silly, petty, hurting, pathetic thing I’d thought, something more suited to coming out of the mouth of a fourteen year-old than the person I hope is me now. I hadn’t sent it.
Dead dogs in a skip
But it was still a shock when the same person sent me a picture of what looked like dead dogs in a skip on my phone. I thought maybe somehow my message had been sent after all. I thought it was a metaphor, or maybe just an indication of where I should end up along with the dogs for being such an arse. It wasn’t quite the Mafia-style horse’s head on my pillow, but it felt not far off. It was only when I went onto Facebook on a laptop that I could see the whole thing. The dogs weren’t dead although they were in a skip, tied up for transit in a way I can’t see the Royal Veterinary College recommending. The words that weren’t displayed on my phone were on a bigger screen explained what was going on, asking me to make it public.
I did more than that. I tracked down the phone numbers of the people who definitely know what was going on with these dogs and posted it, so they should be getting one or two calls around about now.
I think things are ok with my friend. I hugely hope they are. I really do try not to be a total arse these days. Mostly I think I avoid it. And I’m truly sorry when I don’t. I think I’m finally growing up. A bit, anyway.