Today it became clear that I am not entirely over it. I don’t need to talk about it all the time; neither do I mind at all talking about it when it’s appropriate. But if I feel MISUNDERSTOOD on the subject, or MANIPULATED, my cage rattles, and then I rant. (Using capital letters like this is, I think, a bit childish – but, remember, the Blog is the place where I sound off, and in the upper case if I need to).
I have written before about my reactions to people who try to get too close (see “Intrusions and Hostilities”, October 2013). In the last few days, I have had two encounters, one of which – the cloying, getting-too-close one – has left me seething. I will deal with that one first. Let’s call the person concerned A. Like all the people in this story, I do not know her very well. She’s not exactly a friend (and now she probably never will become one.)
A prefaced what followed by saying that she had been looking forward to having a proper conversation with me, and that a third person (B) had told her I had had some health issues (I know B has read at least some of the Blog). A did not say, “How are you?”. She did not say, “Are you OK talking about this today?”. She did not consider my perspective at all. She did not ask ONE question. Instead, I was subjected to a long – and I mean long – story about her own and her family’s history in relation to breast cancer. Incidentally, she hasn’t got it, so I am not inclined to make allowances for the distress and self-obsession of the diagnosed or the ill.
I am INCENSED by the fact that she clearly had not bothered before – and did not bother during our encounter – to find out anything about my experience – she just assumed that we shared common ground. She had NO IDEA about what I have learnt, the dilemmas I have faced, or my peculiar pain – otherwise she could not have spoken as she did. By about her third sentence I was wanting to interject and say, “Hang on a minute, this is not how it has been for me –“. But there was no space for me to do so.
She set up a kind of intimacy based on a false premise (We Women Have Shared This Difficult Experience). I HATE fake intimacy. It makes me feel manipulated. And then – and THEN! – perhaps based on this fake – she shifted topics and went on to tell me that another person (whom we both know, let’s call this person C) had done some horrible things to her. She doesn’t know how friendly I might be with C; again she ASSUMED that I would share her view.
No way, no way, A, even though you claim the moral high ground for your perspective. As soon as it became clear that we weren’t really going to have a conversation, that you hadn’t done your research and that you were intent on telling me your own story oblivious to the possibility that it might cause distress, you lost me. Round about your third sentence.
Because I am basically nice, you will note that I have tried to protect A’s identity. Not that there’s much danger of her reading this, since she’s not interested enough. By contrast, a few days ago, I had an email from E, who clearly had read my blog in some detail, engaged with it, and told me what it had meant to her. She even had the common decency to wish me well! She is much more likely to read this post than A.
So, dear E – your empathetic, witty, and unsentimental response was just what makes me feel UNDERSTOOD. That’s what I need. Thank you. That’s friendship. And it isn’t fake.