Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Time Keeps Creepin' Through The Neighborhood, Killing Old Folks, Wakin' Up Babies Just Like We Knew It Would

I remember Randy. Thirteen-year-old boy, blonde hair, a smattering of freckles across the bridge of his adorable nose, giant, nearly aqua-colored eyes rimmed with ridiculously long lashes. An unwavering gaze, usually directed at me. He was short then. Short in the way most 13 year-old-boys are when compared to their female peers. The boy is who comes to mind when I think of Randy. The boy, not the man he has become. When I happened to run into the thirty-year-old man a few months back I was startled. The ghost of the young boy hovered just beneath the angular, slightly creased face of the man. The husband. The father. The boy was evident in certain expressions on the man's face, expressions I remember from my days spent "learning" alongside Randy and others at Orem Junior High. I wanted to reach out and touch his face, laugh and talk like we used to but I realized I don't know the man. I only have a bond with the boy. And the boy, he is gone. Time killed him and I mourn the loss as if he is truly dead. I miss that boy.

His wife doesn't like me. I suppose her dislike was justified. In high school. But the reasons why are all hazy schoolgirl recollections that get hazier still when mixed in with other reminiscences of teenage melodrama. Silly, really, to maintain an opinion of someone for a decade based on a few encounters in high school. She doesn't know me anymore so how can she not like me? At least get to know me and decide not to like me based on the asshole I am now, not the bitch I was then. But we all do it. Continue to view someone as they were when we last knew them, even if when we last knew them was a decade ago. I still have bad feelings for high school football star D.J. for trying to fuck me in the back of his jeep. When I refused he drove me straight home and ignored me for the rest of that year. Perhaps D.J. is a fantastic human being now, a paramedic who has saved countless lives and likely doesn't remember the blonde freshman he tried to devirginate his senior year. Actually, he's probably a football coach somewhere flirting with the much younger cheerleaders, but that doesn't support my theory of how people change so I'll stick with paramedic. Or firefighter. So, much like my lingering dislike of D.J., Randy's wife doesn't like me. You can smell it on her, witness the dislike in her body language. It saddens me that the wife of someone who was once so important to me doesn't like me, yet I understand. I guess. I actually quite like her. Could think of no one better for Randy. But there it is. She doesn't like me. I'm okay with it now. I have grown to accept her feelings even if I don't think they're warranted.

I write the above because I've been tortured of late by the friendships of my past. See, all these people, these women I grew up with, suddenly they all have blogs. The usual family-style blog brimming with slide shows of the kiddies and posts detailing family life. Seemingly, they're all still friends with one another; to click on the blog of one begins a spiderweb of internetting that leads from one familiar stranger to the next. The one thing I have in common with all these old friends-cum-bloggers is the fact that I have nothing in common with them. What do they have in common besides their husbands and children and religion? They disapprove of me.

I recently met the wife of a childhood friend and spent a few minutes chatting with her, complimenting her adorable baby and so forth. Sweet girl, religious, but I didn't hold it against her. When I stumbled onto her blog a few days later I left a nice comment. Strangely, she didn't post the comment although the next few comments by others were immediately approved. Hmmm, I though and racked my brain, wondering if I'd offended her somehow. No, it couldn't be. I commented how lovely it was to meet the wife of my childhood friend, mentioned how sweet their daughter was... That's certainly not offensive.

I wasted days of my life wondering why she didn't post my comment yet approved subsequent comments from others. I know, it sounds silly but I felt slighted. Then I realized; she linked back here, read some of this blog and doesn't approve. What else could it be? Apparently, hurting my feelings was worth not having my post containing a link back to my terribly inappropriate website which, I suppose, would somehow tarnish her site. I suppose my comment/link on her site is kinda like being seen in public with the town drunk. Guilt by assocation. What if valued friends and family members of hers clicked over here and assumed she associates with the likes of me? Dear God, she couldn't have folks thinking that now, could she?

I was hurt, but I moved on. Then I found the blog of another old friend and left a similar complimentary comment in the vein of Hey! Long time no see! Your blog is cute. She didn't delete the comment but did not reply to me despite the fact that the last time I saw her, three years ago, pre-blog, everything was just dandy. When a mutual friend of ours left a comment on the very same thread the girl immediately replied. I made the stunning realization that the women I befriended in my teens no longer approve of me. Just like Randy's wife still doesn't like me based on high school, I had assumed that because my bond with my girlfriends was so strong then it would remain so now. But the bond we once had only serves to highlight the fact that we have nothing in common now. We face each other across the chasm of our differences, struggling to find common ground, but there isn't much to stand on.

The only knowledge these women have of me now, ten years later is this blog. I suppose finding out what's going on in my brain (alcohol, sex, curse words) likely disgusts them. I am not wholesome. Initially I was upset. Felt a bit like the little girl who grew up being a member of "The Bad Family" in the midst of Mormons. Here I was, the bad girl again because I curse and write about sex and (oh my God!) masturbation, my recovery from Mormonism and so forth. And I take The Lord's name in vain. Reading this blog probably set their garments afire.

A short time later I was speaking to an old friend on the telephone who often engages me in religious debate. Although she denies it, I don't think she can come to terms with the fact that I no longer believe what she does and in fact, think it's a bunch of crap a guy named Joseph Smith made up. And it's not because of any bad experiences with self-righteous Mormon neighbors or classmates I had as a child, not because I enjoy drinking alcohol, not because I had sex before marriage, not because I couldn't live up to Mormon code; I made a well-informed decision about what I believe and what I don't believe. Okay, so leave it at that. People with different beliefs should be able to maintain a friendship, right? Not really. Mormonism isn't so much a religion as it is a lifestyle. It infiltrates every aspect of daily living for those who practice it; from what they wear to what they read and watch on television or in theaters, what they say, where they will and won't go, who they'll vote for... Inevitibly my friend and I rehash my former religion, circling each other warily, amazed that beliefs that once overlapped can now be so violently different. We are quite respectful in our discussions and I love this woman immensely but I realize we are too different. I don't enjoy our conversation, I felt defensive, uncomfortable and find myself dodging her calls which results in me being called flaky.

The last straw for me - halfway through our last conversation I casually cursed at Max, something like, Max! Don't chew that!... Christ!
"Watch your mouth!" My friend hissed sharply.
And just like that I was done. I felt chastised... Reprimanded for being me. I don't swear in front of children, I try to curb my swearing when talking to religious friends. So her harsh reprimand left me cold.

Since that phone call I have struggled and ultimately concluded that I have to leave my past where it belongs. In my past. I have struggled with it, I am nostalgic by nature and love to reminisce about all the hijinx we got up to in high school. I love these women. They were an essential part of my life and my development and I'll value that forever. I know I could call any one of them at two in the morning and they'd be ready to help. But time, as it tends to do, crept into our lives and erased our commonalities. What was once a solid bond has dissolved into conversations I find uncomfortable. Perhaps I am responsible for the discomfort, always feeling defensive about the way I have chosen to live my life. But that's because I know what they personally approve and disapprove of so I end up editing myself, not being true to myself. I'm tired of feeling defensive. I just want to be me and regardless of what these women say, they don't accept me. I'm not comfortable being me around them and sacrificing being me isn't worth maintaining awkward, bi-monthly conversations.

I have decided to close the book on that chapter of my life. All of it. I am not the same and I don't belong and I guess those girls I tried to talk to via blogs realized it before I did. It's a hard pill to swallow - a big fucking horse pill that scrapes all the way down, trailing a bitter, chalky residue. But I think I've finally managed to get it down.