It often happens that the tiniest thing leads to self-discovery. So it was when I posted a Facebook status meant to be one of those things supporting awareness of breast cancer. Remember the one that said post the color of bra you are wearing? Another one was post your shoe size. This one had about a dozen embarrassing statuses to choose from; they varied from complaints about diarrhea or menstruation to “oh no, I’m pregnant.” The most innocuous one I could find was “Someone offered me a job as a prostitute.” After I posted it, I got varied responses from friends, from WTF to “go for it!.”
But a girl from my past, who also went out with Iggy Pop (actually introduced us, and she and I were roommates for a time) started posting comments related to that time: “Iggy stopped calling you when I moved out because you don’t have the skills to be a prostitute.” (mind you, I hope to have learned a few things in the ensuing 30 years, but that is a side point.) She posted several comments along those lines. After private messaging her to let her know that those things were hurtful, and that the status was one of the breast cancer things and not remotely true, she went on to say more mean things in our private conversation. So of course, I unfriended her. After calling her a bitch. (not very Buddhist of me, but these things happen!)
And what occurred to me was simply this: people I knew once upon a time are not the same people. Nor am I (I would certainly hope not!) And misguided attempts to rekindle old friendships may or may not work out. It might be fine with Debbie, but not with Lisa.
I recently went back to New York because I loved that city once and wanted to see it again. I was greeted by Hello Kitty in Times Square; in the 80s, it was Hello Pimpy. But change is natural and I had a good time. I saw my ex-boyfriend, who I’d become friends with again through phone calls. We went out for a very nice dinner. But when he asked me to stay a few nights with him (platonically) in Connecticut, he proved to be a crappy host, leaving me alone in his house while he pursued work meetings and a girl he’d just met. You see, back in the day he liked to party and date strippers. Fast forward 30 years, that’s still his M.O. And he was more interested in pursuing his next piece of Brazilian tail than entertaining an old friend.
Like everything, it all comes down to attachment. Attachments are expectations, and when you expect something to go a certain way, you are disappointed when it doesn’t. Friendships (even on Facebook) can be like that. And today I had to analyze my own response: why was I so hurt by my ex-friend’s comments? Why do I feel strongly about reconnecting with people who are better left as nice memories? Could it be that a part of me is still invested in that time, just like she is? Thirty years later, am I convinced that part of what defines me is that I once went out with a famous punk rocker? (Who was really more of a creepy old man if you think about it; why would a man in his mid-thirties take up with an 18-year-old?)
Next week I am flying to Texas to meet yet another old friend. This blast from my past is someone I co-starred in a film with (the only movie of note during my actress days.) I’m excited, but determined not to have expectations. It will be a nice little quick trip, but I hope we find new common ground to talk about, not just the “good old days.”
I used to whip out these things in conversation like little party tricks: I used to date Iggy Pop, I starred in a feature film by a respected director and went to the Cannes Film Festival, Andy Warhol took my photo at a club…. Blah-blah-blah. Watch me walk like a duck or wiggle my eyebrows like Groucho Marx. I am still guilty of bringing things up, but less and less these days. Nobody really cares. It’s amusing at best.
So what IS important? What can I tie myself to if not these significant moments in the past? Am I one of those people who peaked early, a has-been, an also-ran? Or is it just a construct of our society that fame and riches are the only important things that define a person?
These days, I have a much calmer life. I’m a teacher, a writer, and a yoga instructor. I have taught for a dozen years, 3-6 year olds, and most of them children with special needs. I have taught kids to have respect for themselves and others, to work hard and play nice. I am bringing free yoga to seniors in retirement homes this summer, as well as teaching both seniors and kids in a local studio.
I think that what’s important in life is not so much the cool stuff you have done (read: things that will impress other people) but the work you continue to do, how you contribute to our world and its people. And the place to determine that is not Facebook, it’s out there where real people live and work and play and grow.