I’ve Bin Thinking About Your Ignerince

I’ve been blessed with a stellar memory. I’ve been cursed with a stellar memory.

It’s true. My memory is a weird beast. When I worked at a magazine, colleagues used me as a human table of contents. (“When did we run that story about the mommy wars?” “Who edited the piece about hormone replacement therapy?”  May 2006. Liz. Duh.) While road tripping to Chicago with my mom when I first moved out here, I got bored and thought a great project would be to see if I could name every winner of Survivor thus far. Easy.

But for as many wonderful stories and useless bits of trivia afforded by ridiculous powers of recall, you remember the less-than-happy times too. Oftentimes more clearly.

Last month, I wrote a post about new research on friendship breakups (the gist: dumping a friend is harder for women than dumping a lover is). The comments were fascinating—it’s a loaded issue—and brought to mind the only BFF breakup I’ve been through. I promised to tell the story one day. Here it is.

It was the summer before eighth grade. I was dumped. Hard.

I still remember sitting in my summer camp cabin reading the letter from Amanda, one of my closest friends. Well, apparently not. “I’ve bin thinking about this a long time,” she wrote. Yes, she wrote “bin.” And I’m allowed to make fun of that because the rest of the letter was about how everyone in our class hated me and I was going to have no friends that year because I was “ignerint.” Even at 13 I understood the irony of that spelling. And to this day, I still feel some sweet satisfaction at those errors. Because that’s the other thing about having a good memory. It transports you. So even while I’m writing this, those feelings of hurt and shock and confusion and, yes, superiority are bubbling up all over again, though dulled by the distance of 15 years.

When I read the letter I cried and cried and cried. And then I laughed a little at her poor spelling and then I cried some more. (You might now be thinking I am harping on the spelling thing, but I was 13 and in fear of utter friendlessness. I took what I could get.) I had no idea—I still don’t—what I’d done to deserve this. I believed Amanda when she said nobody liked me anymore and I shouldn’t come back to school. I sent my parents the letter, with a note of my own telling them that I must transfer. Immediately.

Of course, the best thing about being 13 and at summer camp is how quickly the clouds part. Because by the time my mom got the letter and called up, demanding to speak to me, I was all, “Hi Mom! What’s up?” By then, I’d made a friend—more like a big sister—because of the letter. An older girl saw me crying, took me under her wing, told me Amanda was a moron, and is still a dear friend today. (She might even be reading this. Thanks Sarah!)

I did not switch schools. I got home from camp. I still had friends, even if the gang I’d once shared with Amanda was a bit splintered. I survived the end of middle school. But I never forgot.

I asked my mom about the letter the other day (she’d inexplicably kept it for years afterwards) and she said, “Don’t you remember? You told me you eventually asked Amanda about it. She said she wrote it when she was drunk.”

Um, no. That’s kind of amazing-slash-horrifying. And news to me.

I guess I don’t remember everything.


Filed under The Old Days

36 responses to “I’ve Bin Thinking About Your Ignerince

  1. Oh my God–what a shocker ending this story has!

    I, too, would have taken solace that someone who called me “ignerant” couldn’t even spell the word right. It’s delicious irony.

    I’m glad Sarah found you crying and helped you through. It’s lovely that something so wretched had a payoff.

  2. Emily

    I still have the email that a friend wrote to me “breaking up with me” last year. I guess I keep it to remember that this was a necessary step for her and to remind myself of the signs that I missed along the way. So why do I still have it? Should I get rid of it?

  3. mom

    I kept it to remind you what a moron she was in case you ever doubted it…then because I thought it was so ridiculous that you might want to see it again someday. I was right.

  4. Ouch. That’s painful. Regardless of the alcoholic intake. Plus I don’t trust people who use ‘I was drunk’ as an excuse. I think they’re just doing the things they didn’t have the cajones to do when they were sober. Sorry, tangent…

    Anway, you get the last laugh obviously. Because you can spell. I know it still hurts but it was nice to soften the blow!

    Girls can be mean but I’m proud to say I’ve never written a hurtful letter like that. So glad you found Sarah instead! The other gal showed her true colours at age 13. BTW, before anyone jumps on me – colours is spelled correctly in Canada! 🙂


  5. I also would have been consoled by the spelling errors. And as painful as that moment was, you were obviously better off being “ignerint” without your so-called “friend” with a drinking problem at 13. I can only imagine what terrible things a girl like that could have pulled you in to if she hadn’t “broken up” with you!!!

  6. Jen

    Amazing – I thought I was the only one who got letters. Sadly, I’ve gotten this same dumpage several times. It appears that every five years, it was necessary for someone to tell me that I sucked and no one liked me. Isn’t it funny how the friend never is secure enough to just say, “I don’t like you anymore,” they always have to drag everybody else in?

    The last time was in my twenties, a dear friend was letting me crash with her during what was probably the lowest point in my life, and she finally got fed up with my free-loading (yeah, I was unemployed and sleeping on her couch). She wrote me a letter telling me, among other things about how I sucked, that I was not her mother, she had a wonderful mother, and I needed to shut up, as no one wanted my advice. (She had asked me! She just didn’t like what I had to say.)

    Amazingly, we eventually got over it, and years later, when I made a wry comment about it, she drew a blank – she had forgotten she had ever written it to me! Forgot! Forgot she had told me no one cares what I think and that if I wanted to be depressed (I was), I needed to go do it elsewhere! I had to believe her, from her horrified reaction. We’re still friends.

  7. Alex

    That’s a grate storee…

  8. Oh wow – didn’t see that twist coming at the end. And yes, ignerince is a wonderful irony.

    I too received a break up letter from a friend that made me bawl. I was much older. And while I let that friendship go, it took me years to forget the searing pain that letter brought. And now, 12 years later, she found me on Facebook and decided she wanted me in her life again.

    While I accepted her request, I kept my distance. I don’t know if she remembers her letter to me, but I will never forget it.

    • What is it about Facebook and ex-friends from our past coming out of the woodwork? I recently got a friend request from a former friend who decided she hated me when we were in high school and went on to torment me every chance she got. And now she wants to be “friends”? She must not remember, is the only thing I can think of!

      (and I too accepted her request… but I never really interact with her. Whatever!

  9. Wow. This story is amazing, and the idea that someone would end a friendship in such a fractured, terrible way is sad. It’s like breaking up with someone via text message, but probably worse.

    What’s great about the story is seeing where and who you are, and what you’ve made of a life that someone, at one point, didn’t value very much. Shame on her. And sweet satisfaction, indeed!

  10. I had a similar experience growing up. I accidentally discovered a note that was not intended for me. In it, my “friend” wrote that she hated me. Mainly because I was becoming friends with HER best friend. Still remember the angst of that moment. Girls can be so mean!

  11. Beth

    Ha! Great Friday post Rachel. Drunk?! At 13? Damn. If she’s sending drunk mail at 13, can you imagine the drunk dialer, texter that she probably went on to be?

    Have a great weekend!

  12. JP

    That Amanda sounds like some drunk!

  13. Megan

    Wow. I remember having a “break-up” hardcore, too, around the same age. My friend Mo (Maureen) and I had been friends since before I had siblings (my next youngest sibling is 3 and a half years behind me), we were inseparable and as opposite as opposite could be: she went to Catholic school (which I petitioned – yes, sent around a piece of paper to the entire 7th grade at my school – to have her switch from), she was “pathologically religious” (until the Columbine High School shootings – I grew up in the town that happened in, and my parents still live only about ten minutes away from the school) and I was staunchly atheist. But, we “broke up” for other reasons which I don’t remember. We even did the “exchanging stuff” – I filled a box of all her things to take to her house, and vice versa. We didn’t talk for two whole weeks, and then, had the longest extended sleepover I’ve ever had that summer – the one in which we wrote “the summer letter” (basically, passing notes back and forth to one another while in the same room so we’d have a record of this totally awesome record-setting event). Things did not end well, though. Last year (yes, at ages 22 and 23), we ended our relationship permanently. Well, at least I’ve not spoken to her since. Friend break-ups are MUCH harder than romantic break-ups…
    Anyway, thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad I’m not the only “overly sensitive” one out there!

  14. Eva

    It *is* a blessing and a curse, isn’t it?! I have a great memory for most things (conversations I’ve had, lessons taught in class, names of TV characters…) but a pretty bad memory for others (sports stats, recipes, things I don’t care about).

    Another curse of having a good memory is how you think you’re always remembering something the right way. I get into tiffs with my husband because I insist my version is the correct one. And on occasion, it’s actually his recollection that ends up being accurate. Yikes!

  15. *gasp* Really, she wrote it when she was drunk? I swear, there should be a running list of Stupid Things People Do While Under the Influence. So much attention is paid to drunk driving and irresponsible sex (as it should be), but there’s a long list of things we could all learn from. Mental note: do not open mouth, use phone or write letters when drunk. =)

  16. I have received four breakup letters that I can recall. They were all full of nastiness – things that those people would never be bold enough to say in real life.

    One, from childhood, I have reconnected with and we get along really well. (Well, online. We live across the country from each other.) The others … eh.

    And as for memory – mine used to be unfortunately stellar. I could transcribe conversations after the fact. Then I went through chemo, and my memory now is moderately terrible. While it certainly relieves the stress of remembering every wrongdoing ever done to me, it is stressful not to remember conversations ever happening, or people’s names. Mixed bag.

  17. SAP

    Having a good memory is a challenge heightened only by being a pack-rat. I was able to comfort this sweet and totally loveable 13 yr old Rachel because I too had suffered a breakup. Subsequent to my breakup, I gathered all things that reminded me of my lost BFF – pictures, mix tapes, letters, gifts – put them into a bag (even the bag carried memories of her) and hid the bag deep inside a closet. One visit home during college, I found myself waist deep in all my mementos, when I came across the bag. And, like Rachel’s retelling here, the bag of memories (and the remembering of the bag now) summons feelings of hurt, loss, and betrayal. But I knew enough then, more than 5 years later, to the throw the whole thing in the trash. I think I was able to do that, in part, because I had realized, in reassuring Rachel that Amanda was a moron, that my ex-BF was too. Sadly, she didn’t even try to pretend she was drunk.

  18. Well, but look at you now…

    When I was in the 6th grade my parents moved us from SF to LA and then quickly back after they realized it was a mistake. My “friends” had morphed into frenemies upon return– the ring leader even cornering me in the girls bathroom to demand why I hadn’t written her while away. I remember her having perfect fake french manicured fingernails that she flicked against each other as she talked, while other girls stood in a circle around us. I remember being terrified. Middle school sucked after that.

    But if you were to do a “where are they now?” and compare our lives, I’m pretty sure she may have won the battle, but I won the war.

  19. OH, the agony. It’s not hard to conjure up these awful letters (the worst one I ever got was signed by a whole crowd of popular seniors after I wrote a particularly sanctimonious editorial in the school paper as a freshman.)

    Keeping memories like this fresh, but in perspective, will help us all when our kids start hitting the same dramas… as an elementary school educator, I can tell you it starts these days for girls in the 2nd grade.

    let’s brace ourselves!!

  20. This story reminds me of when I decided to [tried to] break up with a friend in the 4th grade. My father was in the military and we moved around a lot, so I knew that if it didn’t work out as a friendship, I’d meet someone else, even if I had to wait a year or two.

    She was a year younger than me. She always seemed to have friends over that I wasn’t allowed to meet. Her birthday always coincided with a very important performance of mine, so I could never go to her birthday party and she could never go to my performance. Their family poodle hated me, barking unceasingly at me every time I came over. She always had bits of gossip to talk about in a sassy, bossy way. And even though I hate deviled eggs, she loved them, and always seemed to have some in the house. So I told her, in front of her mom, that I didn’t want to be friends anymore, but that because we had to, I’d still walk with her to the bus every morning. I think it was a weekend.

    The week of standardized testing was the next week. The morning that testing was to begin, her mom told me that after school I’d need to come over because, “We need[ed] to talk.” I was nervous All. Day. I was worried she wouldn’t let me not be friends with her daughter; that she’d talk to my parents and they’d agree the whole thing was silly and I must not have meant it. I worried both of our parents would make us be friends.

    So I went to their house. Her mom sat me down and told me that maybe it was best that I not be friends with her. Then she lectured me a little bit. But I was happy that she wasn’t going to try to make me be friends. So happy that I think I ran home.

    She and I ended up re-becoming friends, mostly because of proximity. My mother didn’t like to let me leave the neighbourhood, and that seriously cut down on my friendship options, especially in the summertime. But I did and still do resent her as a friend; when we moved away, I wasn’t particularly sad at all.

  21. I have never gotten a break up “letter” but I definitely have had some hard break ups. Ones that I had no idea what happened and was left feeling very empty. And sad.

    Your letter was a classic with that misspelling. I’m glad that it kept things in perspective for you! And I hope that one day, if she tries to friend you on facebook, you reply: IGNOOR! 🙂

  22. That last bit cracks me up!
    It’s crazy how awful girls can be to each other, the breakups of middle and even high school. So much more traumatic than boys, you are so right.

  23. Your mom rocks. Just saying.

    I broke up with a friend once. A BFF. I was a big jerk. It killed me until I found her on Facebook and wrote a long apology message. She, thankfully, forgave me. At least I hope she did. I hope that I can transform the agony I had over that “ignerent” break-up and teach my kids a great lesson.

    That is, if I remember.

  24. Love the concept for your blog and your book! You’re bringing back memories of the first time I got dumped by a friend. I was shocked. Actually, as I look back I’m amazed that any teenage girls manage to maintain sane friendships at all. What a crazy, hormonal, unstable time in life! I was so glad to get to my twenties. Hoping my 30s will be even better but since, in some ways, I feel like I’m rediscovering myself all over again as a woman now that I’m a mom, it’s like being back in those discovery days of high school. Ah, the insecurities! Anyway, I’m rambling. Great stuff.

  25. TJ

    drunk at 13! Yikes! You didn’t need her anyway!

    And your mom really does rock.

  26. Hysterical. Memory’s a funny thing. When I was a kid my grandmother spelled out the word F-U-C-* Because I couldn’t yet spell, the letters were fused to my memory, awaiting the day when I could wrestle meaning from them. Imagine my surprise when I learned that my “abuela” was a potty mouth 😛

  27. The whole story fits together as a tale of Amanda’s envy and hurt for being left (as you went off to glamorous great fun, perhaps in her imagination), compounded by her apparent low-self-esteem, compounded by her apparently turning to alcohol at age thirteen.

    Middle school is the meanest time, and this post reveals your essentially sweet nature and lack of guile.

    As a grown-up I had a surprisingly middle-school style “break-up” with a good friend who refused to tell me what I had done or let me even try to talk it out and repair things. Two years later he acknowledged that he had gotten into sobriety and things finally made a little more sense (but never came back to where they had been).

    Here’s to kindness, trust and those dear and life-long friends who don’t betray us (and new connections in the spirit of kindness and respect as well).

  28. I was 13 when I finally found a friend that didn’t break up with me!

    By my count, I’ve been dumped a minimum of eleven times. I’m talking a letter, an answering machine message, an official posse announcement, or some combination of above.

    Each time hurt just as much as the last. Possibly for that reason I’ve always just let friendships drift rather than make any kind of official “this isn’t working for me” declaration.

  29. I must agree with you here…having a great memory is both a blessing and a curse. I mean, why can’t I just forgot that it’s my ex’s birthday instead of forcing myself not to text him by “accidentally” misplacing my phone?!

  30. tommy

    I can’t phantom how you must have felt. That would cause complete pandolerium in a child’s life!!

    And… If you can write a letter, stuff it into an envelope, address the envelope, stamp it, then get it mailed – which, unlike texting or emails, only comes along at certain times, I am pretty sure you can’t blame alcohol as the “cause” of the letter.

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  35. When I was in high school I had a friend who decided that she didn’t like me anymore while she was high on acid. I was there with the group and I overheard her telling my friends how acid helps you figure things out about people. I wasn’t partaking in said acid so I was clear-headed enough to know that they were talking about me. Another friend later on told me what went down but I had already moved on and could stay calm about the incident. I think about that fairly often and about how lucky I was to part ways with that group. No one needs friends like that.

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