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.