Why do we all do it? You go to a family funeral. The ‘deceased’ spent a lifetime being foul to everyone around them. But at the service, everyone gets all sentimental.
“She’ll be missed.”
“She was always so much fun.”
And so it goes on. But the reality is that everyone thought ‘she’ was a total bitch who never had a kind word to say.
And the same applies to people reminiscing about an old boyfriend, memories of childhood or our school days.
What is it in us that makes us behave in what is, fundamentally, a dishonest way?
“Never speak ill of the dead.” my mother always used to say.
I’m not suggesting we should all go around gratuitously slagging off dead people. I just don’t see why we can’t be honest instead of re-writing history.
And the same applies to old girl/boyfriends.
For years and years, I held a candle for an ex-boyfriend. In my mind I replayed all the ‘special’ moments we had had. To be really honest with myself, those moments were the exceptions. Most of the time he was pretty unkind. I suspect he cheated on me and it was only when he showed the first signs of being physically abusive, that I walked.
And then there’s a friend of mine, who recently told me of a conversation she had had with her father. “Those years, when you kids were young, were the happiest years of my life.” he declared.
My friend was speechless.
Her father had been an angry man, a bully, and a physically abusive one too. My friend has spent much of her adult life coming to terms with the impact his behaviour has had on her.
All she could think was “Sorry? But which house were you living in when I was a kid? Asshole!”
So going back to my original question… why do people blank out the shit, and talk about the past, or people who have died, with such saccharine prose?
Is it too hard to accept that someone we were close to could have mistreated us badly? Is it because we don’t want to accept mistakes we have made? Or possibly, we want to feel “normal” and present an idea to the world of this perfect childhood, relationship etc.
And does it help us to behave in this way?
From personal experience I don’t think it does. I have had heated conversations over the years, because a topic of conversation has triggered some historical angst. Without knowledge of this angst, the person on the receiving end has looked completely baffled at my over the top response. I’m sure we all do it.
Maybe our British ‘stiff upper lip’, and mixture of pride and desire for social acceptability paralyses us.
I have always been a fairly closed person. I can talk for England, without actually saying anything! I realise that this is not a very healthy way to live, so I have recently made a concerted effort to be more open.
It’s not easy. It makes me feel vulnerable. But I have been astounded by the revelations that others have made when I have opened up.
We may believe that keeping things to ourselves and presenting a certain image of ourselves makes us feel ‘normal’. But ironically, it’s sharing details of my life with close friends and discovering that others have their own issues, that I never knew about, which has truly made me feel normal.