Letter To Tera

(Tera was a friend from university, who I finally got upset with in person and cut contact with. She reached out to a mutual friend to establish contact. First two paragraphs are what she sent.)

Sigh. I don’t want him to get mad at you for asking. And i don’t want to put you in a position that makes you uncomfortable in any way. If you are okay asking him, that would be great, but like I said it’s just to satisfy my curiosity, which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t really a big deal, you know? As I mentioned I think about it from time to time and wrack my brain trying to figure out what happened, and I just come up with nothing. 

I mean, if I did something that was so horrible, i would like to know so I can try to make it right, although it doesn’t sound like he even wants that. If it’s some kind of huge misunderstanding, I don’t understand why he wouldn’t have clarified with me before utterly losing it on me.

*****

Tera, 

Of course, I’m not mad at her for asking: I knew you would sooner or later do so. I am not even surprised that it is later, and that you consider it no big deal, because you want to satisfy your curiosity first and foremost, instead of trying to reach out to repair the hurt that I clearly evidenced. 

And within that lies the entire crux of the situation. Allow me to explain how in almost 30 years we got to this point.  

Twenty-eight years ago, you dragged me out of the closet. Twenty-seven years ago, you convinced me to move to Toronto. Twenty-six years ago, I was lucky to see you as a friend once a month. Twenty-five years ago, I realized that I was only interesting to you as a project, and as I gained new insight into myself and my own independence into my life as a whole, your continued go-to was the naive country bumpkin you rescued.

Because of the way you painted me when I first moved to the city, a good swath of your friends didn’t want me around. I was the albatross around your neck, because clearly, i wasn’t understanding the ways of the world, because they didn’t add up to your perception of what a gay should be like.

Just like you resented Deb “stealing” your style – one she excelled in and grew, up to her death – and began to mischaracterize her, you would dismiss my comments and corrections about your misperceptions of what gay lifestyle entailed, because as you put it to me once “you wouldn’t have any clue about it, if I hadn’t brought you here.”  

Heck, when I went to do drag for the first time, you told me how I couldn’t possibly, because real drag queens were artists, who spent thousands on their outfits and they had talent. I was so glad for your support then.  Even after you saw some of the pics, you told me how terrible I looked…despite the fact I was offered a regular gig.  At that time, I still had a level of naivete about me that I was somehow lesser, and I looked to you for counsel. You were key in me not pursuing that path. 

But it was still hurtful, so I then chose to spend less time with you in person. I followed you on LiveJournal and later Facebook. It was fascinating watching you live in another country. I for one had actually looked forward to hearing more about certain things when you returned, but I remember when you came back you resenting that no one wanted to hear about your time there. 

I was kind of shocked since that was ALL we talked about that first afternoon I got together with you upon your return.  When I said to you “well we’ve now talked for two hours about your year, and you haven’t asked how I’m doing,” you scoffed and said, “everybody here is doing the exact same things as when I left, dancing to the same music, in the same clubs with the same people talking about the same boring stuff and I’ve just come back from having the most amazing life experience and no one is interested in hearing about it. My cousin warned me people would be like this.”  

I don’t think I felt my life be that devalued by someone I called a friend up to that point in my life, or since. 

So, I spent even less time with you. You would dip in and out of my life at your convenience, mostly to satisfy your curiosity. You wanted to visit when I was with David not to meet my significant other, but to observe Rych’s uncle, who you were fascinated with and had taken pictures of through the window meeting his son for the first-time years prior. When I tried to change the topic, you took it back to “omg Rob, this is my history: I met him before you did.  I just have so many questions!”

Your wanting to get together over the years was always at your convenience, and demanded, never asked. If I did ask to get together, it was an inconvenience, you were busy, work, boyfriend etc., with no alternative offered.  

Think I am exaggerating?  Let’s go to the recent examples prior to me “utterly losing it” on you.

This was the penultimate conversation on Messenger, just prior to us meeting:

You: “hey, did you get a new dog?”

Me: “What the, one I’ve been posting about about for a year?”

You: “I don’t have time to keep up with people.  What kind is it?”

Me: “Chihuaha”

You: “Great. I need to bring (my son) to see it.”

Yeah, I didn’t respond, as there was little point in you getting the obvious. 

So, beyond the fact that you have no time to keep up with people, my pet is to serve as your son’s entertainment, and I should be good with that?  Well, sweetheart, the last time I entertained you and your son it was just after my husband died at our old apartment. You couldn’t have been bothered to listen for more than 10 – 15 minutes of what I had been through without telling my you didn’t want to hear anymore, as it would be too upsetting for your non-verbal, not quite a toddler son and you just couldn’t deal. You kept it pretty much focussed on the dogs.  And you fucking had the audacity to remind me that you were so glad that you brought me to Toronto so that I had the opportunity to meet Jaymz.

I bawled for hours after you left.

In that intervening time, I still tried to maintain a friendship with you.  On several occasions, eventually with your father entering hospital you would reach out for help with questions regarding the social service and health care systems.  Your response on those occasions was a variation of: “I took the same course you.”  

Goddamnit, I have specialized far beyond college.  As you pursued several more different degrees/diplomas in areas you never used, In the last 15 years I was getting additional certification in what I do; in the last ten years, I have been a consultant on a series of books on system navigation; I was tapped to sit on round-tables with the Ministry of Health for redesigning dementia and palliative care; I sat on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Caregiver Coalition, and lobbied to get the family caregiver leave that now exists.  I reached out to share step by step what you needed to do when your dad went into the hospital, to make sure that you were prepared for next steps: you dismissed my entire message with “yeah, he’s not leaving the hospital”, and lauded your friend’s advice about how they got private long-term care…which doesn’t exist. No such thing. That’s pay-for seniors’ care, and people are dying in those situations, as it is non-medical care, which people can be charged what the market will bear, and falls under a completely different section of legislation.

My entire line of work at the time for ten years, but you took the same course in college…

I have always been grateful to you for supporting me as I came out.  And for convincing me to move to Toronto. But while you may have been a support at that point in time, you haven’t actually been around for the tough bits since, so don’t kid yourself on how big of a role you have had in my life.

See, everyone who is gay at the point they come out wears a shield identity that they navigate the world behind.  You once made a comment that I was like I had just hit my teen years and was just figuring stuff out. That was actually true.  But beyond the trials and travails of transitioning from childhood to adulthood, a gay person has to weigh and come to terms with their own identity and every relationship that they have ever had, and how the revelation of their orientation will either strengthen or weaken those relationships.  They have to chip away at their own shield identity to figure out which part of them is really them, and which part the facade. As they gain acceptance for themselves, they begin to rebuild themselves, almost like people have to rebuild themselves after a bad breakup, except it is continuous until they can say ‘fuck it, I’m okay with myself’.  To put someone back in the context of a previous identity without being able to acknowledge the current identity (i.e. “I can’t believe how much you have changed since when we first met; you’ve gone from the shy closet case to living your truth”) is not just dismissive, it is nothing short of damaging…if not to the person, then to the relationship.

As far as moving to Toronto, that had always been on my agenda.  I would have gotten here one way or the other. But it isn’t like you fed and housed me and got me a job.  In fact, some of the advice you gave me for resume prep and job search – e.g. “be a stripper, it’s good money” – is the worse I have ever received in my life.

Then the ultimate conversation.  Here is what set things up:

You: “hey, boyfriend and I were just at Storm Crow Manor for dinner.  Now at Woody’s. Come.”

I showed that message to the friends I was with hanging out with that night, a few doors down.  Their comments included “what a rude b-h”, “does she think you have no life”, and “don’t go. What kind of a c-t doesn’t plan?”

Still don’t get it?  You had an opportunity prior to say “I’m going to dinner with my boyfriend in your neighborhood.  I’d love if you can come join us afterwards at Woody’s if you’re not doing anything.” But you don’t ask, you demand. You don’t consider, you control.

But I went.  Thought maybe you might have gotten it, since I hadn’t replied about the dog, but that was the second thing out of your mouth as an introduction to your new dude, “he’s got this little dog I’m taking my kid to see”.

The first thing out of your mouth was “this is the gay I dragged out of university and moved to Toronto.”

That’s when I started recording you on to Facebook live.  I needed to know that what I was hearing was the gospel truth, and that anytime my heart started thinking “I should see how she is doing”, I could watch that, and spare myself some tears.

For a while in my life when I moved here, I just thought it was me.  As I struggled to navigate my coming out in Toronto, and being continually told at first how naive and dumb I was about the ‘real world’, I missed the fact that you treat a lot of people like this.  The most disparaging conversation I have ever witnessed was you telling your childhood best friend, ‘what do you know, you haven’t been to university’ while you got your stripper gear out.  You could strip, because it was going to your tuition.  She was ‘just’ a stripper. 

And you never seem to get it when someone else is embarrassed.  I can’t believe that you were telling guests that you accidentally got pregnant, because you stopped taking birth control, because you didn’t have sex very often…while your boyfriend at the time is just in the bathroom. I’ve heard you several times suggest that you should hold an intervention for different people, while downing a beer.  I’m also very cognizant of the fact that you currently have the evil stepmother role down pat. 

You wonder why I didn’t say anything?  I have given you almost 30 years of conversation, hints, outright statements and explanations, which have gone over your head, so this isn’t a little misunderstanding one time in a bar.  

You wonder why I don’t want to talk with you anymore? Encounters with you over the years have left me feeling horrible, devalued, and questioning myself.  And I refuse, after working on my own self for thirty years and feeling okay with myself, to be dragged backwards by someone who is that toxic.  I’m even going to give you the benefit of the doubt for past gratitude that you are being intentionally cruel; I believe that you have a narcissistic personality disorder.

From the Mayo Clinic, traits of narcissistic personality disorder include:

  • Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
  • Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
  • Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
  • Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
  • Take advantage of others to get what they want
  • Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Be envious of others and believe others envy them
  • Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious

I am sure that you are going to dismiss this letter right out of hand.  Also from Mayo:

At the same time, people with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism, and they can:

  • Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment
  • Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted
  • React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior
  • Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior
  • Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change
  • Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection
  • Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation

Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662 

In conclusion:  I do not regret having you enter my life three decades ago.  I believe that people come into your life for a reason, season or lifetime.  Yours was a reason, but the solution was achieved shortly after I got to the city.  Again, I am also grateful for you introducing me to some of the most wonderful people on the planet that I remain in close touch with for the same period of time.  They are also some of the same people who you have belittled, hurt and disparaged over the years.  I feel sad for you, because they are some of the most supportive and loving people I have ever met.

I hope you learn and grow from some of what I have written here.  Sadly, I feel like you simply dismiss it all, and continue to damage your relationships and not even know why.

I wish you well in life, but I do not want you in mine.

(Edit: From the mutual friend I got her response – She read it can’t understand where all the anger is coming from remembers things differently from you. Comments from mutual ex-friends of hers include: “of course she didn’t….eyes roll hard”; “She will dismiss it of course but its brilliant!”; and other descriptions of her that I won’t share here.

I’m actually not angry with her, and wasn’t angry when I wrote this: I was only angry that night, and by the time I got home the anger was at myself for allowing myself to feel beholden to her. I tried to give clear examples of memorable moments, so that I wasn’t dismissed out of hand, but she would like to try and gaslight, even when there were others present who can vouch for the conversations. I feel sad for her that she continues to damage relationships with so many wonderful people.)

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