I lost a friend recently. At least, a friendly acquaintance who had known me and my children from when our youngsters were quite small.
We ran into each other, had a brief chat, and arranged to meet for a comfortable cup of tea and cosy catch-up natter.
She works and her children have had all hell break loose at school. The eldest is a fine young man (they are both lovely young men) and is a strong individualist. Naturally, school did not suit him nor, naturally, did he suit school.
There were ructions.
Friend, L, works. She and her husband both work. This is relevant, I think.
L and I ran into interpersonal ructions over working and motherhood and responsibility to one's children. Frankly, I think I was put on this earth to mother my children, that they come first because they are not adult and, putatively, able to look after themselves, and when they encountered a surfeit of stress, anxiety and strain at school, after trying quite a lot of strategies, I took them out of that place.
They didn't suit it and it didn't suit them. I was more bothered about school not suiting my children than the opposite. My children are not in existence to please a shoal of misguided bureaucrats and an outmoded, damaging institution.
L started off by polishing her children's achievements in front of me, especially those of her younger son because he had more GCSEs. That got me a little narked. I mean it's hard not to say what a bunch of useless accomplishments your child has been conned into, but I bit my tongue.
I wanted to tell her that she had better have used her time keeping her young at home and joying with them as they journeyed into true learning. More tongue biting. Once or twice my poor tongue was raw (and painful).
Eventually, L went off in a fine huff. She doesn't care for non-working women who spend her tax pounds. That I am not a woman spending her tax pounds didn't seem to matter. I have been thinking over the whole situation and have come up with this:
I am no longer a person with social respectability. I'm not socially respectable. I don't do respectable any more because I don't do what I'm expected to do (sail out to a useless, meaningless, soul-destroying job every day rain or shine, heaps of snow or ice). My respectable position as a wife/mother/partner/worker/bitcher about what-my-children-don't-do-that-they-should-do has disintegrated.
I cannot face L because she disapproves of me. I cannot face her because I disapprove of her. Now we have nothing in common but the brief time of a shared past and that is, apparently, not enough. Her prejudices have conquered her. My prejudices have conquered me.
This is the second time I've lost a 'friend' that way. R was a friend I thought I'd have for life. Same deal. Working. Child bullied. Wouldn't give up work to protect child. End of story. Except that I told her what I thought. Goodbye, R.
I really do attempt to understand them. I do. Even more, I attempt not to judge them. I do.
Christmas 2009 I sent and received fewer cards.
No loss there then.