Protesting too much

Something odd and dis-quietening happened recently: I discovered that I am being lied about. I was chatting with a friend who isn’t called Ettie when she asked me:

Gossip What happened between you and Suzanne?

It was a while ago, I said, but I did inadvertently betray a confidence and she’s never really forgiven me. Why?

I’ve been chatting with her on IM said Ettie and everything was fine until I asked her about you. She went completely mad, said you’d ruined the Reunion she organised last year.

This astonished me, and that sort of reaction shows in my face. I took a deep breath in:

WhaTT? I was there for five days and ill for three of them! How could I have possibly ruined it?

I took another breath in and deliberately let the subject go. If someone says those sorts of things about you, there is nothing you can do and little you can say without turning into Hamlet’s mother and protesting far too much.

My initial reaction was astonished anger, but I am seeing it from other perspectives now. Susanne’s view of me hasn’t damaged my friendships and, as Ettie demonstrates, our mutual friends are still speaking to both of us and I am glad of that: there is no need for cross-fire. I’ve asked anyone who might want to broke a rapprochement not to try: I’ve moved on and am not interested, and Suzanne seems to be a blue touch paper waiting to be lit.

You see, despite trying hard to live up to the motto never complain, never explain, I do dislike being lied about. I find it sad that the reunion was ruined for her. It was a splendid event which she organised, investing a lot of time and emotion in it and which she appeared to enjoy at the time. In fact we had a very pleasant correspondence about it afterwards because there was a souvenir I missed which she offered to buy and send on to me.

It is sad, but it seems that she ruined it for herself. I was hiding from light and noise most of the time, taking painkillers and whimpering. Maliciously, obviously.

Incidentally, while looking for a picture for this post I came across this stunning poem by Alan Dunnett. I’d pull out my own back teeth to be able to write like that.


11 responses to “Protesting too much

  1. Love the poem, especially the “envenoming shadow”, which is obviously what your friend is suffering from. My take on gossip is that it hurts the gossiper, not the gossipee, so keep up with your “don’t explain, don’t complain” and let the disappointed one choose her suffering.

  2. I hate being lied about too, but it’s a nasty quirk of some people’s nature, I fear. Unless it’s a direct distortion of facts, I do my best to be charitable and think that maybe they don’t realise they are lying – they just see things from a different perspective. Perhaps she did feel you ruined her party by being ill?

    Apart from the personal angle, what is so worrisome about this Orwellian surveillance society we are cantering into is that lies and distortions will inevitably abound in the Stasi-like personal files that NuLab seem determined to foist upon us all. My always unanswered question is: Who observes the observers?

  3. I daresay Ettie’s version of her conversation with Suzanne isn’t one that Suzanne would necessarily endorse……it’s easy to say something mildly irritated about a third party and have your interlocuter place rather more emphasis on it than you intended. Why did Ettie ask you “what happened between you and Suzanne?” Is there actually an innocent explanation for asking this question? (I can’t think of one). Or is she, uh, a bit of a stirrer and a gossip?

  4. I though of an innocent explanation after I hit post…..for the question to be OK, Ettie and you have to know each other very very well, and be much closer than either of you are to Suzanne.

  5. Ettie and I have known each other for a long time, but not very intensely, Potentilla. I’d agree that I might be making more of it than is there, except that I’ve previously heard from other people that she gets almost incoherent with anger at the mention of me. I’ve asked people who are in touch with both of us not to mention us to each other, and most of the time they don’t.

    Suzanne was – rightly – extremely pissed off when I betrayed her confidence though that was done because I wasn’t paying attention, not out of malice. To be honest I’m not comfortable with confidences at the best of times, and deeply dislike it when confidences are used as power ploys or in attempts to divide and conquor or to make you feel special and on some sort of inside track. One of the best things about leaving school was leaving that sort of schoolyard game behind.

    She’s absolutely in her rights to be pissed off with me about that, but I honestly don’t think she’s in her rights to be pissed off with me about the reunion.

    Isn’t the poem fantastic, Charlotte? It really has no connection with what I was writing about, it just seemed to be far too good not to link to. I read it with envy and wonder.

    Anticant, I suspect that you are right and she resented me being ill. I know she asked several people if they thought I actually was ill. On t’other hand, my memories of the Reunion probably paint me in a flattering light. Regarding your other comment; the combination of so much gathered data and so much friction-free distribution of data terrifies me.

  6. Aphra, there’s no such thing as a ‘confidence’. Once you share a secret with anybody else, it’s a secret no longer – you have made it public property. Most people, I’m afraid, have a near-irresistible urge to ‘leak’ – probably because of self-importance!

    There are some things I shall never tell another living soul – not because they are particularly dreadful, or I am ashamed of them, but because they are my private business and no concern of anybody else. Of course, in our brave new 21st century world that’s already on the doorstep, Big Brother won’t agree………Privacy will soon be a dead duck, thanks to all the supine idiots who fall for the ‘terrorism’ bogy.

  7. What I fail to understand, is why Suzanne feels the need to have all these extra reasons to be angry with you , Aphra. I mean, the fact you betrayed her confidence, however inadvertently and innocently, I agree would be plenty to be getting on with. Why knock herself out creating new complicated reasons that have the unfortunate side-effect of making her look unkind and silly?


  8. Anticant, you are so right about confidences. The irony is that I take them very seriously indeed, but I mis-categorised this one as gossip. There are things that I simply don’t tell people because once they’re out they’re out. On the other hand, I appear very open and chatty so people tend to assume that they do know all my business.

    Reed, you are so right. She’s not doing herself any favours. I do actually feel very sorry for her – so long as we keep each other at a safe distance.

    It’s a huge shame that she didn’t enjoy the Reunion. I so nearly didn’t go. On top of everything else, I couldn’t find a cattery which would take my (then) unvaccinated cat. It only came together the day before I was due to leave. However a dear friend was going whom I very much wanted to meet and the one I go on holiday with really wanted to visit the city it was happening in, so it seemed simplest and wisest to go.

    Oh dear. Thinking back, it was all rather fraught.

    I do wish people wouldn’t entrust me with confidences; they are such complicated things to deal with. In the immortal words of Baby Spice, “choke me in the shallow water before I get too deep”.



  9. Here’s a weird one for you: Once, I had a mate, not a particularly good friend, but a good friend of a very good friend, if that makes sense.

    Shortly after that friend died, the lady in question stopped talking to me, no idea why, never really bothered me that much either.

    About three weeks after she’d stopped talking to me, she stormed up in me while I was having a quiet pint and asked me what the Hell I thought I was doing telling people she’d once got so drunk I walked her home and stripped her off and put her to bed naked.

    This confused me. a) I had said no such thing.
    b) one of the reasons I ‘d said no such thing was because I had been in her flat with her precisely once, and on that occasion my *Mother* was with me. I’m not in the habit of stripping drunken females in the presence of my Mother.

    I think said lady had just decided that since her (and my) good friend had died she was going to get really angry with me so she wasn’t upset about him. For a bizarre and bugger all to do with the debate reason she also (irrationally) partly blamed me for his death, which probably helped when she was choosing her target.

    I came to the conclusion that when people are upset about something they deliberately get angry and piss people off for one simple reason: Humans are simple things only capable of feeling one strong emotion at a time, and it’s easier to feel really angry than really upset.

    The reason your ex-friend is upset might have bugger all to do with you, but while she is angry with you she can’t be upset about what’s really bothered her.

  10. You are right Kerr, that is wierd.

    Interesting theory, interesting thought. Thanks for commenting.


  11. Suzanne emailed me today.

    Someone had told her about this blog post and so she emailed me to say that she had in fact enjoyed the Reunion. I am very pleased to hear that.

    With regard to the mixed messages and crossed wires, I think that the effect demonstrated here is the best explanation for them:


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