The number of times I have heard that phrase, over the last twenty five years of my life, is immeasurable. The number of times it included me were few and far between.
In the beginning of our relationship, the courting and dating era, I began to hear the stories from my ex’s friends. They were adventurous, funny, embarrassing, coming of age type of stories. I enjoyed them, it was a way for me to get to know him better through the eyes of his friends, and to get an idea of what type of friend he was to others. It’s part of the normal progression of discovery in a new relationship. They had all been together since the beginning of high school, so they knew him much better than I did, and I was eager to learn more about him.
Most of the stories and memories came from high school, some from college and after, but mainly from their teen years. We all have those “crazy” stories that we share with our friends, and even our families, we even use them sometimes to slightly embarrass each other in front of a new love interest. Like showing naked baby pictures, or school pictures from that period of your life when your teeth were too big for your mouth and your hair was a crazy mop of bad decisions. Those are the experiences, embarrassing or otherwise, that make us the people we are today.
Experiences that have shaped, added color to and created the tapestry of our life.
As time went on, the stories still continued, but began to be repeated. Let’s be honest, there are only so many memories you can collectively share, that you have from any period of your life, that you can relate and retell. Eventually, you begin to recycle them.
It was usually during a night out with “the gang”; at a party, during a holiday celebration, at a wedding, a reunion or even a funeral. Sometimes it was just having a beer together with one or more of his friends in a bar or restaurant or in our home, it was a conversation filler, a way to reconnect. I listened and smiled, laughed at the right parts, and looked just as entertained as they all seemed to be with themselves.
After more than a few years of us being a couple I began to notice that the stories never got updated. They worked on a certain timeline.
And that timeline didn’t include me.
That’s not to say that we didn’t have some life-changing, scratch your head, laugh out loud funny, do you believe that happened? kind of memories. Or that they happened in a vacuum. No, we did many things with his group of friends – actually most of our time together was with his group of friends usually – and I assumed, over time, that would make them my friends too, and we would all have shared memories to reminisce over.
That’s not how it works, I guess.
In the beginning, I accepted that they didn’t include me, because I was new to the group and hadn’t grown up with any of them, or in their town for that matter. I was originally from the same town, but had moved in grade school, so my opinions and observations of the area really didn’t count. I’m not really “from” there then.
I eventually mentioned it to my ex, after about seven years of hearing “remember that time” for the umpteenth time. I wondered out loud if any of them had made any new memories, maybe something interesting had happened since they turned 21?
Why didn’t they ever talk about the camping trips we took together, when the raccoons stole fruit out of our coolers and we put up heavy cotton tents in the dark in 90 degree heat? Or relive the time it was so cold that a neighbor camper slept in their truck and ran the engine all night – much to the irritation of one of our guys, who let them know in very colorful language around 2am – and we all decided that to stay warm that night we should all sleep naked? (the guys obviously came up with that idea)
Or how about the vacation we took with one of the couples and the creepy hotel room in Memphis, with the scuzzy pool, and we arrived too early to check in after driving all night to get there? Maybe even the party where I first hung out with my ex, the night we both went along with most of the people from the bar that were part of a wedding earlier in the day, to one of the couples’ house to keep the party rolling, and the crazy fight that ensued later where furniture went flying through the front window (along with one or two people), and I slept on the floor of a bedroom so I wouldn’t disturb anyone?
It’s not as if I wasn’t around, or didn’t participate in a life that they were all currently living, for the last twenty or more years. I just didn’t count. I didn’t make the cut.
I wasn’t an original player, or a “founding member” of his fan club. And looking back on it all now, they were all part of their own fan club – the “popular kids” from high school, all grown up now, but still living in the past.
A collective fantasy of forever high school.
The fact that most of his friends had married someone from their high school, and he didn’t, wasn’t lost on me. It made me uncomfortable at first, the feeling that I had to try harder to be accepted, and yet I never got it quite right. I went to the wrong school, in the wrong town, and at the wrong time – I had graduated two years before most of them.
No, I was never part of the “remember that time” conversations, I was just the captive audience, and eventually I stopped playing the game. I stopped participating in the peanut gallery to cheer, laugh and be amazed by them all. I finally made it clear to my ex after a long while, that I was over the whole tired practice of it all, and had no desire to attend another class reunion alongside him to re-meet his old school friends – not only do I get to stand there, smiling like an idiot listening to the same stories over again while they puff out their chests and slap each other on the back or laugh hysterically at their own antics, but I get the added bonus of him most likely ignoring me the entire night, and often times, not even bothering to introduce me to the his fringe fan club.
That’s a fun time, who wouldn’t want to miss that??
My ex would even go out of his way sometimes to point out that I had no idea what was so funny, or interesting, or great about whatever story because I wasn’t there to experience it.
And many times he would recount a story that involved me – maybe I was even at the center of the action – and still manage to leave me out of it entirely. Somehow he or another friend had saved the day, found the answer, had the great idea or made the hysterical comment. I would honestly sit there and wonder how that was even possible…how did I remember being there, at the heart of the story, and not make the final version? How could he leave me out of it entirely? It would make me question my own memory, searching back to recall details to reassure myself, only to think that maybe I wasn’t there at all or it didn’t really happen the way I remembered it.
But I do remember when…even if they never remember me.