I’ve been getting questions about my experiences with particular individuals with whom I’ve had contact or relationships over the years of my life. In particular, whether my experience with people makes a statement about those individuals. It does not.
Any experience I’ve had in my lifetime and about which I may write here is MY experience. Nothing more. My writing about something makes no specific statement about the person or people with whom I’ve shared that experience. It makes a statement about ME, and how I perceived, distilled, and internalized the experience of engaging with that person or those people.
I’ve known and interacted with a lot of people over my lifetime as we all have. And guess what? The person we knew in high school may be the same at the twenty-fifth reunion, but they may also be hugely different because of the life they experienced over those twenty-five years. We may only know a father as a devoted family man who attends all of his kids’ sports and school events, but when we meet an old friend of his from college, we may find out that he was known among his fraternity brothers as a bit of a womanizer.
The girl with whom we shared a cubicle wall when we first started working at age 22 may be just as much of a flirtatious man-eater at 45 when we run into her on the street lo those many years later, or she may be a happily married mother of four who shudders to think of her early dating history. The sweet boy who worked in the office fax room and smiled shyly at you may always stay that shy and unassuming, or he may come out of his shell and develop a thick skin along the way to becoming a successful businessman who treats people callously.
The point is lives have chapters, many chapters. We all have second, third, fourth, and even more, acts to our stories. And that’s just what our lives, our pasts are…stories. Our stories. Not the stories of those with whom we’ve interacted or with whom we’ve had relationships, personal or professional. Does the experience of the first or second chapter of a life negate the experiencing of a third, fourth or later chapter? Of course not.
I once had a boss who hacked into my e-mail account while I was going through my divorce because he was sure that I had left my husband for him and was jealous that I was dating other men. Apparently, he thought that violating my privacy and betraying my trust was the ideal way to get me to have a relationship with him. Do I believe that he treated every other woman in his life that way? Of course not. Do I believe that he would treat me the same way now? No. Would I ever again give him the chance to treat me that way? No effing way. But simply because that was MY experience with him, in no way does my relating my experience and my feelings about that experience mean that he was guaranteed to treat the next woman he was with the same way. In fact, I am pretty sure that his later life experience of marrying and having a daughter ensured that he would never do such a thing again.
In my twenties, I had a friend who claimed she didn’t like sex. Years later, when she was in an entirely different situation and different relationship, she confessed to me that she had been so wrong about that. If her original statement had been taken as an indictment of her as a person and her ability to enjoy physical intimacy, she might never have gotten into the second relationship. But the person with whom she shared the later relationship didn’t hear about the statement until she chose to reveal it. Her new partner didn’t take her first partner’s experience and internalize it as his own.
Everyone reacts to different people in different ways. Every moment in our lives is different, and our actions and reactions vary from each moment to the next because once a moment is past, we can never recreate it.
So for anyone who thinks that my relating my experiences says something about the individuals with whom I shared those experiences, do so at your own risk. These are MY experiences, MY interpretations, MY feelings. You might be missing out on something or someone fabulous. Seasons change. Circumstances change. Most of all, people change.