I find it hard to believe that I would be addressing this letter to you, someone who I once spoke to nearly every day throughout high school, the keeper of my secrets, my dearest best friend. In the absence of my own brother you took on a role no one else lived up to, a role you promised countless times you’d never quit, a role now left abandoned on the side of the road that is my past.
For my English 1010 course at California State University Los Angeles, we began reading a book called You Just Don’t Understand by Deborah Tannen, which focuses on the differences between how men and women interpret conversations, and how it can easily be misconstrued as a misunderstanding. To be quite honest I always believed we had a good friendship, mainly based on a level of trust we didn’t have for anyone else. But I never thought communication was the source of toxicity that slowly festered into our relationship in our four years together. After all the nights we spent up talking about everything and nothing, I figured lots of talking meant good communication, little did I know it was the interpretation of our talks that broke us. In a way this book offered me an ending you didn’t let me have, and a proper goodbye you never gave. Tannen specified that women strive for equality in conversations, a component of “symmetry”, while men strive to place themselves in a superior position above another person, creating “asymmetry”. In essence, most men focus on “negotiating status” in conversations while women focus on using conversations as a way to build a bond. Men and women primarily differ in how they use conversations, a significant difference being women’s use of “rapport talk” and men’s use of “report talk”.
You know how much I always tried cheering you up when you hated the world and the cards you were dealt, being alone seem to be my biggest fear and I didn’t want you to feel the same. So when it came to your sadness, I always tried making you feel as if we were in the same boat, us against the world, us against God even. But by offering my help and hinting at the idea that we were the same, you immediately shut down because you took it as me offering pity and was therefore looking down on you. The many times I tried telling you what was going on with me, you simply offered some type of solution, as if I needed fixing and my feelings needed to be solved.. In that moment it wasn’t us against the world anymore, it was just you, and it was just me, the world not being a factor anymore. Men, as Tannen explains, are “problem-solvers” and try to fix things in order to promote their status, I guess in a way you trying to fix me was your way of proving that were above me and I was most certainly below you. In “Take this Quiz” Ursula tries getting her husband Jack to take a quiz to reveal whether or not they were both happy. That act alone offended Jack and caused him to push Ursula away because of her need to assure herself that the relationship was secure and well. I guess this describes the very thing that drove a wedge between us, my constant need for reassurance in our friendship, regardless of how many years we spent together, may have been perceived as doubt rather than insecurity, prompting our departure.
I was thrilled the day you finally asked the girl you liked out, but I wasn’t thrilled for the months that came after, which were filled with conversations that gradually became more obligatory and less heart felt. Tannen emphasized that women can feel detached with their friend if they neglect to tell each other about their day or personal misfortunes, in other words “rapport talk”. Ever since you and Alyssa became a couple, it’s as if I was pushed out, as if the years we spent were disregarded and I was no longer the keeper of your secrets, a mere substitute. You didn’t tell me much of what was going on anymore, and I guess I didn’t tell you much about me anymore either, I felt as if I was talking to a stranger now, telling secrets felt almost forced.
Maybe we could have made it past these differences, had we know there were any differences to begin with. Maybe we didn’t have to make up a code phrase, “Do Re Mi” for when we were hurt because our communication was so bad we couldn’t express them outright to each other anymore. Maybe I’d have the privilege of handing you this letter in person, rather than trashing it as soon as my professor hands it back to me. Either way, this letter was never for you, this is my letter, my closure, I write the ending, and that’s something you can never take away from me, I’m taking back every little piece of my being that I gave to you over the years and making a toast to life, because I have survived without you.
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