Each week our resident agony aunt Rhona McAuliffe helps a reader with a problem. This week, a woman would rather forget her past
I’m feeling frustrated and let down by some of my oldest friends at the moment and don’t know how to move on. I lived with them through college and we flat-shared for most of our twenties. During that time I guess you could say that I partied hard and had a thing for rich men. I’ve always been a bit obsessed with money and there was a time when I wanted to make sure I would always have it, even if I had to sleep with it or one day marry it (or him).
During that time I tried lots of different things to bag and keep rich men. Some I’d refuse to have sex with or even kiss for ages to try and build anticipation. Others I’d shower with so much sexual attention they couldn’t brush their teeth without my hand down their pants, if you know what I mean. I’d share the good, the bad and the ugly with my friends and we’d lol until we were sick. Thankfully, none of the relationships worked out and I had to earn my own money, which I did!
Now I’ve met a brilliant guy who I’ve been with for over a year but I go to great lengths to keep him apart from my friends. They’ve met him a couple of times but all they seem to want to do is spill ‘hilarious’ stories about my past, which make me look really bad and always trigger a Q&A with my boyfriend. I’ve tried to shut them down or tell them not to say anything but they think we’ve always laughed about it and it’s a hilarious part of who I am. They think if I’m insecure about my boyfriend hearing about my past that he probably isn’t the right guy for me. I just want them to stop. I’ve moved on and grown up and feel like they’re haunting me with my past. I want to keep them in my life but need them to keep their mouths shut! Isn’t it fair to expect that from good friends?
Skeletons in the Closet, Dublin.
You need to write a book! I don’t normally go in for the ‘How Not to Bag a High Baller’ self-help tomes but your commitment to the cause and on-going strategy refinement sound too entertaining not to be shared. The fact that you sacked it all off in favour of making your own millions (thousands) takes it every shade of Legally Blonde. I know escaping your past is your core driver here but if you need a Ghost Writer you know where I am. And that’s not to minimise your feelings of discomfort or embarrassment when your friends pointedly knock out your twenties show reel in front of your new boyfriend. As well as likely wanting to censor that content, questioning their motivation is key: why are they doing it?
‘You’ve Changed!’ is about the worst passive-aggressive insult you can level at someone, especially in Ireland. One of the highest compliments in our culture is ‘She hasn’t changed a bit!’ We like sameness, predictability, knowing that people are not moving on and passing us out. This is particularly true of entertainers, people who are reliably hilarious, or who always have a farcical story to tell.
When you are the entertainer – and you are, or certainly have been – you can feel stifled by the pressure to stay in your lane, even resisting evolution so as not to alarm the masses, continuing to maintain the myth. But change is inevitable. As time passes and our experience mounts, we start to see the world differently. We learn from our mistakes, shedding skin with each new season or experience. That’s life, that’s how we grow and slowly blossom into the wonderfully wise and empathetic legends our eighty-year-old selves are bound to be. Right?
Sacrificing your personal development to stay the same is not an option. I completely understand how being typecast as the Rich Man Hunter is endlessly frustrating for you now. The fact that two of your closest friends are your executioners is a big part of the issue here.
So back to the ‘why.’ Your friends have no doubt dined out on the bountiful fruits of your twenties. Like it or not, you are likely to be one of their favourite conversational topics with family or extended friend groups. If they’re throwing down with your boyfriend, they are sure to be spreading that joy far and wide.
Now that you’re living a quieter life, their material has dried up. They may feel that ‘you have changed,’ and that your boyfriend is responsible for boxing your spirit? They may feel resentful towards you for shutting them out, especially if they have only met your boyfriend twice in one year. As your oldest friends, this is likely to hurt. They will miss the laughs you all had together and may not understand how your relationship has altered. They might also be confused about how to be with you. They are used to you sharing everything with them and might be upset that you are denying a part of your life even existed.
There’s only one way to move forward and that’s to talk to them honestly about how you feel. Meeting them for dinner with the sole aim of tabling what you perceive to be your humiliation is a good start. Say that you are always happy to laugh about old times together but that they were private moments, between the three of you. It’s like an inappropriate wedding speech, when the Best Man starts listing off all the women in the room the groom has slept with. It’s just not cool.
It’s a difficult conversation to have as you don’t want them to feel like you’re trying to sanitise your past or denying it even happened. Be open to their perspective too and ready for an emotional purge. Testing the true building blocks of friendship – truth, honesty, respect and being there for each other – will determine whether or not they are lifers, or simply too stuck on ‘old you.’
There’s also an argument to embrace your best bits and just be honest with your boyfriend. You did it, you’ve moved on, you can’t change the past. Anyone who commits to any form of social strategy, flinging themselves so vigorously at the endgame is far more interesting than the majority of sheep who sit by the sidelines and snigger. At the end of your days, you will look back and howl. As best-selling author, J.K. Rowling says: “Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.”
Time to write that book.