The words flew from my mouth before I could process them. I surprised myself, and obviously, from the sharp intake of breath I heard coming from the other end of the phone, she was taken back.
“Ceil,” she said defensively, “you’ve always been so opinionated. Let’s just drop the subject.”
“Humph! I would like to think that I’m up-front rather than opinionated. Sorry that my words came out sounding harsh.”
“Call it what you will, I love you anyway … despite it all.”
“Despite what?” Now I was on the defensive.
“Lots of stuff.”
“Well… how about that ‘stand by your man’ incident? You caused quite a stir with your feminist viewpoint.”
“C’mon that was a lifetime ago. However, since you brought it up, I still find the song “Stand by Your Man” demeaning to women. Give me a break! Stand by your man no matter what? What if he cheats, drinks, gambles or…”
She cut me off mid-sentence. “See? That’s what I mean.”
Somewhat mollified, I said, “Let’s really drop it.”
We laughed and that was that.
We’ve been friends for over 30 years. How young and naïve we were when we vowed to be brutally honest with each other. Nowadays, I realize that candor is a good thing — but being brutal, honest or otherwise, can be a deal breaker.
Years ago, I received a “steady” ring from a seemingly nice guy. When I showed Mom and Dad the ring, they exchanged anxious looks. Funny, I thought Dad would approve. After all, my steady wore button-down shirts and sported a crew cut. (I typically went for the black leather jacket type.)
My steady and I attended a party, and, being Ceil, I was too busy kicking up my heels to notice that my steady and my then best friend went missing. Stepping outside for some air, I spotted them “making out” in the back seat of his car. (Consider yourself warned: This saga is going to sound like a typical ’60s breakup song.)
I knocked loudly on the window, startling them. When the car door flew open, I threw the ring at him and hurried away.
My ex steady caught up with me and said, “It was nothing. I’m sorry.”
My supposed best friend nonchalantly joined us.
I chocked back my tears and glared at them. “I’m done with both of you.” I said.
In the heat of the moment he replied, “Fine, I didn’t love you anyway.”
For three weeks, I refused to take his calls. After a month, I caved in and took him back. Not so, with my ex best friend, I told her where to go. Despite his clean-cut looks, Mom and Dad strongly suggested that I break it off.
As it turned out, my parents had nothing to do with our ultimate breakup. I did forgive him, but his words “I didn’t love you anyway” cast a pall over our relationship. I couldn’t trust his roaming lips or his words.
Once said, words have a long shelf life. We cannot undo them and dictate the consequences that come as a result. Words can heal, and words can unravel the fabric of our existence. Words can change the course of our lives.
With this in mind, I will call my friend today. For over a quarter of a century, we’ve shared hoots of laughter, shouts of joy and painful tears. Her friendship is one that I value and want to preserve.
Hmm. Methinks I will tread lightly and refrain from bringing up the “stand by your man thing.” For now, anyway.
Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.