Months ago I saw an old schoolmate in a local restaurant. Beth Green** was a grade ahead of me in our small little high school, where everybody knew everybody — and everybody’s business! Seeing her again after all these years brought back an unpleasant memory.
I remember being in the 7th grade and you know how 7th and 8th grade girls can be: drama queens, every one of them! Just after school was out one afternoon, I was walking around the corner of the building, heading to a water fountain outside the school office, when I heard two girls giving Beth “down in the country,” as my mom would say.
“She said…Then I said…”
“Yeah, but she’s just…”
And so on it went.
As I finished drinking the water and straightened up, the talking stopped and both girls looked at me. In an pitiful attempt to be funny, I said, “What is this? The I-hate-Beth-Green Club?” They both cracked up laughing and said, “Yeah! Wan’na join?” I just laughed, shook my head, and walked off, in a hurry to catch my bus.
The next afternoon when we got home, my brother let me have it. He was in Beth’s class and she had told him that I had formed the I-hate-Beth-Green Club. “I can’t believe you’d do such a thing, Donna. You know better! Beth may not like you too much but this is certainly no way to treat her — and it’s surely no way to get her to like you!”
I couldn’t believe my ears! Apparently one (or both) of the two girls who were actually gossiping about her told her that I was the culprit! I didn’t recall anyone else being within earshot. I told my brother how the whole thing really went down. “I’ll straighten it out with Beth tomorrow,” I sighed.
“Wait a minute,” my brother said. “If you tell her that the other two were actually the ones talking about her, then they’ll just deny it. And who do you think Beth will believe? She already doesn’t like you too much. And if you do tell her, then instead of just 1 person, you’ll have 3 people mad at you. My advice is to just let it go; it’ll blow over after a while.”
I took my brother’s advice and said nothing. Beth and I were never bossom buddies, but we did get along a lot better as we grew older. We never talked about the incident, but I never forgot it; and it hurt to think that she didn’t know the truth.
That was over 35 years ago. Seeing Beth again brought it all back to me, including the pain of being unjustly maligned and never being able to set the record straight.
A few weeks ago, I saw Beth again in Wal-Mart. We talked and talked while waiting in a long, slow cashier’s line. She was so kind and jovial; she even invited me to join her and some of our other schoolmates who occassionally get together. All of a sudden, the reins on my tongue that I had held tightly for so long were loosed.
“Beth, I’ve always wanted to right something that happened way back in school. I got blamed for starting the I-hate-Beth-Green Club but it wasn’t me…blah, blah, blah.” (Just so you know I’m not all bad, I never revealed the names of the 2 other girls.)
“There was an I-hate-Beth-Green Club?” she asked. “Hmmm, I didn’t know that. You learn something new every day.” She looked hurt and wasn’t quite as pleasant as she was before my mouth spewed forth like a pent-up geyser.
I felt sick as I walked to my car. I couldn’t believe I did that. More amazingly, I couldn’t believe she didn’t remember. I mean, this unjust event tore at my gut for over 35 years — and she didn’t even remember it! Then it hit me why I felt the need to blurt out my vindication: pride and anger.
My pride (which was quite large) had been injured. And although I had held my tongue all these years, I had harbored anger against the two other girls. Instead of swallowing my pride and holding my tongue like I did back when I was young, I let my anger spill out as I attempted to restore my so-called dignity. The result? I re-hurt her and put a stumbling block in the way of our renewed friendship.
So what have I learned? Either deal with an issue while it’s fresh and then deal with the consequences that follow; or, swallow your pride, extinuish any anger, and let things heal (or, in my case, let it remain healed).
Where was that brother when I needed him this time? Oh, wait. I’m supposed to be a big girl now.
A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control.
**Not her real name.