Friday, September 23, 2005

Grad School Grudge

I'm trying to figure out why I get over some things, but not others. What's the difference?

Like Ethan's dad. Who cheated on me with his best friend's girlfriend when Ethan was 7 months old. And then proceeded to date the horrible, foul-mouthed skank on and off over the next EIGHT YEARS.

It was gut-wrenching and horrible when it happened, and I remember feeling like I would explode or my face would fall off, or something, but now... I'm totally over it. Seriously! I have been for quite a while.

Why am I over it? What freed me? Is it because I found a replacement?

No, because in other grudges, like with former friends, I have found replacements, but I'm still not over it.

Is it because it was so long ago?

No. I've got lots older than that.

Is it because I've now seen that it all turned out for the best, and that I'm better off without him?

No, because that same thing could be said about my grad school grudge, which is also a former friend/betrayal grudge.

Here goes:

It took me forEVER to finish my part-time undergrad, partly because of the 3 years I took off when Ethan was little, and I was single mom lady living with my parents because I wanted him to not have to live in a dinky studio apartment living on ramen, which would've been all I could've afforded. So by the time I finished my senior year, I was REALLY nerdishly, annoyingly into school, and so old that I was practically taking over for the instructors and teaching the damn classes my own damn self. They politely suggested I attend grad school and get some classes of my own.

I did, and I LOVED it. I LOVED smoking at Perkins Pancake House 'til 3 am, going through entire pots of coffee trying to comprehend _The Purloined Poe_, Barthes, and Bakhtin. I loved the feeling of my brain stretching to fit the brand new, straight-up crazy, really HARD lit crit stuff. I also loved my brand new friends.

We were a threesome. We used to adore stalking the English Department halls in our black leather jackets and boots, flirting with all the professors who loved us, and showing off for the undergrads. Laura, the charismatic leader, was the "enfant terrible" of the department - raging feminist, brash and funny. Debra was a bookish lesbian from the sticks of Indiana (see small related story in my "Words I Like to Spell & Say" entry), who played the role of the listener in the trio. And I was me. Gothy and an overly fancy, sexy dresser. Clearly obsessed with winning the attention and admiration of men. Well, boys, actually, were more to my liking. More slavishly devoted. I also was willing to take issue with some of the more far-fetched feminist criticism, and chafed against the notion that I should only be interested in studying women writers because I was a woman. I happen to love the dead white guys, thank you! Bring on Harold Bloom! I took a lot of shit for that, but it was okay with it. It was part of what made me lovable.

We had class after class together. We hung out together, often getting drinks at one particular bar - our bar - after evening sections. It was the first time I had ever had a group of gal pals, and I loved every minute of it. Our conversations were smart. Our classroom debates were heated. Everyone knew us, or knew of us. It ruled.

Then Drew showed up. He was a new student in our linguistics class. He was cute, in a short, balding, dimpled, guitar-and-jazz-piano playing sort of way. And he clearly LOVED us. We decided to take him in. We invited him one night to our bar, and he was in. Pretty soon, he and I were dating. Our close group grew to include him, and Laura's blond rebel poet of a husband. The boys formed a band together, blah blah blah.

Laura made plans to go to the American University in Paris to take a couple of classes next summer, and asked if anyone would like to go and meet up with her there. I excitedly accepted. My dad even lined up a bunch of his frequent flier miles for me so that my flight was free, and I used a friend's Courtyard by Marriot employee status to set up a reservation in Paris for almost nothing. Score!

We often got together on weekends at Laura and Sean's house and smoked weed, drank wine, or even, a couple of times, snorted coke. Ah! Those heady, decadent times!

Except that two things became increasingly apparent to me. Well, four. (1) Laura's attitude toward me suddenly shifted. Where before we had always been amused, friendly sparring partners, a couple of opposing type A personalities, but affectionate nonetheless, gradually she grew sort of distant, cold, and vaguely disdainful. (2) Drew was a complete alcoholic, just like my dad, except that Drew was drunk just about every moment he wasn't working. (3) Drunk Drew was pathetically, obsessively paranoid about me cheating on him. To the point of baselessly accusing me of really ugly things, in really ugly language. Drunk Drew made me feel really dirty and used, in several ways which are just too embarrassing to detail. The effect is all that's important to document. (4) Drew started occasionally lying to me when he got off the phone with me in the evening. A couple of times he'd say he was going to go to sleep, but I could tell from his voice he was leaving to go somewhere, and, sad girl that I was, I drove my ass down to our bar and found him there with a couple of younger girls, in their first year of grad school, who had been trying to hang on the fringes of our group. He'd always say that he was just getting into bed, when they stopped by (one lived in his building) on the spur of the moment and asked him to go with them. Just as friends, you know.

Yeah, I know. Hindsight. 20/20. Idiocy. Inability to stare the truth in the face.

Want the upshot?

I found out MUCH later that in the first MONTH of dating Drew, he and Laura slept together, he cheating on me, and she cheating on her husband. They told husband, who worked it out within himself (They had sort of an open marriage - but the rule was usually that they had to be out of the country when they had sex with other people. Whatever.), and then Drew BEGGED them not to tell me, because he was completely aware of my paranoid phobia of being cheated on, because of what had happened with Ethan's dad, my former husband. He knew I would dump his ass in a heartbeat, and then he'd be out of the group. And so they agreed. They essentially picked him over me.

And why? Because I was smarter than Laura in linguistics.

Seriously. It was all fine and dandy until that class, when I was kicking ass at everything, and she was struggling to maintain a B.

Also, I'm pretty sure her husband wanted me. Not that I would've done anything about it. But he was just kind of a player, and the undercurrent was there, you know?

Also, I was WAY better looking. HA! I SAID IT. It wasn't hard, really. She's pretty unattractive. She's one of those people whose charisma depends completely on their personality. She's, podgy, stumpy, with a skeletor head and wig-like crayola red fried hair, and really REALLY bad acne.

So time went by, and I, in my ignorance, got closer and closer to Drew, who got closer and closer to Ethan. But whenever I would talk to Laura about how great things were, and how sweet he was, her eyes would kind of glaze over.

The whole damn time, she was thinking, "Fool."

She set me up to BE the fool. And then she grew to hate me because I WAS a fool.

And she started talking about me behind my back, to Debra, to other classmates, to the professors. She started tearing me down. Making fun of me. And slowly, everyone but one guy started to seem distant, or eye-rolly when I'd bop in, blithely ignorant of all of this, and start bitching about how little sleep I'd had, or how busy I was, or what have you.

One day, Debra blew up and me, and told me to shut it, that no one was interested in how damn tired I was, because they were all tired, and that was all I ever talked about, and OHMYGODWHEREDIDTHISCOMEFROM? I was clueless. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly my friend was yelling at me in this impatient manner, acting like I was some wearisome child!

She was parroting Laura.

They all sat around and laughed at me, led by Laura.

But that bit of weirdness passed, and we were all busy, and so I just filed it away.

It all came to a head when Drew asked me, one night close to New Year's Eve, to meet him at some restaurant. He told me he had cheated on me with the girl who lived in his building, and now she was pregnant. And, even worse, according to her due date, he had slept with her in the same week as we had celebrated my birthday. If you can believe that and I'm sure that you can.


Of course I was in shock. I left to go to Laura's, because even though I could tell things were weird, I really believed she was still my friend, and when I got there, tears streaming down my face, she filled me in on the whole story of everything. She had even known about his thing with the apartment building girl. SHE, WHO HATED ME, GOT TO SERVE ME UP A STEAMING DISH OF PAIN AND BETRAYAL AND SHE DID IT WITH A FAKE SYMPATHETIC HAND ON MY SHOULDER. Bitch.

Needless to say, I did Paris by myself. Thank God. Because that was awesome.

But I've never gotten over this. It definitely played a part in why I never finished my thesis. I just lost my taste for grad school at that point. And I didn't have enough inner strength, sadly, to do some kind of revenge success. I wish I could have.

Now she writes for the local free, left-leaning art-scene paper that comes out every Wednesday. I'm sure they all think she's the cat's meow. She's divorced now (HA), but I bet they all come over to her house for coked-up Monopoly. She writes articles on stuff I agree with, as our politics are the same, but I can't even pick it up anymore without feeling the vomit rising in my throat. Which is a shame because how will I know where the good bands are playing?




so much. And I just know everyone there LOVES her, because they always do. She has this subtly ass-kissing way of making everyone think she's the greatest, when she's really just a big, insecure, selfish, jealous fraud.

... whew.

So why aren't I over this?

It's connected to that being talked about behind my back phobia that I have, because of other things along those lines that have happened in my family. It has to do with knowing that not one single person I considered my friend stood up to her, and defended me. Again, family ties to that one.

It also has to do with the fact that I was SO duped. I was made a giant fool of, and it still stings.

I'm also still not over it because whenever I run into her in the Associate Faculty office at school, she pulls this big, smiley, SUPER fake friendly act, and makes over my kids in this vivacious way that just makes me want to HURL.

But I can't. say. anything.

I just fake-friendly right back at her. And that's it.


God, I *wish* I could go off on her skanky, jealous ass. I want to humiliate her the same way she humiliated me.

I'm so embarrassed.


Blogger yucaree said...

i don't know what to say; all the words running through my head seem so trite and cheesy.

honestly, only you can really understand the pain and misery brought on by this betrayal by so many people. it'd be easy for me to type "oh, you're so much better without them. they're not worth it. you have wonderful children and an fabulous husband. etc. etc. etc." which are all true, but you already know these things. and that hasn't changed the fact that you continue to hurt.

i have a really hard time letting things go and i continue to let the past hurt me sometimes. i know from a rational standpoint that i have better things in my life i should be concentrating on than letting the past drag me down. but there are events in our lives (good and bad) that shape who we are and don't let go. this definitely seems to be one of those things for you.

but has it been therapeutic [sp?] for you to write it in your blog? maybe that's one step towards letting this grudge go? i know, for me, this kind of betrayal would take a long time to forgive and forget. maybe i never would.

and i don't think it's bad at all that you hate this woman -- she totally deserves it. and it's unfortunate that other people don't see through her fake, ass-kissing, bitchiness. although i'm sure she has her own issues that make her this way, i'm definitely on your side ... and i am sorry that nice people like you who try to trust and believe in people are hurt.

3:15 PM  
Blogger grudge girl said...

Thank you so much for your kind words. You know which ones meant the most to me? "I am on your side." Those are just about my favorite words in the whole darn universe. I haven't heard them very often in my life, so thank you. (I'm on your side too, I'll tell you that right now. I don't care what the issue. Whenever. I'll be on your side.)

It was really draining to write that down. I was in a bad mood for, like, the next 5 hours. But it has been therapeutic. It so has. Of course these experiences are still there, and always will be, but I think releasing them into the hyperglobalinterweb helps to diminish their force. Sort of like when hurricanes make landfall.

I've got a couple of major grudges that are just dancing around my brain. One minute I think I can write them out, and the next minute, inexplicably, I'm all shaky and scared and I just can't. They're SO powerful, up there in my psyche, it's just really hard.

I know I'll get there eventually. Perhaps because I'll know that there are sympathetic ears out there way over in the West. :)

8:26 AM  
Blogger grudge girl said...

Yucaree -

p.s. My father-in-law lives in Tustin. My friend who makes the skirts lives in San Pedro. Are those anywhere near you?

8:27 AM  
Blogger yucaree said...

of course i'll be on your side -- even though i've never met you or heard your voice, i feel like i have a real connection to you. and it's always nice to know there are people who will support you unconditionally. lately, i'm beginning to think that knowing someone solely on the internet may be a pretty pure way to get to know a person. i don't know how to explain it very well, but sometimes you feel like you can be totally honest about something you may never be able to tell a close, personal friend ... long as you are being honest. did that make any sense?

anyway, feel free to unleash your gudges whenever you feel comfortable doing so. especially since you have a gift for words, i have a feeling this could be a really therapeutic way for you to clear your mind and heart of negative feelings.

p.s. tustin is in the next county over (near where my cousins live) and san pedro is pretty darn close. if there's no traffic, it's like 10~15 minutes on the freeway from my house.

5:33 PM  
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4:32 PM  

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