I mention frequently that I’ve known Bestie for a long time. We met in 1989, we were seven-years-old, and we’ve been disgustingly inseparable since high school save distance and the idiocity of my first marriage. Even Mr. Bitchy knows that he’s not #1 in my life, and accepts this.
Bestie’s job is to check on me, he calls me at stupid hours to do this, but he does it nonetheless. He’s also been fighting his own demons recently, albeit in the form of first world problems regarding career shifts, so those 2am phone calls sometimes turn into all out discussions on various corners of ethics like deontology and utilitarian applications. This is HILARIOUS when he’s drunk, even if I’m wondering why I fucking answered the phone, there’s always a nice ending of some sort. We sort of detest the idea of small talk and push into the actual issues at hand rather quickly.
One of things we’ve been focusing on lately in our conversations, both drunk and sober, is our perceptions of our personal past and how it shapes current and future thought, and the issue we’ve been working through is our own personal history. We’ve attempted dating exactly twice, and exactly both times things failed spectacularly based on our individual ethical philosophies at that time. 18-year-old Bitchy and Bestie are not 28-year-old Bitchy and Bestie and certainly not 38-year-old Bitchy and Bestie. Since we intend to stay LOL OMG BFFs 4EVA, we need to let go of old pain, and it’s proving a little bit harder than we wanted it to be. It’s easy to brush shit under a rug after 20 years, but when it comes up in conversation, the feelings of both longing and derision are dangerous, but I think we are coming out stronger for it on the other side. We aren’t arguing, for one. We’re airing our grievances systematically and slowly, working through them, and then stitching up the old wounds after the salt gets poured into them. It’s not awesome, but it’s necessary. With all the shit comes some pure gold, so it’s not all hell.
Why am I bringing this up? Because nostalgia carries baggage. Bestie and I, for all of our adultiness now, still have baggage. It’s getting lighter, and some of it may never go away, but there’s still a couple suitcases full of, “remember that time you stood me up?”
Humans, as a whole, have a bad habit of pining for the “Good Old Days”. The “Good Old Days” are a collection of images, barely memories, a portrait of things that seemed perfect in their own little world bubbled away from actual issues they forced out of their brain either because of trauma, or because it distorted their world view. Hell, for most living Americans that pull this shit off, 90% of the time they see Happy Days in their head, when none of them lived through the actual 1950s or 60s. It screams of white privilege and distortion.
“Why can’t things be the way they used to be?” Because they weren’t actually good, you think they were because you either blocked out the bad things, or were in a position of privilege to ignore issues.
Nostalgia is the enemy of progress.
Bestie and I will never move on from the shit he said to me when drunk at 5am in 2012 unless we revisit it as a toxic moment in our past, not something funny. We’re not clearing the path for another shot at the one time we went to the movies in 2000 and had a great time, we’re reminding ourselves of why a romantic connection between us has always been difficult and addressing these interpersonal difficulties. (Plus, I’m happily married to another man.) There is nothing wrong with Bestie and I having a laugh over a joke we once shared 25 years ago, but hiding our pain and trauma from each other in order to enjoy that joke for 5 minutes isn’t healthy.
That’s one of the things that make me squawk at the dying Trump Administration’s “1776 Report”. Stuffing away all that historical baggage into a locker at Union Station in DC is going to cost more in the long run than emptying it out in front of everybody and going through it. I’m glad that crap was deleted from the White House website, but I fear the damage it’s already doing in the hands of those unwilling to open the lockers because it’s easier not to do laundry.
You don’t sweep those dirty socks under a rug, somebody is going to find them, and you’ll always have guilt that you put those socks there because you didn’t want to wear them anymore, or throw them out when it was time to let go.
What do you think created the Cult of the Lost Cause? Hiding the baggage in a locker. It’s now rotten and nobody wants to confront the stench.
If Bestie and I can kick the locker door open and start sorting things, even some rotten socks, and we haven’t resorted to murder yet, maybe we can do this with our relationship with history. Maybe we can do this with our organizations and our family members that are fucking stuck in the past. But it takes a modicum of maturity I don’t think a lot of people are ready for. And this process also doesn’t take into account actual trauma and triggers, and the additional work that takes to navigate from a psychological standpoint I am 100% unqualified to discuss.
I can’t say I was mature enough, or emotionally ready when we started this project, but I can say that I feel like a better person, and a better friend. My relationship with Bestie is getting stronger now that we’re confronting the rot.
We have got to open those stanky baggage lockers on a much larger scale if we intend for our relationship with history and culture to improve as well.
Does this mean that nostalgia as a whole is bad? No. Memories can be gifts, but we need to learn from, and move on, from our past in a more complete fashion.