Our lives are constructed around narratives. They are provided by our parents (“You were always a talented musician. Remember the time…” “You never dealt well with losing. Remember the time…”). And by our friends (“You were always the crazy one. Remember that time…”) By our lovers (“I’ve never known anyone who lives in the now like you”). And ex-lovers (“You’re so fucking passive aggressive, it’s unbelievable. I mean over and over again”).
We also construct narratives about ourselves. This process of self-fashioning becomes particularly evident as we get to know new lovers or friends.
“You do not think of your own past as quite real; you dress it up, you gild it or blacken it, censor it, tinker with it. . . fictionalize it, in a word, and put it away on a shelf—your book, your romanced autobiography. We are all in flight from real reality.”—John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman
Tell me your story and I'll tell you mine. Should I start with my first lover? Or my last? I could start with my fucked-up childhood. Or my sorry-ass mom and dad, and their fucked-up childhoods. Or maybe my childhood was pretty normal. There's that way of telling it too. Beginnings are always hard. Then there's the long version of the middle before us or the short one. The funny version or the not so funny. There's the time I almost died. There's the time I wished I'd died. There's the time I was really happy. Which didn't last. Another time when I was really sad. I mean really sad. There are things I wanted to do and didn't. Things I did and wished I hadn't. There are things I might whisper some night in the dark, or maybe I won't. It all depends. There are things I've tried to forget, and others I've actually forgotten. Some that I'll remember with you. Some that we'll forget together. There's the version I'd like to believe, and another I'd like you to believe. For a while, there's what we both want to believe. Endings are hard too. The when, where, why, and how of it. The conclusions and reflections, anger, sadness, relief, maybe ennui. It's all happened before, after all. There will be your story of us, and my story of us. And the version of us I'll tell to the next one who says Tell me your story and I'll tell you mine.
“I met her ex. Believe me, she didn’t tell you everything.”
“She was always a fanciful child.”
“A complete and utter liar. And I’m not just talking about lies of omission.”
“According to her, she broke up with him because he wasn’t spiritual enough. Give me a break.”
“She told Jonathan that she almost died of scarlet fever. She told Bob that she was in a coma for a week after a car accident and it changed her life. How many near-death experiences did this chick really have?”
“So did she grow up in a trailer park with a mother who was a drunk, or in some suburb in Connecticut with parents who neglected her? I mean, there are abandonment issues and there are abandonment issues.”
“Did she tell you about her out-of-body experience? She’s supposedly writing a memoir.”