In a very late example of the fallout from a relationship spilt (but then it’s amazing how long the punches keep coming), I was recently awkwardly disinvited to a friend’s wedding. From best woman to shunned is rather a fall from grace and I can only surmise the bride-to-be was worried I might cause a scene or that the Mohawked Mountain Man wasn’t toilet trained. The implication being, having spent so much time in Oamaru of late and out of my normal social circle, I had regressed to savage. Dunedinites tend to see Oamaru as a town awash with mad gronks in stupid hats waving bizarre contraptions constructed from trash and more goggles than a Minions movie, where the popular pastime is molesting penguins. And while its true Omaroovians did used to take a penguin to a party back in the day (hilarious, apparently, until the penguin threw up half-digested fish all over the Axminister), I think you’ll agree this view is a rather short sighted one.
And while it’s also true I’ve started calling people whose names I can’t remember “Old Mate”, saying “Hoo roo” when leaving and doing that rural one-finger hand salute thing when I pass another car, I haven’t entirely lost the run of myself, as proved last Saturday when I went to a party in Dunedin. I know. Guess whose back? Shady’s back. Tell a friend.
If you haven’t suffered the parting of waters and ceremonial striking from the guest list that comes with a rendering asunder you can’t possibly understand how much it warmed my cockles to 1. Be invited in the first place. 2. See my friends and have them see me. Becoming one of the disinvited post-divorce is, I think, understandable. In the early days of the spilt you cried all the time and this becomes tiresome, not to mention the constant shuttling from pillar to post that goes with feeling unfixed in time and space is the ruination of any hostesses’ seating order. People think divorce is contagious and that, thanks to your newly skinny state (divorcerexia: when you’re too sad to eat and friends ask if you’re “on the P”), their husbands will crack on to you. Plus, people naturally side with the person more able to stand a round of drinks, it’s just the way of the world.
So, out of necessity, I made some new friends over the last eight months, found myself embraced by the marginalised; the tribe you fall into when you’ve lost your own. These near-strangers were the ones who, when I was finalist for a big award but because I’m a writer couldn’t afford the plane ticket, threw me a surprise party. Knowing I was bummed, MMM, in between sharpening his ice axes and eating potato chip and Vegemite sandwiches, secretly organised my very own awards night, festooning the house with streamers and balloons. Small children belonging to these same new friends burst out from behind the furniture yelling “Surprise!!!” Poppers popped and so did the balloons, there were savouries and tomato sauce and I loved it all so much I happy-teared.
Long story short, I didn’t win. MMM presented me with a bouquet, a glass of bubbles and a home-made certificate which read: ‘You was fecking robbed.’ But I wasn’t. I felt, in that moment, the luckiest, most-blessed woman alive. Which is the opposite of how I’d been feeling for months, suffering panic attacks so severe I actually passed out during one of them and becoming so thin I shivered constantly, like one of those little dogs you have to carry everywhere in a handbag. My long-term friends didn’t know about this because I didn’t tell them. I guess I was mad at them, disappointed they weren’t there for me during the black months of winter when a voice in my head said, in the most conversational of tones, out of the blue as I was walking up Tyne street, “If this doesn’t work out you can always kill yourself.”
I have triumphed over the voice, my own being so much louder, but not everyone is so lucky. Its mental health awareness week. Reach out to your friends, even if it’s been a while. Even if their Facebook page is full of smiles. Even if it seems they’re doing fine without you. Because maybe they’re not.