I’ve recently been reading Perfect Skin by Nick Earls. On page 295 there is an insightful paragraph where a new (female) friend asks Jon, the central character, why he doesn’t talk to his friends about what it was like dealing with the death of his wife, Mel. This is his explanation:
With all the people you know, you’ve got this repertoire. There’s a range of things you can be. And outside that things feel weird. I’ve got a history with these people. I’ve known George half my life, and the others a while too. Just about as long, even though there was a gap in the middle. There’s a way we do things. Over time, you fall into a way of interacting with each other, and supporting each other. And that kind of talk isn’t what I want them for. I want to be okay. I want them for when I’m okay, even though I know they’d be there, whatever. They make that clear. George deferred his degree to cover for Mel not being there. We said it was just to cover for Mel, but he’s been covering for me too. We both know that. We both know how important it is, in a practical way. And we don’t have to keep talking about it. And I don’t want to handle that another way. I don’t want to change the way I relate to those people. I don’t want to remake my relationships based on how I deal with Mel’s death. I have the right to try to keep some things the same. What can I say, anyway? I don’t know what I’d say.
As a woman I find this difficult to understand, but if I try very hard I almost get it!