Dear Uncle Mat,
I recently walked into my usual downtown coffee shop where a new piece of art caught my eye: The subject of the photograph, who also happens to be the photographer, is an old friend from high school. I was stunned.
Back then, I hurt her pretty badly. I was not exactly the most sociable person in high school. An incessant braggart. A hopeless narcissist. And I did something to her that males are not necessarily supposed to do to high-school girls. (Though from my current standpoint, it wasn’t necessarily that bad. It was actually just turning her down. Sheesh.)
I would like to reconnect with this certain someone. For a couple of reasons: 1. I’ve been put in my place enough times to no longer be a narcissist. I’ve become much more sociable and have really changed a lot. 2. I’d like to remove the bad taste in my mouth that ended our senior year together.
My question is: Would this be wise? She’s not likely to carry some sort of deep grudge, is she? Or would coming up and revealing myself just reopen old wounds? Is there a certain way I should go about doing this?
One more thing: I’m not necessarily contemplating any sort of romantic overtones at this stage. Right now I’m just focused on reconnecting. If romance happens, it happens, but I’m certainly not expecting anything of the sort just yet.
I’m a little unclear how “turning her down” was something you weren’t supposed to do. I am guessing it was your caddish delivery or actions that are at issue. Or that the situation is more complicated than your rather vague confession. No worries — you don’t have to be totally honest to get some honest advice.
If you want to contact her, go for it, but be polite, humble, and not too pushy. Possibly leave a thoughtful note in a plain card for her at the coffee shop. Something like, “Hi, I hope you remember the friendship we shared in high school. Your photographs on exhibition caught my eye, and I would enjoy reconnecting with you. I feel I owe you an apology that I would like to deliver in person, and would love to catch up as well. Please feel free to call or email me if you like. Take care, and best wishes.”
Then you leave it at that. If she contacts you, move forward from there. If she doesn’t, leave it be knowing that you at least delivered an apology.
If you do meet up, don’t over-justify or explain your previous actions, or ramble on about how you have evolved and changed as a man. This is about her, not you. Simply and sincerely express your regret for behaving poorly. Even if she pushes for an explanation, keep it simple: Foot may be closer to mouth than it appears in the mirror.
It may hurt her to reopen that wound, but if you are sincere and honest, this will hopefully offer her some closure. She may still be pissed and hurt, carrying a grudge and a gun (let’s hope not). Consider wearing a cup to the first meeting. But in any case, accept her response for what it is. If she unleashes a seemingly unfair barrage of anger, grief, and general venom at you, do not react in turn. Repeat your apology and politely let her know you will not contact her again.
The final possibility is that she has totally forgotten you, the scene, and/or the trauma. She could be a happily married lesbian mother of four. You were a self-proclaimed narcissist as a teenager, but each of us recalls and recovers from the cruelties of high school differently. She may have seen or remembered the end of your friendship differently, too. If this is the case, accept it as good fortune.
Much love and humility,
Your Uncle Mat
P.S. You take care to mention that you are not making romantic overtones in this initial gesture, which makes me think that you are. Fine. Take it slowly and check your need to make amends, versus your penis’s reaction to her photo, versus any real emotional connection you could still have with her.
Uncle Mat answers questions about relationships, sex, pets and art. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, myspace.com/yourunclemat, or check out the Dear Uncle Mat Page on Facebook. Your true identity is safe with him.