Yoko Ono believes the seven-year itch in marriage is caused by the seven years it takes for our cells to die off and replace themselves, causing us to wake up one day as different people, staring into different people’s eyes.
I’ve been thinking about that idea a lot recently. It got stuck in my mind after the reunion. The one I didn’t want to go to. Then did. Then thought I was getting a cyst so definitely didn’t. What swayed me in the end was that if it was anything like the five-year reunion, it would be fine. It would be the same chit chat and the same dance of avoidance with the same people. The bar would be dim and I’d be able to leave after seeing what I needed to see, that Sally was still a bitch or that Martha didn’t have that job she said she’d have.
But this time wasn’t fine. It wasn’t like the five-year reunion at all.
To start, I’d arrived early and because the bar was in a somewhat abandoned area and the wind had picked up, I couldn’t wander around the block, hoping to find a bookstore or coffee shop to pop into and pass the time. Instead, I spent the first ten minutes in the bathroom, sitting on a toilet seat in jeans and a winter coat, waiting for someone I knew to text me when they’d arrived. Why am I so nervous? What’s wrong with me? I thought, listening to the wails of a baby being changed in the handicap stall next to mine.
If this was New York, I’d be up at the bar, happily chatting to whatever friend or stranger I found myself next to. I’d be able to charm and delight and feel how I always felt in crowded places at 9pm – excited. But this wasn’t New York. This was the one bar in the world where I was not who I am, but who I was.
When I left the bathroom, I lunged for the girls I’ve always lunged for. The ones I still see in New York sometimes. The safe people. I figured if I wanted to, I could stay in the corner with them all night. But it was a large school and this was too small bar for that and everyone was walking in and going around and hugging everyone, one at a time, like we were an estranged family. So now I’m hugging men and women I haven’t talked to in five years, some in ten. Men and women I either thought were cooler than me or dumber than me or better than me. And I waited for them to act how they always did. To ditch me to go talk to their real friends. But instead, they wanted to chat. They wanted to know about my life. And when they told me about their life, I realized we were having this conversation and there were no strings left from the past. No preconceived judgements from when Sara still had braces and I drank too much at Rachel’s and threw up in Scottie’s bathroom. We were meeting each other again, for the first time. And when Andrew came over, already slurring his words, I realized that everyone was nervous –hiding in their own bathroom stall, working up the nerve to come out and face the past.
There was an intoxication in the air. We weren’t drunk, but buzzed. On each other. On this explosion of newness and surprise emanating from people we thought we had pegged. The same feeling that occurred when I read a book I previously dismissed. A book I once thought as too boring or juvenile or contemporary, only to pick up today and put down with shock and disdain for myself for overlooking something so clearly meant for me.
I can’t help thinking that the difference between the five-year and the ten-year reunion are those two years. That at the first reunion we hadn’t met each other after enough time had passed. We’d met each other still too close to who we used to be. But this time we’re a cycle (seven years) and a half into our next selves. And in four years, we’ll all be even more different. We’ll have different jobs, different lovers, different apartments, different priorities. Some of us will have kids, some will have divorces, some will have faced death and disease.
This insight, whether accurate or not, has lightened me. Because a few years ago, I had this boss I hated. It was the first time in my life I wished ill on someone. I thought about her all the time. For years I wished something would happen to her – that I’d be there to watch her receive some type of karma. And even after I left that job, I found myself thinking of what I’d say or how I’d act if I ran into her. I stalked her on Facebook to see how her life was changing for the worse. To judge her status updates and hope to see some shimmer of regret in her life.
But now I’m thinking that maybe, after a few more years, I’ll run into her and this time, we’ll like each other. She and I will have both changed into two different people and maybe these people can be friends. And there’s a lightening, a softening in my heart, when I think of that scenario. When I give way to the possibility of friendship, or love. I am forgiving her because it’s inevitable that she will change. That I will change.
It’s also exciting. Like there’s all these friends I can have. All these people I once knew are new people to meet again. It’s exciting to think that someone I hate now is someone I will love. Because hate, like love, is an extreme emotion and emotions are fluid. They change and flip and turn. And when you look at people you hate like that, the people who annoy you or bother you, you’re really inching closer towards loving them.
I wonder if this is how mothers deal with their children. What my mother knows and reminds herself of when I’m in the front seat of her car, saying something obnoxious or ridiculous, something I think I mean but won’t agree with in five years. She patiently listens and continues to love me because she knows what I believe now, is not who I will always be. And when she sees flashes of the good side, the fun, positive, bright me, she knows (hopes) that in enough time I’ll make my way towards that woman. That I’m evolving, little by little, towards my truest self. I just need a few more heartbreaks, a few more disappointments, a few more setbacks.
And in knowing that we can also start to forgive ourselves.
I will end this with another quote of Yoko Ono: “Give death announcements each time you move instead of giving announcements of the change of address.” Because we do die every time we move. We change and grow and the person we used to be dies off. And we all deserve second chances. We all deserve to meet again, in seven years, as new people.