Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

On Saying Farewell

It's always a bit awkward to say farewell to a friend or acquaintence for the last time. It's not really the farewell itself that's awkward - that can be kind of refreshing. During a friendship or acquantenceship, it's not really appropriate to acknowledge it as such, and so whatever's there just hangs in the air around how the people relate. People have emotional reactions (warm fuzzies, longing, irritation, fascination, etc) to each other, there is some status between them (friends make plans to hang out with each other, friendly acquaintences might hang out if they happen to spot each other while already doing an activity, etc), styles of interactions, etc. All of these things are kind of fuzzy, in flux, and potentially changed unless they're nailed down in some way - "who is kin" is relatively permanent (even if theoretically mutable, e.g. I no longer consider my father kin, while people who have been adopted into the family might become kin), "dating" has all of its own content, etc. When one says farewell, one packages the space someone took in one's head for storage and begins to step away from it, and so the normal tensions and status of how the people relate both become much more visible and it becomes kosher to express more of that openly. Sometimes this can be very uncomfortable, but only for a moment and still preferable to leaving things unsaid (e.g. "I've always hoped we would've been closer", "You irritate me to no end with your ideas about X", "I know you've never been comfortable around me and I regret the causes", "You've helped me with X so much and I regret I've not been able to help you with Y"). I've had things like these waiting for the post-mortem with many people, maybe saying about half of them - sometimes the right moment never appeared, sometimes I chicked out, and sometimes I realised that there was a lot more on my side of things than there ever was on the other, enoughso that expressing it really would just complicate someone's life. More than once I've told someone I felt something for them and I really wished (they had felt the same way/had been single sometime at the same time I was/they had broken from christianity a bit earlier/etc). For the things that are said, it can feel good to finally have unimpeded airflow between two people.

So it's not that final expression that's so awkward and regrettable, it's really more the bumping-into-them-a-bit-before-the-last-time moments. When one actually opens one's shell further than is appropriate during one's actual times with someone, there's an intimacy and exposedness there - like in life, the clothes people wear to their funeral are not how they normally live their life, and situationally inappropriate intimacy is usually a challenge. It can be strange for former lovers, but at least there there once was depth (these never really go back to being normal friendships though - when people have both shared a bed and shared their worldview, one can't rebuild the barriers where they once stood). For friends or acquaintences, having all these "how you really feel" things actually explicit can be pretty weird (particularly for those who occasionally have random emotionally-destructive urges, as one gets a clearer chart of the deathstar of other people's personal/emotional being, but also in other ways). Maybe the fake "I could take it or leave it" feeling we have on the surface of our relations with others is needed to allow relations to keep shifting around as they naturally do (explicit recognition makes it too painful when some relation is downgraded? or is it more than this?). On the "is this really the last time I will interact" part, one is thus both exposed, and pulled back into the "farewell speech" mode when one bumps into someone at the uncertain maybe-last moments. Maybe airport goodbyes really are the best goodbyes in this sense (although the online world poses challenges to this! Maybe one or both parties really sees a lack of proximity as an end to things, but the fake closeness offered by technology tempts them to demean what was real with what is not - long distance relationships, etc). I know that I try to physically avoid someone once I've shared a farewell with them for both of these reasons (maybe airport goodbyes arn't that great when one person has to farewell a lot of people, as these things tend to be intimate and not best shared with others, although when it's expected perhaps whatever was retreats into a temporary shared-mourning-or-whatever relation until the physical goodbye?

Complex stuff, anyhow.


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