This post was inspired by the watching of IT Chapter 2 and by the re-reading of the Stephen King novel as a result of these new movies. It is about friendship. The tl;dr is that friendships are important and that they can and do change over time and if we can we should talk about that with each other. You don’t need to have seen the films or read the book to enjoy and read this, there are some small spoilers though.
I have lost groups of friends twice in the last seven years. First, when I stopped drinking and, second, when I came out as poly and bi. Rejection and criticism – all very difficult things to deal with and not something that we’re used to experiencing from friends. This rejection has been unspoken in most cases. People have just drifted away and I have, I also know, been responsible for letting them, partly because I knew they were having difficulty accepting me as who I am now and, partly, because I felt unable to directly talk with them about what was happening to our friendship.
I have also been very lucky, in the last five years, to have had the time, resources and have developed the courage and calm needed to make new friendships. These people all accept me as I am and also have the personal wisdom to know that I may change and accept that too. I love them all.
Do any of your parents still hang out with their friends from middle school? – Stan
I have written before about the challenges of making new friends. These relationships can falter and fail just like romantic ones and this can be very painful. I’ve found that making new friends takes time, self-awareness as well as honesty and a willingness to develop patience. Most people are busy and we have to accept that catching up with someone every week, or even once a month, is unlikely. It’s important to cultivate friendships across a broad range of age and experiences. Few things are more limiting than a life filled with people who look and think exactly like you.
In Chapter 2 of IT, we meet the adult characters when they have all forgotten each other. They do not know who Mike is or why he might be calling them. The recall begins as he talks but more so when they meet. I think part of what haunts them is not just the lack of memory, the forgetting that affects them all, but the fact that they HAVEN’T changed, that they are all still unconsciously playing out those old stories and traumas. There is something hollow about their successes in adult life because they are built on shaky foundations: on forgetting, on not seeing.
There is little explicit acknowledgement that these patterns remain. Eddies’ wife’s weight and his mum’s weight is mentioned briefly. Beverley’s very visible bruises are not remarked upon at all, only that her joint business /brand is very successful. Ben’s weight loss is commented on but not his lack of confidence. The changes, where they have happened, are literally on the surface, external ones not internal shiftings.
So, they reunite having not changed. Going back to Derry, is what what forces the coming to awareness of their experiences and themselves. We see the fun of reconnection in the restaurant, The Jade of the Orient. But the moment things turn dark, get difficult, they resist. They try to leave. This is true of most of us when faced with the darkness of life and experience. Later, reluctantly pulled together, they go off to face their pasts and collect the tokens that Mike believes will help them face Pennywise for the final time.
We see them face and fight IT as children and adults – we see the adult witnessing of the child’s solo pain. We also see that alone they cannot solve anything. Having been in the deadlights and witnessed their deaths, Bev is told by IT when she faces it: you haven’t changed anything, you cannot save them. Bill thinks he can save a young boy on his own (as well as save Georgie) and learns that he cannot. It is together that they make a difference, it is together that the real change happens. The same holds true for us. Whilst we can make progress alone, it is together that the magic happens.
After the climatic scene (Meg-John Barker has written so beautifully on this and I absolutely agree with their thinking), they all accept each other as their new post defeated-IT selves. They are able to move onto the next challenge, they have all reached a new level of awareness and readiness, Mike with giving himself the permission to leave, Ben has spoken of his love for Beverley and she has given herself permission to love Ben back, a real love without violence, that cycle of abuse is broken. Richie opens up about his love for Eddie (a successful and positive change to the original story) and Bill has let go of the guilt that has (inexplicably and as some sort of King in-joke I think) led to perpetually negative ends to novels (not the most successful arc of the story!)
We do change, both alone and separately, and this means that our friendships can change. Connections can fade and be let go of. We can accept our need to change who we spend our time with but it’s important to interrogate the difficult feelings that have come up as a result of someone else’s change. We can let go with some consciousness and care rather than letting people drift away or not openly acknowledging the ways in which we have changed. We can also consciously acknowledge the value of our friends and friendships and place them closer to the heart of our lives.