The guy from Procol Harum who wrote the Bach-like intro to A Whiter Shade of Pale sued the other members of the group, all of whom had made millions from royalties on this universally played wedding tune, for writing credit. A British journalist interviewed him on the eve of his lawsuit. The guy explained how he’d written the iconic opening and had not been given songwriting credit with the others. No credit, no royalties, on a song that is apparently among the most played tunes in history by wedding bands and other party bands.
The reporter said: “so, you’re saying they could have been more generous with you?”
The British musician answered with beautiful British understatement “they could hardly have been less generous.”
An old friend, after fighting me for many months to establish that I’d hurt him much worse than he and his wife had ever hurt me, eventually conceded that telling me “you have to understand that I am too upset by what you did to listen to your explanation about why you were upset” was wrong, and not an act of friendship. Though it took a long time for him to be able to admit it, I felt like an anvil had been taken off my chest when I heard that. It was a phantom anvil removed from a phantom chest, as things turned out.
Months later, after a second ugly attempt for the four of us to discuss the original upsetting events, the long ongoing silence and discomfort, anger, denial, cover-up, blame, constant reframing and so forth, I realized the problem underlying all this hideous, insoluble tension is beyond my ability to even try to help solve. I am, after all, in the eyes of my old friends, their threatening common enemy, therefore my insights, such as they are, can only make things more dangerous for everybody. I told my old friend I was not encouraged by the second angry session, even as I had largely refrained from showing anger of my own, instead literally banging my head against the wall by the end of another senseless argument over who had a right to feel more hurt.
He wrote to tell me that the second session had been difficult, but important for our friendships and a step forward. I answered that it felt like a big step backwards to me. He responded that he was sorry I felt that way and then offered me this marvelous bit of understatement:
Yes it’s important to have people there for you as you deal with trauma. To use his dog bite example [parents immediately comforting a child just bitten by a dog, preventing lifelong trauma], I could have done better [when I told you I was too upset by what you did to hear why you were upset] on our walk or soon thereafter.
I could have done better.
Done better than being wrong and not showing a trace of empathy and righteously, angrily clinging to that view for eight or nine months? You don’t say! How petty of me to overlook how difficult it must have been for you to avoid kicking, punching or even stabbing me, in addition to not showing a hint of our long friendship, or even a casual one!
Jeez, what an unforgiving cunt I am!