A group of three of my friends from school get together periodically for lunch and to catch up. We always have a great time and we don’t do it nearly enough. It’s a group that if you went back years you probably wouldn’t find us all together. We weren’t inseparable as kids. Three of us started school in kindergarten together so we go way back. The other I didn’t know until high school. We aren’t exactly “peas in a pod” and you would never call the four of us “besties” or “bff’s. But we’ve all reconnected after many years of casual encounters and it’s wonderful. Truly. I cherish the friendship of all of these ladies, but am much closer to one (let’s call her Catherine) than to the others. Catherine and I go way back. I can still remember her birthday parties when we were both little girls. And Girl Scouts. And high school theater together. Lots of memories. Susan and I also started school together. We were Brownies together. And we have several common friends but were never really close ourselves.
A few days ago, while trying to coordinate the busy schedules of four women to find a single date we can all meet for lunch, I made a rather innocent comment in a group message. I suggested that if the four of us couldn’t work it out until the mid-November, Catherine and I could get together sooner. We have more flexible schedules and we live in the same town and we do get together more than we all do as a group. Catherine and I also include our husbands sometimes. A date was agreed on by all four of us and everything seemed good. As always, I was excited about getting together with my girls for lunch and an afternoon of chatter. But then Susan immediately came back and said she couldn’t be there. It was odd. I sensed a problem, but wasn’t sure what it was. A little bit later, I received a message from Susan that was really not very nice. It was childish. It was nasty. And it was full of “drama” – the kind I detest. I. Don’t. Do. Drama. It was implied that I wasn’t a “true friend” or a friend she could “trust” and that the relationship wasn’t “authentic” and that she was only interested in surrounding herself with those kinds of friends. Whoa!!. I took that to mean that I didn’t fit the bill. She went on to say that she felt slighted by me when we were at different gatherings this summer and fall. Mmmmmmmm. It should be noted that this message was sent at about the time I was going to bed. Her message was emotional and irrational. I took the time to fire off what was probably a pretty defensive reply but she did pretty much attack my character and that made me bristle. My gut instinct was if that’s the way you feel, then fine. . . we probably won’t be seeing much of each other. I’m sure she understood that she’d offended me. . .but my reply was steeped in facts and not emotion.
And then I laid there all night thinking about how horrible her message had made me feel. It was awful.
Susan had made it clear that after 48 years of knowing each other that I didn’t meet her criteria for a friend. And yes, it made me sad, but what are you going to do? It’s not what I wanted, but I can accept that and move on. I’m an adult.
In the wee hours of the morning she sends me another note accusing me of having “disposable” friendships because I acknowledged that I wouldn’t be seeing much of her. Sheesh! Does this not sound like junior high??? At that point, I took the gloves off and laid it out there. . . she was the one who had decided that I didn’t measure up to her friendship benchmarks and she was the one saying, “please don’t invite me to lunch”. But in her eyes I was wrong for accepting that. I realize that maybe there is something going on in her life right now that might be coloring her views, but she hasn’t shared that so I really don’t know for sure. But what I do know is that her behavior and attitude is unacceptable to me. I grew up a long time ago. I learned that you shouldn’t say things that can’t be taken back. To treat people like I want to be treated. And that life is too short to waste it squabbling about stupid stuff.
She eventually apologized (it was extremely curt and brief compared to the rather lengthy diatribes she’d sent earlier) for what she said. I accepted and thanked her. And then I took the high ground and also apologized for any intentional hurt that I may have caused her (even though I really didn’t do anything that should have upset her). And then?
SILENCE. Nothing. She didn’t even read the message (isn’t technology a marvel – that I can even know that) , let alone reply to it. I’ve decided that I’m not going to worry about it. I can’t worry about it. It’s her problem and I’m not going to let her make it mine. But all this stupid, childish, drama got me to thinking about friendship and what I value in a friend. (That was a rather round about, long-winded intro and I’m sorry for that.) And because hindsight is ALWAYS better. . . and I’ve had two days to think about it. What I would like to say to her is this:
Dear Friend,I can go days, weeks, or even months, without seeing or even talking to you. It shouldn’t change our friendship if it is as you say true and authentic. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you or that I like other people better. Don’t feel slighted and please don’t make me feel guilty. We all lead busy lives and sometimes it’s just not easy to get together when you juggle work, family, church, etc. This happens with many of my friends, but when we do get together, it’s like we were never apart. If I’m that kind of friend, you know exactly what I am talking about.Please understand that you are not my only friend. There are others – some like you, some different. You need to have other friends too. An “obsessive” friendship isn’t a healthy one. I’m going to have lunch with only Catherine sometimes and I’d like to not be made to feel bad about it. I promise not to be upset when you see other friends without including me. I’m not keeping score either.Friendship is a two-way journey. Don’t say, “you never call me” when, in fact, you don’t call me either. For me, trust and loyalty are important. I hope they are for you too. I believe the only way to have a friend is to be one. I’m a little bit of an introvert. To me, more is not merrier. I prefer cozier, one-on-one’s to a group. I always have. Even though my Facebook shows that I have hundreds of friends, I am blessed if there are only a hand-full that really “get me” and embrace my shortcomings, faults, and quirks and still love me in spite of it. I think the best friendships should be comfortable and relaxed. . .like my old flannel pajama pants: They have a history. They may look a little worn and have some flaws. But they are soft and warm and make me feel great. Friendships should be like that. Real friends should make you feel good and not bring you down.So if there should be a time that you feel hurt, I would hope that you would take stock of our history as friends before you meanly lash out and ruin any hope of sustaining our relationship. I get that you think that not squashing down your feelings is important, but please understand that hurting mine won’t really make you feel better. And if it does, then we probably shouldn’t be friends anyway. I recently saw a quote that said, “Two things you will never have to chase: True friends & true love.” I think that’s true. And right now I feel like I’m being asked to chase something that I would be better letting go.