One day she corrected me. It was actually she, Darlene, who was the inclusive one, the one who chose to introduce me to her friends, the otherfcukers, and not Demi, as I’d written. I mention this now, at the beginning, so you understand her character. She’s inclusive and generous, always inviting me, my whole family, to her home for special occasions, movie nights in her theater, Santa’s visit, out to a chocolate factory. In a word, she was inclusive, and by far, she was the nicest person I’d met in Boca, which, I’ll admit, doesn’t say much. Then, one afternoon she un-friended me on Facebook.
I’ve always been on the hunt for strong mother friends, women with wisdom who are ready to share and give advice, and it’s not easy to find. One might argue that we all have wisdom, and perhaps I’m too judgmental or quick to have all the answers or not asking the right people, so of course it’s hard to find them. Note: I am the “one” doing this arguing, questioning why it has been so hard to find. At least I’ve been able to accept the strengths of the friends I’ve made, find the good, focus on the sun in place of the clouds.
It was a partly sunny day on the afternoon when I wheeled through carpool and saw Darlene in the crosswalk. I leaned across the passenger seat and waved. She met my eyes with a practiced stare, the face we learn to make when we’re children. We look at picture books where emotions are assigned to facial expressions. Happy? Smile. Sad? Frown. Angry? A stiffened mouth and furrowed brow. The no-teeth smile with the slightest lift of nostril followed by the “look away?” The language wasn’t direct, but there was no mistaking it; hers was the look of loathing.
I couldn’t introduce benefit to doubt on this one. There was no, “the sun was in her eyes,” or “maybe she didn’t see me.” I wanted to believe that I knew why she was angry. I wanted to believe we were friendly enough that if I did something that bothered her, she’d say as much. But, that’s bullshit. The truth is, we expect it of our spouse, of our siblings, of our closest of close friends–maybe. True, we’re all responsible for expressing ourselves like adults, but let’s face it, if we can avoid it, we do. With family we at least know that none of us is a mind reader, and it’s unhealthy to brush that shit aside. So, sometimes we try to use this sound logic and apply it to our friends worth keeping, unless, that is, we plan on running and severing all ties.
Look, I’ve had shit friends, friends who fall short in certain categories; we all have. And most of us just accept our friend with an “it is what it is” conclusion. That’s who she is, those are her limitations, so now that I know this, I won’t count on her. You could argue that it’s acceptance, that it’s open-mindedness, or that it’s limited thinking, and you get what you think you deserve. Slap on the bite-sized wisdom that fits.
Was I being paranoid with Darlene? I signed into Facebook and saw the evidence. She un-friended me. Cut me out, just like that.
It’s easier to avoid than it is to confront. It’s why so many relationships end. It’s not even a question of miscommunication. It’s the severing of communication when you choose not to confront someone because it’s easier to end things than it is to confront why you feel the way you do, and to then express those feelings. Instead you ignore texts or calls, de-friend and unsubscribe. You’re either cutting your losses or you’re cutting yourself short.
The sad thing is that Darlene had been the nicest person to me in Boca. For her to just up and out, that said something about how hurt she was, but it also showed me how little our friendship meant to her. I used to think that if someone couldn’t say why s/he was mad at me that it was more about his or her issues than our issues. But sometimes they can say it, they just choose not to, believing that they’ll only hear excuses. So, what did I do?
I’d never said anything unkind about Darlene, never gossiped or made comments to my children that might be repeated. All out in terms of possible causes of Darlene’s obvious anger. It was this blog, not what I’d written, but the comment section of this blog post, that fueled her ending of our friendship.
I phoned Darlene, and it of course went straight to her voicemail, where I proceeded to leave a very lengthy message that went a little something like this, “There was pretty much no mistaking the look you gave me today at carpool, and I can’t imagine what I’ve done to hurt or anger you, but I’ll take a guess. If it has anything to do with the comment section of my blog, and my not coming to your defense, I want you to know that they’re wrong. You’ve been nothing but an inclusive friend, and I’m sorry if I didn’t defend you. I’m just not in the practice of even going there. I can’t tell you how many people shit all over me. True, I open myself to it, and you don’t. So, I’m happy to write a post in your defense, but all that aside, to be clear, there’s nothing to defend because you’ve done nothing wrong. Darlene, you’ve been nothing but a loving and kind friend and I am truly sorry if anyone said anything to hurt you, or if my silence on the blog caused you to feel like shit. This is Stephanie Klein, by the way.”
She phoned me back moments later, crying. Saying she was too sensitive, that when people call her a shit mother, she’s deeply pained because it’s the only thing she tries hard at, being a great mom. I apologized again. But here’s what I didn’t say: that it really made me realize how little she valued our friendship. The up-and-run. Even knowing that our behaviors are sometimes ruled by fear, that she was just being defensive, even accepting that… it changed our friendship. We are still friendly, on Facebook and Pinterest, but it’s not the same.
The lessons I’ve learned from it all?
Defend your friends, even if you don’t bother defending yourself.
Don’t de-friend a friend on any social media out of fear or anger. If you’re making the decision, do it when you’re calm and compassionate. Otherwise, you make an ass out of yourself.
Fight for the people you love, even if it’s uncomfortable.
If you’re too much of a pantywaist to confront a friend about your feelings, confide the feelings in another friend to gauge whether you’re over-reacting and to dig behind the hurt to learn more about what’s really upsetting you.
Learn to live by this mantra, and you’ll be so much happier: TAKE NOTHING PERSONALLY.