endship edition: friendship fails

January 23, 2014

florida, friendship, relocating

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.

Boca Friendships
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.

19 Responses to “endship edition: friendship fails”

  1. RzDrms Says:

    Yikes. I remember the original post vividly, and I definitely don’t recall thinking she was a “sh¡t mom,” nor passive agressive, nor anything like that, other than momentary embarrassment for you (until I remembered that you never seem to be embarrassed). I also never got the impression you felt mean things toward her.

    I’m mostly just sad that your friendship has been alerted since then. I agree (and this isn’t about her, per se) that you should just confront a good friend, ask about something, before just ending a friendship. Just say “hey, I didn’t understand why such-and-such occurred; can we talk about it for a minute? I want to understand.” As adults, just facing things *without drama or defensivenss* is the easiest, quickest, best way to go. Just the facts, ma’am. I’m sorry your friendship has changed. :-/

    Reply

  2. Sallie Says:

    I had a female friend once with whom I was exceptionally close, and then one day there was… like a weirdness in the air. I asked if everything was OK and got the curt “fine” answer one gives someone in whom they don’t wish to confide. I didn’t press, because I was hopeful it really was some issue having nothing to do with me, but within a week or so we went from talking daily to not really speaking and a week later to she hated my guts, I know not why.

    I still don’t know why, but I had seen her cut people out for seemingly minor infractions before, so I have to assume that I did — or didn’t do — something and her overreaction kicked in. Somehow I thought since we were closer that I was somehow exempt from her M.O., that if she was upset she would talk to me and give me a chance to explain and/or apologize. I’m REALLY good at apologizing, but you can’t really apologize if you’re never given the chance.

    I still miss our friendship, but truthfully, I don’t think we ever could go back. My blinders are off, and I have very little patience for walking on eggshells. (My stride is pretty much a galumph, so there’s that.)

    Reply

    • asplenia Says:

      My situation is similar, and I’m also really good at apologizing (but like you said, you can’t if you don’t have the chance). It did make it a little better when I realized this was kindof her M.O. too, thank you for bringing this up because when I remember that’s the case in my situation too, it does make it feel a bit better.

      This is a good topic: we can reconcile with family and partners after a fight but friends are much harder.

      Reply

  3. Alexandra Says:

    Apologies for being off topic, but kid boogers and saliva need to be fought with bleach – seriously ? What IS the issue here, kids doing kid stuff – or parents being unhealthily, obsessively germophobic?
    Yes, we are living in a constant stream of media messages telling us how germs are the enemy, and need to be fought at all cost. But are people really so brainwashed to be unable to differentiate, and recognize these germophobia-fostering messages are actually crafted carefully, with the sole purpose of instilling fear, and thus pushing the sales of antibacterial products?
    People really don’t seem to understand that we MUST be exposed to lots of germs in order for our immune systems to grow strong. I think any kid should be able to deal perfectly well with the random set of germs any other random kid is carrying around.
    If a child isn’t able to deal with those, I would assume s/he is immune compromised already – most likely as a consequence of being kept away from harmless germs. As for serious health threats, kids are vaccinated against every ill (small or large) these days.
    This high-strung, obsessive, fear-filled style of American parenting is what makes me want to move as soon as I have kids. I wish I could find a place where I could provide my own kids with the same kind of laid-back, healthy/wholesome boogers-filled European upbringing that I enjoyed. Sadly though, things are moving towards fear-fueled parenting everywhere.
    I think Darlene’s status update was silly in the first place, and what a bunch of hypersensitive drama over nothing. Having to deal with co-mothers… that’s what I dread most about becoming a parent.

    Reply

  4. cc Says:

    I am glad you wrote about this. I’m especially glad the comment above (sallie’s) makes me feel better. I think it is much worse actually when there is no falling out to hang things on in the end. That tangible but still elusive ‘weirdness’ manifests suddenly when it does happen and usually out of the blue. Women seem to have this happen a lot for some reason. Guys seem to have an easier time of phasing out or just moving past any similar strange vibes between friends. I am lucky I have 2 close women friends who just ask to talk about it now. I have had another few close promising new friends but that ‘weirdness’ happens. What might make it worse I think is that very same hyper sensitivity that makes us empathetic, good friends also can account for our runaway imaginations. And conjuring up possible faux pas or other transgressions almost makes things worse.

    This is good advice- take nothing personally.

    Reply

  5. Liz Says:

    1) This is why I mostly have male friends.
    2) I believe you when you say she is super kind. But…
    3) Wasn’t her reaction of glaring and un-friending on FB (up and run), basically a fulfillment of the accusation of being a “frenemy”? It kind of is. Just food for thought.
    4) It isn’t the worst sin. We’ve all done it.

    Reply

  6. asplenia Says:

    Awww, I read this post with interest because I had a similar situation where a friend snubbed me and I’d no idea why. Still don’t. I tried to gently coax it out of her — if I’d done anything to hurt her, I’d want to make it right but I never got the opportunity.

    It made me sad when you thought she didn’t value the friendship though. That’s putting an assumption and expectation on her (to handle it your way) that may not fit. Part of being human is having frailties and maybe hers are that when she feels hurt, she shuts down, maybe tries to shut the spigot. Sure, that’s not the best way to handle it but maybe she can learn from the experience, especially if you are gentle about accepting her as she is. It’s nice that you both reconnected and have the good will to give it another chance though, and I really commend you on reaching out. I also like what you said about taking nothing personally. That’s one of the four agreements:

    1. Be impeccable with your word
    2. Don’t take anything personally
    3. Don’t make assumptions
    4. Always do your best
    (From http://www.toltecspirit.com/)

    Thank you for sharing, as always, I love your blog.

    Reply

  7. Arianne Says:

    Ugh, this isn’t going to be popular opinion but I will state it. Her FB post was passive aggressive. Your blog post also felt passive aggressive and an implication that she overreacted, and the categorization of the othermothers in prior posts was pretty harsh. This final post, sharing the details of her calling you crying and her sensitivity around being a good mom also seemed…insensitive to share. This is all pretty dysfunctional but I think there were two contributors here – and she likely should have just said, Stephanie: you may have not liked my FB post but handling it in a public forum even under the pretense of coaxing good apology was inappropriate. We clearly don’t mesh as friends, so let’s just move on. (or something).

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      No question the othermothers post was very harsh! Though she never read it, as I changed enough details so she’d know it wasn’t her, and also because she didn’t read my blog back then (and doesn’t now).

      I’ll also say that it’s very rare to keep strong friendships across country. PROXIMITY breeds intimacy. Of course there are exceptions. I have one friend in Los Angeles whom I love to pieces, and had I, say, a wedding, she’d be a bridesmaid. But this friend in Florida… all my friends in Florida, none of them were ever on that level.

      Even with my newer friends in New York, it’s all NEW. There are a circle of women I enjoy, but I haven’t moved into that “just stop in” territory of friendship with any of them. That takes a different level of commitment. Plus, it takes a lot of phone calls. I go through phases of effort. Right now, I’m in the hermit stage, preferring that Phil take the kids to birthday parties, so I may stay home unshowered. I really think it’s a function of my testosterone level. I have zero ambition and need to amp that gel up!

      Reply

    • Liz Says:

      You know what, you are probably correct. If I were in this situation, and it involved a real friend, my FB post would have read like: “It’s great to share, but at school today our girls shared boogers! Gross! –with Stephanie Klein.” It’s more inclusive, and it implies that you truly are “ok” with what happened. Her post was passive-aggressive, which is exactly why Stephanie’s reaction was to be a bit horrified and have to immediately have her daughter apologize, as opposed to everyone just laughing it off as kid stuff. For the record…I don’t believe formal apologies and letters are needed over perfectly normal and typical kid behaviors like wiping boogies. Let’s try not to micro-manage behavior that harms no one.

      Reply

  8. Karen Says:

    The lesson you learned was the correct one.

    Reply

  9. Kimberly Says:

    I love your writing, so please don’t take this as a criticism, but just food for thought.

    Doesn’t your phrase “don’t take things so personally” and “Don’t unfriend somebody of social media without thinking it through” contradict each other? Social media should not be the only yardstick on which we evaluate friendships. If we don’t take things so personally, then why should it matter if somebody defriends us?

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      More food for thought…

      I do not believe they contradict each other, but I can see why one might think so. It all comes down to the shoe you’re wearing when you read those lessons learned. I always try to step into both sets of shoes, even with the lessons learned. I have had friends (exactly two) de-friend me when angry, only to reinstate the friendship later, asking for a new friend request, and to me, it’s just CHILDISH. It’s something an angry teenager would do. Something you do in an “I’ll show you” fashion. If, however, they unfriend you for any other reason (even a mistake), then fine. At least it’s not some manipulation or outburst. It’s a reminder to myself, if I’m ever wearing that shoe, not to act like an ass.

      Now, take nothing personally, put on that same person prone to the fits of “screw you, we’re over”… followed by the “So, what’s new?” should definitely learn to not take things so personally.

      Put the advice to the person on the receiving end now. Don’t unfriend someone without thinking it through. Okay, easy. I wouldn’t do that. Someone did it to me. Clearly it is THEIR ISSUE, not mine, so I’m not going to let it deflate me or hurt me. Sure, I might be confused by it, but whatever, they need to do what they need to do. It’s weird, but it’s with them. The point is it wouldn’t BOTHER ME to be unfriended. I’d simply assume the other person was reorganizing, changing how they use facebook, or perhaps my updates annoyed them. Social media wouldn’t be the only yardstick on which to evaluate our friendship, so whatever. Who cares?

      Make sense?

      Reply

  10. Anon Says:

    Still rehashing this? Let it go already. I can think of many reasons why someone would drop you as a friend.

    Reply

  11. Janey Says:

    I really wouldn’t worry about a woman who posts such drivel on FB. Seriously? She obviously had an axe to grind with you or she would never have posted what she did. I tend to think she was not the friend you thought she was even before this went down.

    If she WAS a friend and felt so strongly about the childish booger incident she would have mentioned it to YOU and not broadcasted it on FB. Complete passive/aggressive move and you unfortunately responded in kind :(

    Reply

  12. Tara Says:

    I just got to read this, and then the other two entries. I’m pretty sure I’m the one who first said I think the mom sounds like a pain. I’m sticking to that. Welcoming, sensitive, whatever…maybe she should’ve used her sensitivity barometer when she posted something she KNEW you’d see and feel bad/upset/embarrassed about because it was your kid. I stick with my original thought.

    I think “drop in” friends come out of personality. Either yours or theirs. It isn’t necessarily an indicator of closeness…more just a comfortableness on either side if that’s the kind of person you are. I don’t care who sees me with no make-up hair undone, house a little messy, etc. I’m a terrible hostess anyway. I’ll never remember to offer you a drink so you learn quickly to just go in my cabinets and in our first convo, I might bring up my great Brazilian wax place find. So I think the less you care about what you’re going to be perceived as, the more you might find some likeminded mom friends.

    And if I had to get into a whole thing and apologize publicly and profusely everytime I put my foot in my mouth or in writing, my calendar would be booked with sorry dates. Those are hassles and obligations, not friends.

    Reply

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