3:13 p.m. - 2017-08-07
I have been thinking a lot though about bad friendships. I’m in the process of ending one that has gone on way too long, with someone who will never take responsibility for a lot of crap she’s done, and who makes me take far too much responsibility for the understandable way I reacted to her crappy behavior.
Thinking about this I was reminded of this awful Christmas a few years back. I had really been looking forward to visiting with old friends at a holiday dinner we all decided to have, and I wound up having a terrible time. I never really came out with the whole story because I was afraid they would read it and be angry/hurt.
Now, though, I am reasonably sure none of them has read this journal for a long time. Heck, I haven’t written in this journal for a long time! I'm sure the friendships are over, so I feel like I want to get this off my chest. Just a little reminder to myself of what I'm not going to be missing this year, and why, really, some friendships just need to end. The following was originally written right after the incidents happened.
Bruce and I were visiting New England for Christmas, and the idea came up to see some old friends. Ever since we moved to Alabama we felt like we were losing touch with people. In retrospect I realize that they had actually been losing touch with us. Our old crowd was heavily concerned with “coolness” and since we had moved to the Southland our coolness quotient had slipped a few hundred points.
Unfortunately we were clueless, and tried to get in touch with some folks. I emailed a bunch of people with depressing results. Our friend Gregg sent her regrets. The tone of her email came across as “I’m a busy, busy, busy girl - way too busy to see an old friend”, but I tried not to feel hurt. She had been determined for years to make me the villain of a falling out we’d had years before, and I figured she was just in a bad mood and being vindictive again.
Miguel never responded at all. The last time we had seen him he seemed intent on making what I’m sure he thought were cute jokes about Southerners with bad teeth and no shoes. I figured he had probably written us off as hopelessly uncool for living in Alabama. How right I was!
My friend Donna’s response was to ask her friend Jay to put on a dinner party, and ask us if we’d drive her there, since she was also going to be in New Hampshire at the time. It seemed like a good solution – we could see everyone at once. The day of the party we picked her up at her parent’s house, close to where my mother lived. From the start of the ride it was pretty obvious we were just her taxi drivers, as she reeled off a list of places she wanted/needed to go in Boston and didn’t want to use public transportation for. We had other people we wanted to see, and did the best we could to work around her schedule, but she was still pissy that we couldn’t just ride her around all day until the party.
Added to this was another friend of ours, Seth, wanting us to pick him up as well. Why use public transport when The Old Friends Taxi Service was around? When it came time to get him, we pulled up to his apartment and rang the doorbell. No answer. I called his phone, no answer. It turned out that due to solar flares, no cell phone service was working, and so we didn’t get his message to pick him up at work instead, and he didn’t get our messages that we were at his house waiting for him. You think I’m kidding, don’t you?! Nope. Solar flares.
Finally after about 45 minutes he came running down the street, literally swearing at us. “Didn’t you get my God Damn phone calles? You were supposed to meet me at work?! God damn it!”
I tried to explain that we hadn’t gotten any phone calls, but he cut me off. “We have to get to the liquor store. I hafta buy beer.”
Well, ok. We got to the liquor store, and he unceremoniously informed us he had no money and wanted to bring at least two cases. Bruce gave him $15 as a contribution toward the beer. When Seth came out he said; “That was great! That $15 covered it!” Since we were somewhat short on money, I felt relieved that Bruce and I’s dinner contribution was settled.
However, when we finally got to Jay’s house, Seth grabbed the beer out of the back and breezed into Jay’s kitchen announcing “I’ve brought beer!”
Not “We’ve brought beer!” Not “I physically got the beer from the store but Bruce and Ruth drove me there and paid for it!”
Nope. “I brought beer!”
After all the hassle of finding him and getting there, I didn’t want to make a fuss, so I let it go. I figured I would just tell Jay later that we had actually paid for the beer, so he’d know we had contributed. But I must say, I was really startled by Seth’s behaviour. In fact, to be blunt, my jaw dropped.
I had barely managed to get it back up, when something happened that put it close to the floor again. After several attempts to make conversations with “old, close friends” who seemed repelled by the thought of actually talking to us, I found myself standing next to Jay. I had brought a photo album with pictures of our new house, and offered to show it to him. After all, you would think friends would be interested to see your new house, right?
Wrong. Jay’s reply, given in one of the nastiest tones I have ever heard, was “I don’t have time for that now. I need to make sure that my guests are having a good time!”
Coming from the Southland where being rude to a guest is a sin equivalent to murdering a small child, I was shocked. But then, evidently I wasn’t considered a guest! He certainly wasn’t interested in me having a good time. I know Jay was nervous about having this dinner party, but if you are so nervous about having folks over to eat that you start snapping at the people you are supposed to be entertaining, you probably shouldn’t make the offer in the first place.
But then, I’m living in the land of “Let’s have a dinner party for 25 people on 15 minutes notice and have fantastic homemade food and table decorations worthy of Martha Stewart”, so I suppose I shouldn’t be judgmental.
After that it became painfully apparent that except for our taxi driver status, Bruce and I might as well not have existed. Actually it was worse than that. We existed, but only so that people could make snide and ignorant remarks about how backwards Alabama supposedly is.
May I point out that none of these people has ever been to Alabama on any kind of long term basis? They have no clue what it’s like, yet they all felt free to make the most insanely stupid comments. It seemed obvious to me that the reason no one wanted to spend time with us, was that we had become backwards, uncool Southerners.
There were a lot more jaw dropping moments that night, most of them having to do with idiotic statements about the South and our life there. The most amazing one came, again, from Jay. As he was taking a big bite of Vietnamese food, he looked up, and in a triumphant voice said “Now here’s something you don’t have in Alabama! Vietnamese food!”
I refrained from saying “Jay, you are a perfect example of why Southerners think Northerners are rude and ignorant.” Instead I politely said that we actually had a Vietnamese restaurant in Huntsville, and there was a large Vietnamese population in Alabama. Just like in the rest of the country.
I quickly realized the only being in the room who was happy to see me was Jay’s very old and frail cat, Chester, who curled up in my lap. I did manage to have a polite conversation with Jane’s partner Ben about home improvement stuff, but other than that I might as well have talked to the walls. I noticed that Bruce was talking to Jay’s roommate, whom he barely knew.
At about 8:30 I couldn’t deal with it any more. I caught Bruce’s eye and said “I really want to go now. I don’t want to keep my parents waiting up for us.”
He looked relieved, and jumped up to get his coat.
Suddenly we were the most popular people in the room. Donna made some comment about “Oh, can‘t you stay later! I might want a ride home!” and then went into a long back and forth with Jay about whether he could take her to the bus the next day if she didn’t go home with us. Seth was grabbing his coat and everyone else was discussing whether they needed a ride to the bus or the subway or their house in some Godforsaken neighborhood across town.
To my relief, it finally came down to just Seth. Donna’s parting words to me as we went out the door?
“I may call you in the next couple of days. Chris and Laurie want to get together, and I may need a ride.”
I didn’t bother to tell Jay that we had paid for the beer. I didn’t care if anyone thought we were louts. I just wanted to get out of there.
I managed to hold myself together until we dropped Seth off. “Did you feel really awkward and out of place there?” I asked Bruce.
“Well, I basically felt like the taxi driver.” he replied.
I burst into tears. I cried so hard we had to pull into a parking lot in Nashua so I could compose myself before we got to my parents house. It wasn’t so much that I felt hurt by these people’s actions, it was more that I felt like a fool and an idiot for thinking that they were friends and that they might actually care about seeing me. I felt stupid for having attached so much importance to these relationships.
Bruce was just angry. He kept saying: “I could have spent more time with Bill.”
And I could have spent more time with Sarah. Or my friend Helen whom I haven’t gotten to see in ages.
When we got home there was one more lingering jaw dropper. My cell phone finally showed that we had messages, so I listened. There were four messages from Seth. The first was reasonably polite, saying he needed us to pick him up at work. The second and third were nastier, and the fourth? Downright abusive. He was literally just swearing at us because we weren’t answering our phone and picking him up at work. It’s a good thing I hadn’t heard these messages before we saw him. I’m not sure I could have controlled my anger.
I didn’t hear from Donna till the day after Christmas. Bruce and I were in a hotel in Pennsylvania when the cell phone rang. I knew it was Donna’s number, so I didn’t answer. When I listened to her message I realized what a wise decision this was.
She was going on in an incredibly gossipy tone about how Jay thought we were angry with him, and were we angry with him? If we were angry with him she wanted to know all about it!! And she was sooooooooo sorry she hadn’t called us about getting together but she had to go skiing with her sister and yap, yap, yap.
The gist of this being that Jay thought we were mad at him and he wanted her to find out. Since I strongly feel that if someone thinks I am mad at them they should probably ask me themselves instead of using a gossipy go-between, I didn’t return the call.
It didn’t end there, though. I got at least three more messages from her over the next few days, all in the same breathless, gossipy tone. For someone who was so concerned about her cell phone bill, she was certainly being free about her minutes.
Reading back over this all these years later, I’m still just kind of stunned. I had always had a pretty good relationship with these people, and really did think we were friends. Sigh. I have such bad judgement in people, but I do think it’s getting better.
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