Fragments on Friendship… or Friendships in Fragments

I’ve had two recent experiences with friends of mine that have made me very thoughtful. Both experiences were negative, with one being pretty heinous in terms of thoughtlessness, deliberate cluelessness, and lack of accountability. The other was more understandable, but still upsetting.  I don’t really want to air my dirty laundry on the internet; at least not the specific colors and sizes.  So I’ll call them Red Shirt and Blue Shirt.

And yes, I’m aware of the Star Trek reference to ‘red shirts.’ Just in case any of you were wondering.

So let’s start with Red Shirt. We were supposed to get together with a third friend down in San Diego. Red Shirt still lives there. I was traveling down from SF and the third friend (Pink Shirt?) flew in from across the country specifically for this get-together and another event the following evening.  Plans were made via email.  Again, I’m not gonna go into great detail.  Suffice it to say Red Shirt made other plans and didn’t tell us until she picked up Pink Shirt at the airport and dropped her off at her hotel room (which she’d gotten to make our get-together more convenient; she has family in town she could have stayed with).  I found out about Red Shirt’s desertion when I arrived at the hotel to meet my two friends for our evening.  Pink Shirt and I had a good evening anyway … but we both were amazed in a ‘did she really do this?’ sort of way throughout the evening.  What my cousin calls the “Wet Haddock in the Face” feeling.  Which comes from the total shock you’d feel if someone walked up to you at random and smacked you in the face with a big old wet fish.  You’re so shocked you can’t process it right away.  Although honestly, if someone hit me in the face with a fish, I’d be taking that fish and beating them about the head and shoulders with it pretty damn quick!  But you take my point.

Had Red Shirt been up front (as in informing us her plans had changed) and had I been the only one involved, I would be a lot more understanding about her actions.  After all, I was going to be in San Diego anyway and already was struggling to find time to see everyone I wanted to see.  The perils of visiting one’s home town, plus find time to play tourist with Dave so he’d have a sense of being on vacation instead of tagging along with me in my efforts to see old friends.  As is, I set aside the night in question and most of the next day to spend with Red Shirt and Pink Shirt.  Pink Shirt, on the other hand, spent money on a plane ticket AND a hotel room for this get-together.  I can’t even begin to understand in what universe Red Shirt thought it was okay to blow her off because something else came along.  I really can’t.  And especially to do it in such a gormless way.

Got an email from Red Shirt a few days later saying we’d have to make ‘better plans’ next time for getting together. I waited a few days, then nicely called her on it.  And I do mean ‘nicely.’ I was honest, yes. But not mean and I did NOT once call her a ‘bastard person.’  I have not yet heard back.

Okay, Blue Shirt.  Blue Shirt, a friend of both me and the bf (his friend first) used to live in SF, then married, had kids, moved out of town.  Wahh!  To the moving away part, not the rest. 🙂 She let us know a while back she’d be coming to town and to set aside an evening. So it went on the calendar with all possible evenings blocked off until we knew her schedule.  Long story short, the visit was shortened and there would be no time for an evening visit and the trip was now being tailored for her kids.  Which is totally understandable and yes, I really do understand that things change when a person has kids. So instead plans were made for a morning/early afternoon jaunt/lunch. Only problem is the plans were made without including me either in the communications sent regarding them or in the plans themselves.  Yes, it was a work day and I do have a full time job.   However… there wasn’t even a suggestion in said plans about finding out if I could take any time off at all to hang out.  The invite was only extended to Dave.  Which yes, hurt my feelings.  Not in a wet haddock sort of way, but more in the way it used to feel as a child when you weren’t invited to a particular party.  I voiced my feelings (again, nicely and with a sincere understanding of why the plans had changed, just wished I’d been included in the communication and plans so I could have at least met them for coffee or something) to both Blue Shirt and Dave, and that was pretty much it.  Haven’t heard back from her either.

Now in the case of Red Shirt, I’m pretty much over it. It’s fairly obvious she’s not going to own up to her actions. Too bad because a simple apology and honest explanation would have, if not fixed things completely, at least put a temporary Band Aid on the wound and give the friendship a chance to heal. Ask most of my friends – it takes a lot to make me burn my bridges.  But the more time that passes without hearing back from her, the thinner the spans on the bridge of this particular friendship become. No matter what happens to the bridge, I wish her nothing but the best. I just feel … kind of empty about the whole thing.

As far as Blue Shirt, this incident came on the heels of what happened with Red Shirt. And I was surprisingly hurt by it even though I immediately cut her a ton of slack. I mean, traveling with kids, plans changing, you can’t think of everything or everyone. I was hurt, yes, but my immediate assumption was it’d been an oversight, not a purposeful slight.    Again, a quick note after the fact (we’re talking after the trip was over and the dust had settled) acknowledging my feelings would have gone a long way, especially since I’m fairly sure the sheer chaos of the trip was the reason for the way things played out.   But since I’ve not heard  back from Blue Shirt either, my mind starts going to dark places and thinking things like, “Well … maybe she really DIDN’T wanna see me.  Maybe she deliberately didn’t include me in the emails or the plans.” You know, those sorts of things. Non-productive, paranoid and damaging.  And believe me, I’m doing my best not to buy into those sorts of negative conclusions.  But I’m still left with the uncomfortable notion that my feelings aren’t important enough to acknowledge.  If this is the case… well, time to re-evaluate things, reset my expectations and my attachment to the friendship.  And even if it’s not, I’m still left feeling kinda crappy about it.

Here’s the thing: I’ve screwed up plenty of times in relationships.  Hurt feelings without meaning to and made stupid and/or thoughtless decisions due for any number of reasons (except for deliberate malice. I hate hurting feelings). And I’m sure I’ll do it again, even with the best of intentions. But the older I get, the more I realize the value of being up front rather than avoiding possible confrontation and the even more valuable lesson of acknowledging other peoples’ feelings even if I don’t always understand where they’re coming from or agree with the interpretation of circumstances that generated those feelings (I’m talking friends, family and work colleagues, not trolls online or random crazy people you might meet, btw).

I’m not even sure what the entire point of this post is other than these two incidents have been on my mind and I’m still dealing with my feelings and an accompanying depression to some degree.  On the upside, yet more fodder for my writing.  And that’s always a good thing. 🙂

12 thoughts on “Fragments on Friendship… or Friendships in Fragments

  1. I really appreciated your post. It’s honest and we can all relate. If we were not exactly a red or a blue shirt at one time, we’ve definitely known one, or had to deal with one while we also wore any number of colored hats.

    I had a friend in graduate school who recently commented that “anymore, I just don’t have expectations of people”… it’s a cynical and very easy way to be, but of course, there is no real joy in living life that way. I’d rather be occasionally surprised at a Red Shirt, then assume everyone IS one.

    A mutual friend of ours recently mentioned to me that by and large, people are self-involved. Often the lack of consideration and the complete surprise in their inability to step up has very little to do with us. We know this, but it still hurts. I have my own red (or black shirt, he heh) I’m dealing with. It’s made me angry because I’ve seen my Red Shirt be hurt when others treat them inconsiderately, and yet they repeat the injustice so easily and casually.

    Last year, I did something nice for another friend and even reached out to explain where my head was at and why I’ve been distant etc. Mwith my communication. My “friend” defriended me from FB and responded, “What’ up with you? Have a nice holiday!!!”…. Some six months later, out of the blue, I get an “email” saying, “hey, haven’t heard from you in awhile.” and then requested to be my friend on FB? Ummmmm… really? Talk abotu your Wet Haddock! People are strangely motivated. People also feel time and silence “negates” bad behavior. It softens it, but it doesn’t equal courtesy.

    I have no advice other than it’s always sad when the least someone can do is still too much for them. And don’t give your shirt off your back to someone fully clothed in their own layers of excess.


  2. Not having expectations of people, while it can be very freeing, is also not really possible if you’re in a relationship of any sort. Definitely no joy in living that way if you can’t at least expect mutual respect, y’know?
    Very nice, thoughtful comment, Matt! Thank you!

  3. Dana, thanks so much for the Wet Haddock analogy. I just was on the receiving end of that big, wet fishy slap and boy was it a shocker. I was trying to find a way to explain the shock and the other feelings the whole nasty situation brought up and you named it beautifully. I’m sorry we both are feeling and reeling from the fishness these days, but somehow it helps to have something so evocative to call it.

  4. Most of my life, I’ve struggled with the fact that people don’t treat me like I try to treat them. I’m not saying that I’ve never hurt anyone. I am sure I have, but if I have a disagreement/misunderstanding with someone, I go way out of my way to clear the air. Most people avoid confrontation. It’s easier to blame and/or avoid someone than it is for them to be honest, not only with the person they have wronged, but more importantly with themselves. Hiding/avoiding the person they wronged keeps them from having to face it. I would rather have someone tell me they hate me to my face, rather than harbor ill will or misunderstand behind my back. Not allowing someone the opportunity to understand/forgive whatever adds insult to injury. When this happens, Dana, I make an effort as you so graciously have done. If I get no reply, I feel very sad for them and try my best to let them go in love. There are many of us in your life who do respect and love you and we are the ones who deserve your attention. Don’t waste it on those who don’t even respect themselves.

  5. Jan, happy to give you the Wet Haddock! It really does describe certain situations perfectly…

    Arlene, I try to be direct with people… and also to be empathetic and give them the benefit of the doubt when possible… and to understand their side of things. So yeah, when someone DOES take the time to talk to me, whether I’m the injured party or the person who did the injury, it really does make a difference. A desire to work things out goes a long way, doesn’t it? I’m happy to add a footnote here that Red Shirt saw my post and did take the time to write to me. And not a nasty ‘you bitch’ type email either. So we have a chance to talk things out and hopefully keep the friendship. Which would make me happy.

  6. I can empathize. I’ve been slapped by the haddock too. And it hurt all the more because I really believed this person was my friend. In fact it took me quite a while to figure out that he never considered me as a friend, simply as an instrument to use.
    Well that’s ln the far past, though memory still stings. You certainly have never deserved this kind of treatment. And you never will.
    Not that it helps much, but I hurt along with you. Kilt is dead right. You are one of the most caring, loving people I know. Just wish I could be there to give you a big hug of encouragement. (And I’m so glad RS gave you the chance to mend the relationship.
    You deserve to be happy. It is my sincere hope that you will be. LOL. :-)(Lots of huge hugs!!!!!)

  7. I feel like writing a book (or maybe just a post) about memorable haddock slapped moments. The best (or worst) was when I’d planned a party based around someone’s visit – this person was also invited to another party while she was out visiting. She wanted to buy something special to wear for the other party and while we were out shopping and she was fussing over it, I said she could probably just wear the same sort of outfit as she was wearing to my party, to which she replied, “I’m not dressing UP for YOUR party.” Then she walked off, totally oblivious to the fact she’d just made me feel pretty insignificant and worthless. Ah well… Wet fish! And I never said anything about it either.

  8. Eesh, how stressful! I would have been quite hurt in both instances, and I am not sure I would have had the maturity to be nice about Red Shirt. However, I am glad she saw the post & contacted you – I hope things work out well.

    You are an awesome lady, and don’t you forget it!

  9. Hey, Sheina! Did you move your Vox blog elsewhere? INquiring minds and all that… 🙂

    I’m glad she contacted me too – it helps when someone shows they care enough to try and make things right and I’m always willing to hear someone else’s side of things.

  10. I did – I’m on WordPress now with the same username – let me know if you need the link 🙂

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