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.