Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Never Saying You're Sorry

Today's post is inspired by MamaKat's Writer's Workshop challenge. I chose prompt #1:
Have you ever had a fight with a long time best friend and never made up? Do you think about her from time to time and think about contacting her? What would you say? What if it didn’t work out? What if it did? (inspired by Elizabeth from Mama Sick)

Back in 10th grade, I became good friends with Kelly (not her real name. Although, I don't know why I'm masking her name. If she ever read this post there would be no question who I'm talking about). Anyway, Kelly. We were on cheerleading together and she didn't have a car but I did. So every day after school and cheer practice I would drive her home. Over the summer between sophomore and junior year I drove her back and forth to practice at the park, and we'd stop at McDonald's every day. That was back in the day when my young forgiving metabolism could handle a Sausage Biscuit with Egg and Coke (not diet) every single morning. GOD WHY DIDN'T I APPRECIATE MY BODY BACK THEN???

Back to the story.

We became good friends. Confidants even. We didn't really hang out together at school - different cliques and all, you know - but we hung out after school and outside of school. It was weird... I think her friends didn't like me and I think my friends didn't really care about her. But we became closer by senior year and finally, when we went off to the same college, Kelly and I roomed together in the dorm freshman year. That year was bumpy - I had my boyfriend stay the night too often, and I tried to mother-hen her to the point of suffocation ("where are you going? Who are you going with? When will you be back?" - I even annoy myself sometimes, people.) The following 3 years were smooth - we didn't live together but we remained very close friends. We partied together and traveled back and forth home together on weekends. After graduation she went back to school to get her teaching degree and then all of a sudden we had that in common too. When I got engaged, I naturally asked her to be one of my bridesmaids.

Fast forward 8 years. By this time we'd been friends for almost 20 years. She's still single while I'm married and have 3 kids at home. We are still close (so I think) but obviously we have interests that are starting to drift farther and farther apart. One day during a phone conversation, I am asking about her life and what (I think) are the points of interest:  if she's dating anyone? How's the apartment thing working out? Does she think she might buy a house? How's the job? Does she like her boss or does she think she might want to do something else? Suddenly she's yelling at me about why am I grilling her? She doesn't need another mom, thank you. Why am I so interested in her business? She is really irate and for a moment I wonder if she's really talking to me, or if someone else in the room on her end of the line is the recipient of such harsh words.

My mouth is kinda hitting the floor at this point. There's that awkward pause on my end, where I just kinda sit there and try to regroup. Is she kidding? Is she gonna say, "GOTCHA!"? Is she gonna burst into tears and say, "I'm so sorry I'm just having such a hard time and I'm taking it out on you. Can we talk later?"

But none of that happened. I think I said, "Wait, are you serious?" to which she repeated her thoughts - Why am I always asking her about all the areas of her life, like checking off a list? Why can't I just make polite conversation? (Obviously I am a moron because I thought I was making polite conversation).

In a huff I tell her she has got to be kidding, I am not grilling her or being pushy. I am asking her about HER life. I can only assume she doesn't want to hear about how I'm having trouble breastfeeding or how my husband and I have to take turns with our "fun" spending, because that's just a part of being in a marriage with a joint bank account. These things would be stupid because she doesn't have a child, she isn't breastfeeding, she isn't married, and she doesn't have to share her finances with a soul! Maybe it was just unsaid tension in a friendship, but I didn't know how to talk to her anymore! I knew she wanted to be married and wanted children. I could only assume that by telling her the details of my life that included a happy marriage and children, it would be like throwing it in her face. And, if she ever asked about my life, my husband, my kids... I never deflected questions. But I also didn't make it to be the focus of our conversations either. I wanted to find common middle ground. (Just like, do you talk to your grandmother about blogging? Why would that interest her? Wouldn't she much prefer to talk about crocheting or canasta or something?) Anyway, we ended the phone call abruptly.

Two weeks go by. Then Four. I call and leave messages, telling her we should talk this out. When she finally returns my call, she acts like nothing has happened. I am shocked and finally ask her, "Well are we going to talk this out or what?" to which she responds, "Why do we have to talk about this? Why are you so eager to talk it out? I figured it was settled."

Again, jaw hitting floor. I'm thinking, "uh... NO. BIG FAT NO it's not settled" and I tell her as much. It's at this time that I first get a glimpse of my ignorance. Not as in, stupidity. But rather, as in complete and utter lack of knowledge. Kelly has no interest in discussing our fight, and she SURE AS HELL isn't going to apologize. She then goes on to give me a laundry list of all the ways I have offended her, as a friend, going back as far as a year previous. Once, when she came over for my birthday to take me out to a movie, I asked if it would be okay for her to drive since my van was a mess. Apparently that offended her - after all, she'd driven 90 minutes to see me. The least I could do would be to offer to drive to the movie (WTF, it was MY birthday, wasn't she the one who was taking ME out?) At the movie, I told her she didn't have to buy my ticket, that I had a gift certificate I could use. Which, ya know, offended her because why didn't I offer to give her a gift certificate too? (Again, WTF, it was my birthday, which she offered to take me out for, why should *I* be paying for *her* movie ticket?) And when we got home, I guess I crossed the line: I ate some Oreo cookies and did not offer her any.

Seriously. That offended my friend whom I'd known for almost 20 years, shared our deepest secrets, laughed 'till we'd cried, hugged 'till we'd ached, and I'd asked her to stand up for me at my wedding. She was pissed because I ate a mother flippin' Oreo cookie and didn't say, "Kelly, would you like to have an Oreo too?"

Me, I would just have said, "Yo, beyotch, are you gonna eat all those cookies by yourself or can you spare one for a sistah?" But that's me. I wouldn't say that to everyone, but to my very closest and dearest friends, I wouldn't miss a beat. That's when my confusion set in, and got nice and comfortable in my head for a few years. Kelly's perspective on how I'd treated her really messed me up.

Was she a freakin' lunatic? Or was I really taking my friends for granted, but I was too unapproachable for anyone to say so? Did Kelly have a valid point? Or was she completely loopy?

From that point on (about 5 years ago) I started a strange trend with myself: I no longer felt comfortable around my friends, even the closest ones. When a very close friend questions my motives in our relationship, that calls into question every decision I've ever made. Was I really a good friend? Was I so narrow minded about this friendship that I could only see it from my point of view? Had I thought of how my actions were affecting her?

This was insanity. Every other one of my relationships was starting to be affected. I was holding back my thoughts and words to the point that I seemed guarded. Oh, probably because I WAS. I guarded myself from getting hurt. I guarded my friends from my horrible insensitivity (my words, not hers). I started to actually become a different type of friend, one that definitely wasn't me.

About 18 months went by. Finally, Kelly called. And can you guess what she said to me? Yes, you're right. Basically she said nothing. We still have never spoken about it. For a long time, I never called her. If she called me, I was polite and I would listen, and I was VERY CAREFUL not to ask too many questions - if any. I didn't offer any detailed information about my life; just generalities or I talked about current events or friends from high school or what TV show I liked, blah blah blah. This friend, who I used to call when I needed a shoulder to cry on or some great level-headed advice, suddenly I was never going to call her again and could barely hold it together when she phoned me. We talked rarely and I spoke through clenched teeth. I refused to initiate a single call to her. If she called I would take it but if she left a message I would not return it.

I have never gotten to this point before, but I seriously considered this relationship irreparable. Our friendship was not just broken, it was dead in the water. I felt like our friendship was SO FAR beyond repair that it was too hard to find my way back to when the relationship was right, because I didn't know when that point was. Plus, it felt very one-sided that Kelly got to decide when that point was and I felt like my perspective about our frienship was all but moot. I wondered, what is the point in even trying to work this out? It's just better to walk away from this and chalk it up as a lesson learned. I am not married to this woman - I didn't vow for us to be friends 'till death do we part. I have no obligation to her.

And yet, the phone calls kept coming. Not a lot, and not regularly. But they came.

Over the last year or so, it's gotten better. I've mellowed some of myself and I've become more comfortable again with my friends. Kelly still calls - I still don't call her - but our conversations have included laughter and honesty and they're not so brief anymore. But still, the idea that I might be taking someone for granted without knowing it, is constantly in the back of my mind. I feel like never again will I ever be completely comfortable with a friend, and that's the really sad part. Oftentimes I find myself wondering, were we ever really good friends at all? If I asked myself this once, I asked it a hundred times: if we were truly, sincerely, genuinely good friends, why wasn't she just honest with me all along? Why didn't she say, "No, Gretchen, I don't want to drive. Can you? I don't care if your van is messy." Why didn't she tell me, "Hey, let's not talk about my job or love life. Let's talk about...________" (fill in the blank because I STILL don't know what subject matter would have been unoffensive to her.)

I wonder if my perspective about friendship is completely off. I thought Kelly was one of my closest friends in the world, and she turned out to be someone who I didn't know at all. That makes me ask, who's to blame in this whole scene? Is it her? Or is it me?

Go visit MamaKat to read the other entries from this week!
Mama's Losin' It

Texan Mama


misssrobin said...

I had a similar experience. Different in lots of ways, but similar enough that this post hit some of my tender spots.

I gave up asking if she was right or I was right. Now I just realize that whether we were good together for a long time or not, we are not good together now. It doesn't mean either of us are bad people, just that we shouldn't be together.

It's just better that way.

Anonymous said...

My theory? When we're married, our husbands become our best friends. We learn to trust him more and start dumping our issues on him instead of our old BFF--and that's the way it should be. We become different people. We become 1/2 of a couple--and Mom.

Single BFF's are hard to keep. They have to be really gracious and understanding of YOUR life, and also content with their own lifestyle to not be jealous. It takes a strong woman to be fun "Aunt Kelly" to your kids and want to hear about your marital issues while swapping her own boyfriend dramas.

She probably jumped down your throat because she didn't have any good answers for the questions you were asking. Boyfriend? Rent or own? It was probably all up in the air b/c she hadn't met "The One" and all her future plans revolved around a faceless groom. And rather than be vulnerable she decided to go ape-shit on you.

You didn't do anything wrong.

Bridgett said...

I think Jaci has it right there.

I have three girlfriends I left behind. One went shitfaced crazy all over my life, but the other two were different. I think I'll write about one of them now...

Karen said...

I can relate to this friendship loss. I was close friends with a girl who had children when I had none yet I was her friend. She got divorced and then I was the one who "had everything". It still hurts that we can't get together for lunch. We were so close. I'm still sad about it.

The only thing I can see good about this situation is that it has helped me when my son's best man no longer wanted to be his friend. I could relate. Karen

Jennifer said...

Jaci's right.

And I'll add, that Kelly sounds a little like a nutcase. I mean sheesh. Don't show any interest in my life at all. That's just weird.

And just fyi, if you ever eat an Oreo in front of me and don't offer one I'm taking the whole freaking pack AND I'm going to fix myself a glass of milk.

Sarah said...

Wow. I've been there before. Once I got married, my Best Friend would get mad about everything I said or did if it was about him. Eventually we just stopped talking...until the day SHE got engaged...suddenly she wanted to be BFF's again. I couldn't go back. I still haven't. She tried to friend me on FB and I just ignored it. It hurt to think that just because I got married our friendship had to change.

Buffy said...

I've been reading your blog for a good six months and have never commented, but today's post struck a cord with me. missrobin summed it up 100% for me, so I won't repeat, but thank you for sharing this. I know it's definitely hard to lose a close friend - for whatever reason - but we learn and grow from it. For whatever it's worth.

Stacey said...

I think it's just life and growing up and being in two totally different places in life. I had a similar experience with a friend who, sadly, I've lost total contact with. I'm glad you've stayed friends, even if it is just casual. Maybe someday you'll be able to talk about it.

Anna See said...

I'm glad you wrote this. It gives me a lot to think about. Some of which makes me look good, some of which makes me look bad. xo

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jaci. Great post. And some people are just that dysfunctional. Not you...HER. Thanks for sharing.

Gigi said...

You didn't do anything wrong - you were both at very different places in your lives. And since she never wanted to talk about it that tells me she was embarrassed by her behavior, because she knew that she was in a bad place and took it out on you.

Wendy said...

I have a best friendship that survived her becoming a mom at age 17 and me being a total IDIOT about it. I remember having NO idea what to say or do. So I just treated her the same as always - which turned out to be exactly what she needed.

She has listened patiently to me when I've hated my husband... I've listed to her when she realized her boyfriend was a crackhead after he stole everything of value in her entire house... our lives are so different and hers has turned into something very glamorous while I continue to just be at home - and this has kept it fresh, that things are so different. We both always have something to say that the other knows nothing about.

And sometimes she totally dumps on me and never asks me a damned thing about my life. Sometimes I do that to her.

Because life is not about equal. It's about love.

(I agree with Gigi's assessment that she knew she had been awful & was embarrassed.)

Embarrassed or not, part of being a good friend is having the good grace to apologize when you're a dick. She didn't do that - and that isn't **YOUR** problem, Gretchen! Your friend wigged on you & then tried to pretend it never happened & that's not cool. I hope she reads this post.

Life with Kaishon said...

That just stinks. It is hard to grow and change with our friends as we all grow older. I remember my high school teacher telling us we would not be best friends with our click when we were 30 and we all thought that was ridiculous. And here we are, at age 34 : ) and not that close anymore. I am lucky that my best friend and I stayed friends, but some of the others have fallen by the wayside.

I hope one day she says she is sorry.