Friday, June 17, 2011

Dropped Like It's Hot

A long time ago, I wrote a post about cutting a friend out of your life. In Fiji, there is a name for doing this. It's called Friendcutting. As in, I friendcutted his sorry ass.


I wrote it in a way that was for the cutter, not the cuttee. To encourage folks that yes, it's ok to cut a friend out if they are being a shitty friend. But what about when you're the shitty friend? And you get cut out? What's that like?

The short answer? It sucks, dudes. It sucks bad.

I'm not talking about drifting apart in a mutual fashion, or when someone moves away and you don't talk to them quite as much as you used to. I am talking about a conscious, intentional decision. They don't want you as a friend. They have decided. They don't tell you they have decided. They just stop calling you. This has happened to me three major times in my life.

First of all, I guess I should say that I am most definitely a friend-person. The place that friendships occupy in my life is near the very center. I define myself in terms of the company I keep and how much love I have, related to me or not. My parents are my parents, but they are also dear friends. Nordic Boy is so for sure my friend. Also, Biogirl is my family, and so are my other dear friends. Close friend or family, it's really one unit in my mind. I acknowledge that not everyone sees friendship in this way. Perhaps that's part of my problem, but we won't go there.

I have friends that I have known since we were both sporting the Huggies. I have high school friends, and dance school friends, and college friends. I have friends from every job I have ever had. I have neighbor friends. I have coworker friends. I have ex-boyfriend friends. I have blog friends (hi you guys!). This is not to brag about how many friends I have. I'm just trying to say that I am not one to leave people behind. If you're my friend, I cherish you. I'm in it for the long haul. I'm not fair weather.

I remember the first time I consciously went AWOL on a friend of mine. I am not proud of it, but I did it. It was a college friend: Megan. In our late teens and early 20s Megan and I had whooped it up. Then, something changed for Megan. She had a lot of things going on, and I tried to be there for her. I tried to make her laugh when she was down, and she told me that was insensitive. I tried to call her when she needed me, but she would tell me that she wanted to be alone. When I left her alone, she said that I was never there for her. When something good happened to me, she told me it made her feel worse about her life. When I was sad, she told me I was being a drag. I could not win. Finally, I realized (oh, youth, when it took me years to realize crap like this) that perhaps the shitty friend was not the Man in the Mirror. I remember it hit me, right in the face, and it was a SHOCKER, and I am not even being sarcastic. Maybe Megan was the shitty friend? Say WUT?

Picture me, slapping myself on the forehead in realization, in a "gee I coulda had a V-8!" sort of way.

Here's the part I am not proud of. I had called Megan this one time, and she made all sorts of pronouncements about all the things I could never do right, and I remember so clearly thinking "I am never ever calling you again." And after I hung up, that's exactly what happened. I never called Megan again. I just dropped off the face of the earth and didn't return any of her phone calls, or emails (we by this time lived on opposite coasts so I never ran into her at parties). No "peace out!" Nothing. I may have sent her a holiday card or a birthday card for a couple of years after that, but other than that, I ratcheted that mess down from full-on friendship to lukewarm acquaintance. I still had the audacity to sign her birthday cards "xxoo" like we were still in friend-love, but clearly, I was out of there. See ya, sucker.

I try to think of this situation when friends of mine disappear on me. You might think this would make me feel worse because that would mean that I am the Megan, a terrible friend who someone just can't frigging stand anymore. But no. In my way (I am nothing if not a glass-half-full kind of lady), it makes me think that the dropper is too scared to tell me, the droppee, that they just don't want to hang anymore. I could have tried to fix things with Megan, but I didn't. I put in no effort to communicate with her about what I thought was ailing the friendship. That was my responsibility and I didn't do it. I was the coward there, not her.

At the time I knew Megan, I had never had a friend drop me like that before, so I didn't really know what that would feel like. Soon after, I got my first taste. This time, it was my friend Kayla. I didn't know there was anything wrong between Kayla and me. And I would like to flag that sentence. I didn't know there was anything wrong between Kayla and me. The reason I am flagging? Because this is a MAJOR CHARACTER FLAW OF MINE. If you don't tell me or show me you are troubled? I always assume you are fine. If you seem happy, I believe you. This is because I grew up in the land of Midwest Bigmouths, where people tell you their troubles whether you want to know or not. No one is politely hiding that shit behind a genteel veneer of courteousness. If someone has a problem with you, you will KNOW. I have tried to get better about reading people who aren't so good at that, especially because Seattle is renowned for its genteel veneer of courteousness, but so far, I still suck at it. Anyway, so Kayla had been acting the way that she always had, and so I was going along, tra la la, we are friends, and then bam. She was gone. This time, I got a hold of her and asked her about it, and with some coaxing, she told me what was wrong. And turns out, I was being a shitty friend. In my own defense, I did not realize this and had she told me what she needed from me a long time ago, I would have been able to be a better friend. But now, it was too late. She was over it, I was so ten minutes ago, and flush. Down the toilet I went, our friendship with it.

Since then, I have been cut out two more times by people I thought would be in my life for my whole life. Each time broke my heart worse than the last. The number of them that don't hurt when I think about them? Goose egg, baby.

So now that I have been on this super awesome train wreck three times in my adult life, I feel like I have a lot of things about it figured out.

1. The genteel veneer of courteousness is like a foreign language that I am starting to learn, but so far my level of understanding is on par with only being able to say the phrase "donde esta la biblioteca" while traveling in the middle of Barcelona without a map and what I really need is to go number 2 really badly but I don't know how to say that and all I can ask for is the damn biblioteca. I continue to try to study this language but it is slow going. I at least can tell my friends that I suck at this though, so they are appropriately warned, so that is something.

2. I try really way hard to be a good friend. I think I try harder than most. Sometimes though, I just don't cut it. So I get cut. Sometimes trying just isn't even the point. Getting cut is just the way it bes sometimes.

Ok, maybe that's it. I haven't learned a lot of things. I have apparently only learned two things. Which is better than no things, but still. It's kind of a shit sandwich and I wish I could say I have learned a bit more that just two things. I know more about Kim Kardashian's upcoming nuptials than I do about dealing with losing a friend. (a) She is marrying someone really tall. (b) Her sister wants her to get a prenup. (c) His name is Chris something. There. Three things. Whereas traumatic life experience? Only two things. That's really very distressing.

Wait. Maybe I have a third thing. I am hesitant about the third thing, because I am not sure it's right. But Ima say it anyway. When I get cut, I just let the person go. Like almost immediately. Because if you don't want me around, who am I to argue? It's your choice. It's like in a romantic relationship, if someone wants to leave, isn't trying to talk them into staying, well...pathetic? I feel like there is a possibility that I am supposed to Make a Stand in these types of situations. Is that how people do? They Make a Stand? Or Fight for the Friendship? People aren't acting all dramatic like that, are they? That's what I am asking you, blog friends. Am I being a bad cuttee? Am I supposed to be hanging on to someone's leg while they try to walk out the door? Because I have never done that, and I am just realizing, after train wreck number three, that maybe I should have been doing that. But if that's true, I just don't know if I have it in me. I just don't know if I am cut from leg-hanging cloth. I am much more a "hey, still love you, I'll be over here. If you want to call me up, I will always take the call, but I'm not going to call you and have you hang up on my ass over and over again" kind of lady. But is that what we're supposed to do for love these days? Because if so, I have been doing it all wrong.

I just don't want to go through train wreck number four, you guys. I am getting too old for this shit. I am Dear Abbying you. If someone friend-cuts you, let go or no?

11 comments:

Rachel said...

Aw, Librarian. I for one am kind of shocked that any friend would drop you! I've always considered you to be one of the most considerate & friendly people I know--on and offline.

My thoughts re: letting go or hanging on are thus: you can't win.

I was in a similar situation, and I was the friend cutter. The cuttee tried to hang on and I was pissed that she did, because it made it harder. Then she stopped hanging on, and I was pissed because it confirmed that she didn't care about me.

Probably I'm just crazy-emotional, but I think you should do what makes you feel best in that situation. Do what you can to protect yourself in a horrible situation. I feel like friend break ups are much, much worse than romantic breakups.

Kudos to you for not waffling in your past 3 decisions, however. I think that's the best thing you can do, if you can indeed do it: Make a choice (to hang on or let go) and stick with it.

Virtual hugs!

Librarian Girl said...

Rachel! That was so helpful, you have no idea. There is no way to make it not suck!

Really, I was trying to make it suck less, but hearing that it doesn't work that way helps.

petlerinn said...

Can I hug you? Can I send you a virtual hug? Even though I'm a total blog-stranger and very very rarely delurk? Is that OK?
To my knowledge, I have never been the cuttee; of course my official title is Queen of The Oblivious Nature to Basic Human Courteousness. For reals. I have absolutely no concept of anyone's feelings past what they flat out tell me/act like. Seriously. I'm going to blame my German upbringing, but lets face it. I'm super selfish and prefer to believe in Honest Above All Else and manners and tact can be damned.
Due to this personality trait of mine, I have had few friends. Although, the friends I have are Precious Friends, friends I would kill for, friends I could die for, friends I would trust with my most dearest possessions and secrets.
I have only cut two friends out of my life. One I did not completely sever when I cut it and we kept at a distance for a couple years and now, although no longer as wonderfully close as we used to be, we keep in touch with each other and I'm happy with that. The second one I cut because she flew right under my radar of honesty. Just flew the fuck under it and when I realized what kind of horrible person she was (really, she wasn't a baby killer or anything, but she was dishonest and Honesty Above All Else is my number one rule), I dropped her cold turkey, haven't spoken/written/emailed/waved at her since. And I don't regret that for a single second.
All that explanation to let you know that my Not-So-Abbyish advice doesn't really have a lot of experience behind it that would make it merit anything.
But my advice? Fucking let it go. Mourn it. Write a letter of goodbye if you feel like it and do or do not send it. But don't dwell on it. Accept it. Let it be. Move on as quickly as possible. And try and look back with as much positivity as possible.
Good luck!
-K

Librarian Girl said...

petlerinn: virtual hug accepted!

Nan said...

Oh, this makes me heart achey. Friend cutting is common, highly emotional, and yet virtually ignored in our culture. From my experience as cuttee, I say ask for what you need. I wanted an explanation and got silence. I've spent too much time since second guessing what I did wrong. In another case, we both knew what was going on and I could live with dropping it.

I went and saw Bridesmaids and in some scene where Wiig's character is spiraling downwards, I got all teary thinking about how scared she was about her friendship changing and what a huge part of her life that was. We need more tv/movies/novels about these breakups to help us have words and figure out themes, let alone help process what it means or how to handle it. Hang in there!

-R- said...

I think I have only been cut once. I hung on way too long after that, which didn't work out, but I don't regret it. I'm glad I made the effort. If my current best friend cut me, I would probably hang on, but with anyone else, I think I would just let them go.

I have been the cutter several times, and I'm ok with it. Sometimes it just has to happen.

Matt said...

But I mean...wow! What a topic! Gold star for Going There. I read good feedback above. Here's my USD$0.02. Three scenarios:

1. If there is something in that person (we are all unique, right? "yes, we are all individuals") that you feel you are unwilling to part with, it makes sense to me to Declare Your Need and/or Desire. I see that Rachel above got pissed that the person would not let go, but whether or not the person gets pissed is not your problem. I mean, I'm not talking about doing creepy things, I'm simply saying if you want the relationship to continue and you see that you're being cut, then state your case. "I like you a lot and want you in my life still. We have great times, and no one else will eat corndogs with me. If there's some way I've been a lousy friend then please do me the courtesy of letting me know what way this is, and if I can rock the adjustment I will. If it's too late, I'm bummed and I'll miss you and I wish you peace." What would be so hard about that?

2. If you don't feel it would be any loss, let it go. A friend is a miracle, really, and maybe you have a few less than you really think you have, and they'll be dropping off as time goes by. I hope not. I hope you've just been pared down to the Reals and that you never have to experience this again.

3. If you don't consider it a loss but you're enraged at the very idea of being cut, then serious revenge is called for. I can put you in touch with someone...

Matt said...

You should watch Stranger Than Fiction (/again). It won't help you with this issue, but Will Farrell's character finds out that he is about to be cut and boy does he start pinwheeling. There's something about it that's pure and beautiful and, yes, as you say, pathetic. Do we think we are not pathetic? Show me someone who is not pathetic.

cadiz12 said...

I've only cut once, but that one was such a doozy that it hurt far worse than any breakup I'd had until that point.

I might have been cut before, but I feel like if I reach out to someone a few times and don't hear anything, then that's more time I get to spend with the wonderful friends I do have who reciprocate. In the case of one I thought was lost, they contacted me a year later as if nothing had happened.

You certainly have plenty of people who love you dearly--hello people don't do birthday gifts like you've gotten for just ANYbody--so I'd say it's that person's loss. And who knows, maybe they'll come back to you when things are better for them.

Marty J. Christopher said...

I am sort of in the process of cutting someone. It's been years of struggle and it's getting too hard. Plus, last year, when I was getting married, her true colors came out. She was MIA and picked a fight with me one month before the wedding. Ugh. Now, she is getting married. I'm doing my friendly duty and going, and I've bought gifts and whatnot, but I've decided that after the wedding, I'm sort of done. I haven't even talked to her on the phone since last year! And when we email, I try to keep my distance. Most of this is because it's been heart wrenching enough to extricate myself from this relationship to the point that I have. I'm hoping this friend and I can still keep in touch once in a while, in case in the future, we're able to mend things, but honestly, I think we're just done. This is someone I NEVER thought I'd not have in my life. Not in a million years could I have guessed our friendship would go this route. It's so sad, but I agree with what everyone has said here: you have to do what's best for you, whether you're the cutter or the cuttee. Good luck and feel better. Friend breakups are the worst.

Misha said...

Brave post. This is such a huge emotional thing in life--to cut or be the cutee. I still have unresolved feelings about doing the cutting and being cut. Like seriously--why is this kind of shit so hard to let go of? Sigh. Thanks for the fellow wallow.