A Revealing Conversation, held via text message
(Mildly Edited for Clarity)
Me: Oh, funny story! Or amusing anyway. 😊 I don’t know how often you read my blog and whether you read the post where I outed my son as a substance abuser, but I did my random occasional Twitter check last night and discovered that he and his girlfriend had both locked their Twitter accounts. I find it quite impossible to believe that’s a coincidence, so either he’s been reading my blog or someone told him/them about it. I really don’t believe R would be reading my blog on his own — that would seem sociopathic on his part.
T: So who would have told him/them?
Me: I was tempted to ask Pam if she had, but… it would be the death knell of our friendship if she did. I’m not sure I want to know therefore. In the long run, does it really matter? I think the outcome is sufficient to know there was a cause and our friendship is on pretty shaky ground these days.
T: Sorry to hear that. Twitter is the death of Society, however. 😊
Me: I actually don’t mind at all that they locked their Twitters. It felt unhealthy to me every time I looked and I tried not to do it often. Like picking a scab, just let it alone, self. It’s probably for the best. But it’s weird. She’s been my friend for a long time, the oldest friend I’ve got.
T: What happened? If you feel like talking about it.
Me: Well, Rory happened, really. I know I’ve told you bits along the way, but we got into this fight that came out of nowhere where he was just incredibly hurtful to me. And probably from his perspective he was saying his truth and I was refusing to listen, but it was an attack. Super personal.
T: Yeah, the fight around pre-election time.
Me: The thing that he said to me that still makes me want to cry was actually, “It’s just that you’re really smart.”
Me: He was, I believe, trying to explain to me why he and his girlfriend had decided that I was condescending. Suzanne asked if it was calculated, if he’d deliberately gone for something that would hurt the most, because my intelligence has, in fact, been something that I’ve been rejected for in the past.
T: I wonder that too. I can see that as an avenue of attack, not that I knew that about your past, but you know when someone says something and it just feels true. You are very smart, and I like that a lot about you.
Me: I honestly do my best to hide it a lot of the time, which is sad, but you know… And it’s not like I particularly want to be around people who are intimidated by someone who can do basic math in their head. I’m okay with those people not being in my life anyway. But I never expected R to turn into one of those people. Anyway, I was very hurt, definitely said some things I regretted. It was an ugly fight. I apologized, he apologized, we went to the movie we were headed to, and we have not spoken since. Almost a year now.
I’ve left voice mails and sent texts, sent emails. I sent stocking stuffers for Christmas (to his girlfriend’s mom, who never responded in any way, but I have no reason to believe they didn’t get there) including a toothbrush with “Hey, crankypants, I love you,” on it which totally made me laugh.
Every person in my life thinks he’s been an asshole. Every one. Except for Pam.
Me: Who says I should respect his boundaries and get some therapy.
T: Thus the cracks in the friendship.
Me: She’s entitled to her opinion and I like therapy, I’ve had lots of it, so I know it can be really helpful.
T: Heh. Well, we could all use it from time to time, but as a response to a family issue in that tone, yeesh.
Me: Yeah, exactly.
T: “I’m hurting,” “Shut up, you need therapy,” wow…
Me: And this spring I was super suicidal. Being treated like that by Rory, having the most important relationship of my life suddenly become something so ugly, having him ignore me when I called him in tears… I just didn’t want to live anymore.
T: I for one am glad you chose to keep on keeping on.
Me: I needed, “I love you, I know it hurts, I’m so sorry for your pain,” and I got “you shouldn’t feel that way” and “he’ll get over it.” Which is completely irrelevant. Because he might someday decide he should be in contact with me, but I will always know that he’s the person who chose to ignore me when I called him, scared and crying. The relationship might become something else someday, but I will always know that he threw me away.
T: I can’t imagine just getting over that. To me that’s permanent strain, no matter how close. I don’t want it to be, since you two seemed to have such a strong relationship. But I’m still really glad you’re still here.
Me: Well, you saw the relationship from my point of view, not his. He presumably always knew that I was disposable to him. Anyway, back to the Pam story! Because it’s connected, but not the same. I didn’t find her advice or attitude helpful, so we stopped talking about it. Radio silence. Which is fine, she’d offered to pay for therapy and I’d rejected it, so she’s entitled to decide that I didn’t want the help she was willing to give. I’m not judging her for that. Crack in the friendship, but not a break. We had a text interaction in June, another in July, another in Sept, another in November. Just brief, “How are you? Doing okay here,” exchanges. (And I just looked at my texts to determine that.)
T: Nod. And that’s it, eh? Just perfunctory “hey, hi, how are ya?”
Me: But on R’s birthday she sent me a picture of a bottle of wine and a nostalgic, “I remember going to this winery with you and Michelle,” which seemed really weird and completely socially inappropriate.
Me: “Hi, my possibly suicidal friend that I barely speak to, on a day that I know must be incredibly painful because of the reminder of the son who was once beloved and is now completely estranged, allow me to send you a picture of the alcohol you no longer drink and a memory of your best friend who is dead.” Because that’s thoughtful?
T: Yeah. That’s thoughtful!
Me: But, you know, it crossed over into the “so weird it’s just funny” zone. Although I actually rather want to burst into tears at the memory, so maybe it wasn’t as funny as all that.
T: Well, that’s one way to take it. I guess?
Me: At any rate, it was extraordinarily clunky, but I decided to assume that she’d been drinking and wasn’t thinking and it was just nostalgia, without really considering what it might feel like to me. Sometimes people make mistakes. Sometimes people don’t realize how their words will be taken. Sometimes things get misinterpreted.
T: What one intends as sardonically funny can be taken horribly wrong.
Me: I was certainly not going to assume ill intent, I just replied with “Happy New Year to you, too,” and let it go. And then Zelda died.
T: Yeah. ☹️
Me: I texted my brother, I texted Christina who immediately called me, and then I wrote a blog post to rip the bandaid off and let other people know. Pam texted Suzanne to ask whether she should get in touch with me. Suzanne, being Suzanne, was like “Yes? Obviously?” but also promptly told me about it.
T: Of course she should. Oy vey… Well, I guess that she feels some awkwardness too.
Me: Pam texted me and said, “Read about Zelda on your blog. Very sorry. You were a good dog mom to her. She was a great dog love for you.” That’s quoted, so word for word. Now, I don’t think I’m the kind of person who takes needless offense, but — seriously?
T: Yeah that’s… just… I don’t really have words for it.
Me: I read that and thought, “You just compared me to my dog and I came up lacking in the comparison?” And especially the ‘mom’ piece, like… it just… Was that truly a dig about being a bad human mom or just completely insensitive? Total strangers did better. Total strangers did enormously better. Christina (not a total stranger), “I wish I could be there, I so want to hug you now, you must be devastated, I’m so sad for you.” Random internet friend, “Oh, Wendy, tears are streaming down my face. I’m so sorry you had to finally say good-bye.” Like, those are the responses of people who care.
But I texted “Thanks” to Pam and let it go, because I was busy being heartbroken. The next day she called and left a message on my voicemail that started with, “I’m on my lunch break,” which is basically, “I don’t really have time but wanted to fit this in.”
T: Yeah, frell it. I was going to try and say maybe she’s caught somewhere in the middle, but JFC…
Me: I sent her back a text that said “Got your message, I don’t actually feel like talking, but maybe someday soon. Stay safe!”
T: I think you need to decide if you should repair it, if you even want to. I might just let it fade and pop like a bad splinter.
Me: She replied with “You too! And again, so sorry for your loss.” LOL, that’s a great gross image.
T: Well, in its current state it fits.
Me: Yeah, it’s been puzzling. But 30-some year friendship, not going to let it go lightly.
T: No, I don’t think you should, but I have a hard time counseling you to embrace that pain.
Me: But! I sent her another text.
Me: Here we go: “Also — and I’m sorry, there’s really just no graceful way to say this, so I’m going to be honest and not worry about grace — Suzanne is not comfortable talking about her friends behind their backs, so please don’t do that to her anymore. I appreciate that it comes from a place of concern, but it’s super awkward for me. We aren’t in high school. If our friendship is in a rocky enough place that you don’t know how to express your sympathy for the loss of my dog, do what feels comfortable for you without asking for validation from Suzanne, please.”
Me: (In other words, SMACK.)
T: Oh, damn. Good for you 🙂. That’s a very polite smack too.
Me: She replied, “I am sorry I made either of you uncomfortable.” I texted her “apology accepted, now let’s forget it entirely 😊 ”
T: Hah. Next move in her court?
Me: No, next move in my court! I wrote her a card, and mailed it. Got a card back in the mail, too.
T: Well, hey! How bad was it?
Me: It was not good. I think my card was good, but hers was… not.
T: I WAS trying to be funny, I didn’t want to be right.
Me: It’s oddly not good. Which is honestly how everything has been since Rory turned into an asshole, LOL. So I will spare reading you the full cards, but the last line of mine was “And if my grief for the things I’ve lost feels powerful and overwhelming, I want to at least know that I’ve done my best to make sure that our friendship isn’t one of those losses. Love you,”
T: That’s very well said and beautiful, actually.
Me: The last lines of hers were, “I am still very troubled by the break between you and Rory. I wish you both would accept professional perspective and support around it. But it’s not my business and I will do what I learned in Alanon and stay out of what I haven’t been asked to participate in. Enjoy all the lovely animals, food, time in Arcata. Much love,”
Is one of these things not like the other? I think so, yes. I think I wrote “I value you enormously,” and she wrote “It’s none of my business.” It’s also completely disingenuous because I specifically asked for her help — I asked her to ask Rory for his address so that I could send him a letter — and she declined, because it “made her uncomfortable” to be involved.
T: Well, shit.
Me: I’ve been trying to decide how to respond for days.
T: Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on there but that doesn’t sound like the friend that wants to repair the friendship. It DOES sound like she’s somewhat possessive over her time with R, and oddly it sounds like she’s trying to out-mother you in her way. Maybe I’m reading that totally wrong, but… huh. Bad responses…
Me: Which is why I’ve tortured you with this whole story, because I’ve been struggling with it and writing it out was helpful for me. It’s been interesting talking to Suzanne about it, too, because… well, Pam doesn’t look so great in some of the stories of my past.
Here’s one of them: On the day I thought, “Huh, my period is actually really late. And I feel weird. I wonder if I could be pregnant. God, that would be a disaster,” I said to my boyfriend, “My period is really late. What if I’m pregnant?”
He replied, “Would it be mine?”
Pro Tip: Bad response.
T: Hahahaha! Yeah, that’s a bad response! Jesus.
Me: I believe I said, “Okay, we’re done.” And I got out of bed, got dressed, went to work, did my job. That night, I went to Pam’s place instead of home. Her place was always really busy — four people living there and lots of people coming and going. And she was getting ready for a date.
An important date.
I don’t remember why it was important and I don’t remember the guy’s name. But it was an important date.
I needed to get a pregnancy test obviously and she was going to come with me to the drug store and buy it for me, which was a thing I’d done for her in the past. It’s the girl rules, the awful anxiety of buying a pregnancy test is much diminished when you know that the sympathetic look the clerk directs at you is not really for you.
Except she was getting ready for this date. This important date. This really important date. And she was going to come soon, really, very soon.
But the drug store was going to close. In the end, one of her housemates walked to the store with me and I bought my own pregnancy test.
T: Wow…Yeah, Pam doesn’t come out good in that story either.
M: It’s not done. I went back to Pam’s house, where lots of people were roaming around, drinking beer and doing stuff — it was midweek but for some reason it was super busy that night — and I drank a beer and waited until I needed to pee and then I peed on a stick and waited for it. And Pam looked at the stick and said, “Whew, you’re fine,” and I read the directions and looked at the stick and said, “Yeah, no, that’s not fine. That’s positive.”
Then I went back to Pam’s kitchen table and sat there, no longer drinking a beer, because beer is not good for babies.
And Pam? Went on her date.
T: Obviously the friend thing to do is cancel the date because you’ve got a friend emergency. Christ, even I know that.
M: Yeah, it’s pretty much a no brainer. I’m sure I told her it was fine if she left, because I was not at all good — in fact, one might even say incapable of — being clear about my own needs. But if this friendship ends, it will be because Pam has had a lifelong history of dumping me for boys and Rory is just the latest in a long string, ha. (Written with a wry smile.)
M: I just texted Pam and asked if she’d mentioned my blog to Rory. Specifically, “Hey, did you tell Rory that I mentioned his Twitter account on my blog?”
T: Ah, going to rip off the rest of the bandaid and see if the death knell rings on the friendship?
Me: Pam answered, “No, but I know he reads it regularly.”
To which I replied, “Wow, that’s – I’m… blown away. I guess that’s the end of my blog.”
To which she replied, “Your blog is lovely, but might be better to not write about Rory on it. I hope you don’t give it up entirely. You have many lovely things to say and observe.”
The death knells have sounded.
I am literally trembling with rage and hurt. It feels quite odd actually.
But the idea that Rory reads my blog — has seen my pain and has responded to it with nothing, not an email, not a text, not any attempt at a fucking apology — is horrifying. I truly didn’t think that was possible, because I thought he would have had to be a sociopath to enjoy my pain in that way, and I didn’t think he was that. Now I know.
And the idea that Pam knew this and didn’t tell me is a betrayal so vast — and then that she prioritized his feelings! That they were her first concern! He’s not five, or even fifteen. He’s an adult, 25 years old!
I literally finished up our text exchange with “Burn in hell. Blocked.” And blocked her number.
30-some years into this, I am finally goddamn smart enough to know that I deserve better and that some friends are not worthy of the name.
And I’m killing my blog not because I don’t love my blog — I do, actually — but because I am not willing to let people who treat me like shit know anything at all about my life and experiences.
Thanks for reading!
Wow. I really have no words. I am so sorry for all your recent pain. I just want you to know that I have enjoyed being a part of your life and you have truly helped me by sharing your story. As much as you’ve helped me by letting me know that I am not alone, I hope may be it helps for you to know that you are not alone. I will miss you. Thank you
Thank you so much! That is a warm hug from an unknown friend and it does help, very much. I’m grateful that I could be part of your life.
I’m so sorry for all you’ve experienced. I appreciate all that you’ve shared with us over the years – cooking, doggies, your travels. Take care of yourself. Will keep checking your publishing website but no pressure
I am pretty sure that there will be news there eventually. I’ve been writing lots of compost words — they’re not stories yet, but maybe stories will grow out of them. And a couple times recently I’ve had that fun of writing something that satisfies me, which is always nice!
So sorry you are hurting. Sometimes its takes a betrayal to find our strength to stand up for ourself. ( experience talking). I will miss your stories. Positive energy to you.
Thank you so much!
Jesus. What an awful story. The past year has absolutely sucked for you. I wish I were able to travel out there and give you a hug and cook with you and generally commiserate. 💜
I wish you could, too! Or that I could come hang out on your balcony and cook with you. You were actually very much the instigation of this blog post. I was trying to write you an email and then I decided that maybe it would be easier if I just shared some of my conversation with T with you, and I asked his permission to do that, and then… then I just decided that I was fine with other people knowing all this, too. More than fine. But thank you for being my friend — I’m grateful to have you!
Good call on the blocking action. I mean, really??? I don’t know Pam, but wouldn’t really classify her as a good friend. Gads… And absolutely the right move to close down your blog if R is reading it and hasn’t responded at all to the fact that he’s hurt you. Not good. He may be an adult, age-wise, but he still has some growing up to do. Sorry you’re having to go through this with him. Protecting yourself is (and should always be) your #1 priority. I don’t know that telling you that you should seek professional help is a nice thing to do/say to a ‘friend.’ I’d never tell a friend to seek therapy… that’s a personal decision and not anyone else’s business.
I read the email she sent me this summer — the one where she offered to pay for a therapist for me, which was generous of her, credit due — to C this afternoon and it was great because C does enraged fury really well. The specific line that set her off was, “When we are in the throes of codependency, we have sick brains that cannot see clearly and we need the experience, strength, and hope of others to guide us. Intellectual skills are no replacement for emotional and spiritual growth.” C probably ranted for three or four solid minutes, before pausing and saying, “Oh, wait, you weren’t finished.” It made me laugh, which I really needed.
Sorry you have to kill your blog but I understand. I killed mine and my Facebook for different reasons. I planned to start a new blg and Facebook account but I just keep pushing the time back because I’m so much happier without.
I will miss you, though. Listen keep firstname.lastname@example.org because I’m not sure the proton mail will last longterm.
Also I don’t remember roselle press thing works. Can you remind me in email?
Glad you have Suzanne. Hard to say goodbye…
Emailed! If you don’t see it, check your spam folder. Gmail is super aggressive about moving things to spam these days.