Masochistic friendship

(I almost don’t want to post this because there is a chance the person I’m talking about may see it. I don’t know if she knows/remembers this blog address or has it bookmarked and would be checking it. If she did see it, she wouldn’t be happy. I have cut or limited her access to what I post on social media because it became clear to me that she couldn’t be trusted with my words as her idea of me is wildly inaccurate and anything could be new fodder to support her negative view of me. As Aaron Burr says in Hamilton’s “Non-Stop” (and lol, wouldn’t this person just love a musical reference), “Every proclamation guarantees free ammunition for your enemies.” I’ve been following that philosophy in dealing with her, and publishing this post runs directly counter to that. However, the friendship is effectively dead, I don’t want it revived as I’d just be signing up for more abuse and sarcastic tolerance of my quirks from her, and while we have mutual friends they would not really care if she ran to them to complain about me and they would not stop being friends with me as a result or anything. She would definitely show this post to her newer friends and trash talk me over it though, and perhaps leave a salty comment – though she seems fairly committed to radio silence. Well, I guess if it provides her entertainment, so be it. We aren’t in high school anymore and she can’t ruin my social life in retaliation again.)

In the spring, I let a friendship with one of my supposedly closest friends fade away, and she did the same. It’s becoming clear to me now that we never really liked each other all that much anyway (or well, I did a lot in the beginning, and it was partially hero worship for me, but I’m not sure if she ever really genuinely liked me), and while I don’t know why she continued to make token efforts to stay friends (she’d gchat me, usually something like “WHAT UP” every few months, encourage me to visit her or move to her city, etc), the reason I did was increasingly because I wanted to be the person who remained in her life after so many others had left it. I knew she was toxic and frequently insulted me or belittled me. I didn’t feel good about myself when I was with her; I felt like I had to shrink myself down to be the tiniest, most palatable version of myself, and even then I could tell she didn’t like me. She put down the things that I liked (Japanese culture stuff, etc) even though I made an effort to get to know the things that she did, so we could still have some things in common. My ex Kirk picked up on it and openly disliked her for how she treated me (she didn’t care for him either). Later, after I moved to Japan and began dating Japanese guys, she started telling me things like I “only like him because he’s Asian” or that I had yellow fever, or that she couldn’t see why I was still there if I was “so miserable.” (Never mind the fact that I could say the same for her and her life in her city.) The word just about everyone who knows her uses to describe her is “abrasive.” It’s very true.

But as I watched her beloved boyfriend leave her and it hit her in the gut, messing her up for years and possibly still to this day, as I witnessed friends storm out of her life (quite literally once, and supposedly that friend shouted “Good luck with that one!” to her roommate as she left) and give up on her, I felt like I owed it to her to stay, to stick around. I felt like I could take the abuse, that we could keep being more superficial friends, who just talked about fandom-related stuff and shared fic links.

I also started off very much adoring her. When we met we were in middle school, which for me was the first time meeting people who had gone to other elementary schools (I went to the same one from kindergarten to 5th grade) before we all converged in this one middle school. I was making lots of new friends with girls from other elementary schools, and I had met her through another new friend. I was immediately impressed by how cool she was. She wasn’t preppy popular (her style was more punk/goth/alternative), but she had a lot of friends in a lot of different circles, and she seemed so above everything with her sarcastic attitude. I always saw her as a social butterfly with very high social intelligence, and as someone who struggled to make and keep friends growing up, I admired that deeply. In some ways, I very much idolized her, and so I treasured our friendship as we grew older and closer especially in high school, bonding over shared nerdy interests like Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings movies and actors (which she always seemed half-ashamed of, especially when in front of her friends from the non-nerdy circles). In a lot of ways, I felt proud to be her friend, I felt cool hanging out with her (those moments when I got into her car and we would drive around town together were everything to me), and I felt proud to have stayed her friend. And that was a reason why I put up with a lot of how she treated me. (Writing this all out, it sounds pretty fucked up and I have to question a lot of my own motivations.)

But it just got to be too much. She started going to therapy, which I thought would be good for her and tone down her personality, but instead it just made her self-righteous. She began pressuring me to go to therapy regularly, implying that I had so many problems I really needed to be doing that. I explained to her that seeing an English-speaking therapist in Japan costs an average of $100+ a session (the English-speaking therapists are not insured) and I just couldn’t justify it when I didn’t feel out of control of my life. She seemed to get it but I could feel her silently judging and disapproving. Apparently the whole time she thought I needed to get serious help.

The argument began over the stupidest thing. I made what I thought was a joke, which clearly wasn’t a joke to her and she said “Because I know you, I know you didn’t mean to be offensive when you said that, but that was offensive,” and I reacted badly and defended myself saying that it’s offensive when she tells me I have yellow fever, to which she exploded and told me that I always do this, I always make it about me and make myself a martyr and keep things bottled up and then burst out with them and it’s not healthy, I need help because this isn’t okay, etc. She called me toxic and narcissistic. (I remembered later that in high school she’d encouraged me to read this book she’d just read called Don’t Call Me a Drama Queen! about people who have drama queen tendencies. I was a bit bemused as this didn’t seem familiar to me at all*, but I did read it.)

I’m not saying my response was a good one by any means but really my greatest sin was getting defensive (“no, you’re the offensive one!”). I just don’t think it was indicative that I need urgent mental help. (I did end up going to one session of therapy to discuss this issue, and I laid out all the facts and my therapist agreed she was better off gone from my life.)

What she said really threw me and I went around to my closest friends and family members, showing them the conversation (including the not-great things I’d said too, of course) and asking them if she was right, begging them to be honest with me, that I really needed to hear it if it was true. But no one agreed with what she was saying.

So I went back and told her that while I’d considered what she said and asked those close to me to see if it was true, no one agreed and maybe she’s right but I just couldn’t see it. I apologized for getting defensive. And she never responded, and it’s been months now.

What’s surprising is how easy it was for her to let this be the last straw. It makes me wonder if she ever really liked me at all over our 18-year friendship, and I have a suspicion that she didn’t. I always had the feeling she was more amused by me than actually genuinely liked me, but then she’d encourage me to visit or talk to me and I’d think, well, maybe she does like me. But I’m not sure she ever really knew me at all. I suppose part of that is on me, though–anytime I tried to show her who I really was, I could sense the waves of judgment coming off her, so I’d go back in my little box approved by her to be my space to take up in her presence. My goal was maintaining the friendship as opposed to us growing together, because that might mean us growing apart.

In the end, I just feel sorry for her. So many people have left her life voluntarily or she’s driven them out. Her closest friends at this point are, with one exception, people she met in the past few years, and she always makes a great show out of how much she adores them, calling them by special nicknames (which I never received – or actually, to be fair, we tried once and it didn’t stick). But she did the same thing to the other friends who ended up leaving her, and I just feel like the cycle is only going to repeat. She uses up friends and then just finds replacements. It’s like she can’t sustain real friendships for very long.

I also have to notice how much other people’s mental health issues play a role in the friendships she’s lost. She had another friend, her best friend since middle school, and she also lost that friend last year because she didn’t approve of that friend, who has struggled with bipolar disorder and depression, getting pregnant and having a baby. And now she apparently thinks I have serious issues and need help.

I also remember that during the biggest drama I had with her and some other people in high school (detailed below), I had a dream that I was so angry at her that I was trying to hit her – slap her, I think. But my arms would lose strength and the blow would never connect. If I’m recalling the dream correctly, she only laughed at my attempts. I felt powerless and ashamed. This is how it felt in the friendship – that she held all the power and I could never fight back. I’m realizing now that we had a very twisted connection and a lot of dark history and misunderstood feelings that sadly will never get sorted out, and I definitely have a role in that – it is not all her fault by any means. It may well be what’s called 腐れ縁 in Japanese – literally a ‘rotten connection,’ an undesirable but indissoluble karmic bond. Except that I feel fairly confident now that the bond has been severed, and we will not be reconciling unless she changes in a major way, and I just don’t think she will.

I may catch some shit for this post in the end if she sees it, but writing all this out really helped me sort out my thoughts and realize some things. Sometimes I can be kind of a masochist…

* At one point in high school I did stir up some shit within my group of friends, mostly by making posts on LiveJournal (lol) that people didn’t agree with and unintentionally hurting feelings, which caused further drama, but I hadn’t done any of that to be dramatic on purpose. I actually hated being in the center of that shitstorm and at one point turned off my computer for a week so I wouldn’t have to even look at it. At that time, this friend I’ve written this post about was the ringleader of the girls calling for my head and gleefully trash talking me. We ended up reconciling, but she really was a very enthusiastic leader of the anti-me brigade. Anyway, I can see why people who don’t know me very well might think I’m a drama queen, but the truth is I’m just too sensitive (things bother me more than they would others), too blunt (I come right out and say things that others feel hurt by as I was too honest), and to some degree not socially intelligent enough (it just simply doesn’t occur to me to predict the fallout that my words will cause, because to me they’re perfectly innocent). The fact that one of the friends I’d known the longest couldn’t see that about me and preferred to view me as this narcissistic drama queen who enjoys stirring shit up and being at the center of attention is just proof that we needed to stop being friends, as she didn’t know me at all and was apparently happy that way.

Friendships are hard to maintain without spending money.

Ugh. Troubled and upset by a situation I’ve found myself in with my college friends (although I’m probably the only one aware of it).

When I got to college, I began hanging out with a few different groups of people. Over time, one of them became the mainstay, even though I wouldn’t even call them the best suited for me in terms of interests, personality, etc. They were just the people I hung out with the most and over time they became my main friends at college. I enjoyed being around them but couldn’t shake how incompatible we seemed to be. We did a lot of things together like vacations and outings and so on. We held a joint post-graduation reception for us and our families where we played a slideshow of photos of us throughout college. We did Secret Santa-type games, we had tons of movie nights, dinners, etc. There were six of us, later seven, all girls, and we even gave ourselves a group name and at one point nicknames. So this was a fixed, not fluid, friend group. I think they valued my place in the group and my friendship more than I did theirs. They told me they would miss me so much during my junior year abroad, that I was the glue holding the group together, and they even threw me a surprise going-away party. (Although things changed during the year I was gone, and I came back to a slightly altered dynamic that it took me a while to get used to. There were definitely some disagreements and misunderstandings and hurt feelings as a result.) For my part, I just couldn’t get past how these were very much normal, regular girls–far from the nerdy anime fans that made up my circle of middle and high school friends (many of whom are still my closest friends today). I felt like I didn’t fit in and was the odd one out, even though we have shared some pop culture obsessions over the years like LOST. But they were the type to love Twilight and The Bachelor and everything I find boring and common (I know, I sound like a terrible pretentious snob). And I just felt like they never really truly understood or even knew all of me. And there have been so many times over the years that I’ve felt let down by them.

Nevertheless, they were my college group of friends. It’s been four years since graduation and it’s been interesting to observe how the dynamic has changed. One of us has pretty much fallen off the face of the earth, a movement that began our senior year, and now she’s really only an honorary member. As for the other five and me, I am pretty sure none of them would call me the glue of the group anymore. In fact, it’s looking more like I’m getting edged out by just about everyone, even though I doubt it’s a collaborative move agreed upon by all or anything.

And I’ll take full responsibility for my role in that, I know that there have been things I could have done over the years to stop that and I didn’t. While I was close with one in junior and senior year (we visited each other while studying abroad; we took senior portraits of one another), the summer after graduation she got so upset by my repeated (and, she felt, insensitive) requests to return a book of mine she had borrowed that she called me one day to lecture me. Our relationship has never been the same since, but she is much beloved by a couple other members of the group, so if it’s a choice between her and me they’re going to choose her. Another two have always been rubbed the wrong way by my sometimes blunt spoken nature, and it just seems we don’t mesh on a fundamental level. I try very hard with them to be someone they’d like but I don’t seem to get anywhere and I’m not sure they’re ever going to let me make any more progress. The last two have become my favorites as we seem to be more inherently compatible, but they have been geographically farther from me and that hasn’t done us any favors. Also, recently one of those last two was in town, and when she’s in town we always get together and have a good time, but for some reason this visit she didn’t plan in advance to meet with me. Instead, she texted me the night before she was going to fly back to ask me out to a movie–because someone else had canceled on her. And we met up and I was glad to see her and I had a good time, but she seemed lethargic for some reason. Also, when I asked her, it turns out she had been planning a meeting with the other friend who’s somewhat local (one of the ones I’ve always sensed doesn’t like something fundamental about me). The last time the three of us were in town, we had dinner together and (I thought) had a good time. I have absolutely no idea why, this time around, I would get not only left out of the plans entirely, but that I would become a last-minute afterthought for the person in the group I had thought I was closest to!

I’ll also admit that since graduation I haven’t made this group my priority at all. I’ve been happy to reunite with my old group of high school friends and grow closer to them instead; for some reason, many people in college totally broke things off with their old friends in favor of new college friends, including a lot of this group, and I definitely did not. There was, for sure, a part of me that felt like “I’ve got my real group back, and you guys have never been the ones I was most compatible with so it’s not as important for you as it is for me to stay close.” I am also very online-oriented when it comes to contact, and they are more Luddites; using the phone is big with them. Texting and phone conversations are huge with this group, and that’s just not my preferred method of communication. If they wanted to chat with me online more, I am sure we could have kept in touch better, but that just never happens. I also have tried pretty hard over the years to keep a big email chain going, but especially lately it’s been falling flat; no one will respond to the long, thoughtful catching-up initial message I wrote. I’ve also dragged my heels when it comes to meeting up in person; the closest one to me geographically lives on the complete other side of town where I never go, and I am just not able to justify spending the time and gas on someone who I continue to sense just plain doesn’t like me and get along with me, even though we try for the sake of the larger group. The others are in the other major cities in my state, and I have rarely gone to visit (for time and gas-cost reasons, mainly). When I have, I haven’t had the best time. So I’ve turned down offers to join everyone else for a vacation many times at this point. And a lot of my reasoning has to do with my future plans that I’ve been working towards for the past few years; I have needed to save just about everything I have, so I have not justified a lot of vacations and time off. It makes sense to me, but it looks like my friendships with these people may have become a real casualty. And I’m not putting in enough to make them feel kindly and supportive towards me when I say I can’t make yet another thing. I’m sure they’re feeling the rejection, and they have begun to withdaw from me in turn. I’m not even getting invitations now, as you can see. In fact, one (one of the two who I don’t click with intrinsically) is getting married, and I wasn’t asked to be a bridesmaid. But she asked the other four. I am the only one in our fixed-member group of friends (minus the one who we never hear from anymore) who was not asked to be her bridesmaid. That. Hurts.

Yes, I may not even be in the country for the wedding. Yes, I said I wouldn’t be in a wedding party ever again for anyone. For those two reasons I would have turned her down if she’d asked. That doesn’t matter when you consider the sting of realizing you are the only real member in our group of friends that this person does not consider herself close to anymore. The only one. And, yes, this is making someone else’s wedding about me, AKA exactly what you’re not supposed to do, but… I can’t help feeling hurt.

And because I’m a blunt bitch, I did tell her how I felt. I mean, I was gentle. I told her that I’m sure she had good reasons, and I understand why she made this decision, but it still hurts. And she said “I’m sorry you feel that way” but they needed to keep the wedding small and focus on only the people who knew the two of them as a couple. And she’s right. While I fully support their relationship based on everything I’ve heard, I haven’t seen her fiancé since college (because they don’t live locally and I don’t visit). She’s right but it still stings to have it made so obvious and before me. And I just hate being told “I’m sorry you feel that way.” It doesn’t show any empathy or sympathy at all. And I hate being told lies about keeping the wedding small. If I were a closer friend, that wouldn’t matter, and you and I both know it. It’s about as bad a lie as “I’ve just been sooooo busy lately, that’s why we can’t get together.” Nope. You make time in your life for the things and people that matter, and “busy” is no excuse. If someone’s not making time, it means you’re not that important. And it’s the same here. I’m not that important, anymore.

Every time I talk to one of them, I try to be myself and say what I want to say, about any topic, and I just feel like they wince. And politely sidestep what I said. In order for me to fit in with this group, it feels like I have to be a sanitized, tamer, more “normal” version of me.

(I also need to say a few words in my defense about my behavior since graduation. Aside from focusing on the local friends I felt naturally closer to, I have had to deal with a lot in the past four years. My career path plans have changed several times, resulting in numerous disappointments. I became extremely anxious starting the year after graduation and it has really taken me until just about now to figure out how to deal with myself and not freak out about the things I used to freak out about. And also to learn how to calm myself down when I do get anxious. I am way more relaxed now overall compared to then but it has taken a while. These people probably still think of me as a high-strung, high-maintenance person. In the meantime, I’ve gone to many therapy sessions and I did a year of meds. I also got official diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. I tried to tell my college friends about this, but I didn’t get much of a reaction. It didn’t make a real impact on them. Maybe I’d already done the damage by then and they didn’t have any warm feelings towards me left. I mean, resentment can really eat away at a person. It’s impossible to have a good relationship with someone who resents you and vice versa. It’s a poison in relationships of all kinds. Last summer Kirk and I worked out some issues related to that and things have been so insanely better since then, so the difference can be like night and day. But if resentment is there, things are not going to get better until it’s gone. And I don’t know if they’re willing to consider lifting their resentment towards me, even though I know all of my actions were perfectly understandable and justifiable in the context of my issues; I just don’t know if there’s anything I can do to stop it at this point.)

I mean, I know exactly what caused this, and I know it’s largely my own fault, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. And that, weirdly, considering everything I’ve said, I want to reverse the process. I want to repair these friendships and get them to like me and love me again. But what are my reasons? Is it because I adore and want to be close to these people? In most cases, no, not really. They are familiar, like relatives, so I don’t want to give them up, but if I didn’t know them I wouldn’t think “I must be this person’s friend.” Mostly, I think it’s out of shame and embarrassment. I don’t want to be the one abandoned by an entire group of friends. There are many times when I think “I could do without this person in my life,” and withdraw or officially sever ties, but that’s been on my terms. This started off on my terms, but now it’s on theirs. Now I’m scrambling and scrabbling to get my foothold back–and just to save face? I’ve already made overtures to several of them. But honestly, they might already be done with me. And I have no idea how to proceed in that case. Because I hate the idea of staying friends in name with someone when in reality there’s a mutual complete lack of fondness there. I’d rather be honest and just cut the ties. That’s what I had to do with my Paris friends when, in a shockingly similar situation, all of them turned their backs on me. But I feel different things, and varying desires to stay friends, about all of them. So I can’t just do a mass defriend/remove-from-life. And if I do only a few, it could be awkward in the future if we’re all together. Although at this point, who knows if that will even happen and I’ll be invited to it!

But when you can’t afford to visit people and show them with actions that you think of them as important… when all you can do is use your words and talk and make online contact… how is this not inevitable? I honestly don’t know what I could have done differently. Gone on those visits and had a miserable time doing things I didn’t want to do or spend money on (like country dancing or eating sushi at a non-authentic place yes again I am a snob)? Ugh. I guess I’m going to have to chalk this up to “sacrifices along the way as I pursued a career change.” But, I still hate it. And at the same time I wish these people would be more understanding of me and my situation. I wish they still felt I deserved that.

I mean, I guess all of this brilliantly illustrates just how much of a selfish asshole I am/can be. Yikes!

Friendships are hard to maintain without spending money.