Friday, April 29, 2011

When friends drift apart (for the best)

We've lived in Podunkville now for almost 3 years, which is so hard for me to wrap my brain around! Shortly after we moved here, I remember meeting this woman at a party, and she told me that whomever I was friends with at that time, I probably would not be very close friends with a few years from now. My friends would completely change. And she was 100% right.

There is something about moving to a place like Podunkville, especially when you are coming from a bigger city, that makes you seem like fresh blood to the locals. (It also makes you a target for invitations to in-home parties where people try to sell you makeup, jewelry, and candles - ugh! See me in hell!) Anyway, there were 2 couples we socialized with pretty regularly during the first 9 months we lived here. Then one of the couples got divorced, and their social scene obviously changed as they returned to singledom and the bar scene. But the other couple, well, I just think they're a bit off, but they're cool people. Just not our BFF's.

The woman, J, is someone who makes a very good first impression when you meet her. Very gregarious, funny. Then you spend a little more time together and start to wonder why someone with such an awesome personality like hers doesn't have any close friends around here, despite having lived here for basically her entire life. I finally figured it out: she is the classic example of that old adage "the friend to everyone is a friend to no one." She doesn't like to get too close to any one particular person. She is more comfortable keeping people at arm's length. The handful of times I had real, intimate conversations with her where I felt I was seeing the real her, were followed by months of unreturned phone calls, cancelled plans, "my kids are sick again," etc.... until she needed a favor, then she would suddenly show up in my in-box again.

So I had basically written her off as a flake. And I finally made some real friends who have stood the test of time. For awhile I had mostly forgotten about J. Then DH ran into her at work the other day and she gave him this whole song and dance about "Hey! Miss you! We used to see you all the time, what happened?" DH said "Yeah, I don't know, we've been busy I guess," while secretly thinking something like, "I'm pretty sure hush is still waiting for you to call her back from February, when you asked to stay overnight at our place before your trip to Mexico that you sneakily disinvited us from ("oops, my FIL could only get us a 1 bedroom condo, sorry!") so you could then surprise us at 9pm with a request to leave your car at our place and have us drive you to the airport at 5am on a Sat am so that you could save $ by not parking at the airport. And then when you get back a week later, you finally inform us your daughter contracted lice before your trip, and we should probably wash and sterilize everything in the room she stayed in..."

I fully realize I may at times seem extremely bitchy on this blog, but believe it or not, in real life I make it a point never ever to be openly rude or mean to people. I blog in part to vent the things my upbringing will not allow me to say. So I always return J's calls and messages, even though half the time I don't expect her to return them, and I keep my expectations extremely low.

It is weird though.


NK: Style-ING w/ Children said...

oh, I so understand: a friend to all is a friend to no one! I have a "friend" like that. It kinda makes me sick and very sad for her.

I usually limit our interaction as much as possible, whenever possible.

Cloud said...

Yikes. I agree that J doesn't really seem worth the effort!

But I know that I'm a bit flakier as a friend now that I have kids. I really do get too busy and suddenly its been 3 months since I've talked to someone. I should try to be better about that.

mom2boy said...

I have very good intentions. There are more than a couple of people I used to be good friends with that I would love to reconnect with but our lives run on such different schedules that it is just impossible right now. I try not to make plans and not keep them, though.

I was invited to a wedding coming up in May by a friend who moved away two years ago. The weeding is several states away. We were not close but more than acquaintances. Our communication had slowed to a FB message every few months and when I sent my regrets that I wouldn't be attending the wedding, well, I got no reply and haven't heard from her since. Some friendships just aren't meant to last forever.

Claudia said...

I could easily be seen as that friend you describe to some people we know. They are nice, and their son and my daughter loooovvve each other. But I don't like too much face-time with them. They have an abrasive dynamic as a couple, and the woman is an uncomfortable combination of under-confident and mother hen. I am not drawn to either of those types. So my contact with her is sporadic. I have availed myself of last-minute babysitting services from them, but it was a funeral. I'm not proud of that, but she often begs me to let our daughter come play all day, so it was sort of fulfilling that request.

They've tried to invite us on vacations, and I've done my best to politely turn them down. The truth is, I'm very picky about whom I travel with, and a "vacation" with them would be horrid.

But I do maintain contact, would be more awkward and painful to try to actively cut it off. I am happy enough socializing with them every two-three months (we don't live in the same town, so getting together more often isn't terribly practical anyway).

It's good to hear someone's perspective on that sort of friendship. I don't blow off her calls, just to defend myself.
Anyway, thanks for the post.

caramama said...

I can be a totally flake, too, but I think she sounds like more than that. If she hasn't made any close friends in all her years there and intentionally keeps people at arms length, then I think she has issues with closeness that go beyond getting busy with kids and being on a different schedule.

If I have a deep conversation with someone, I don't then not talk to them for months. I generally expect that those kinds of conversations will be followed by a closeness in friendship that makes you want to do more together, not back off... unless there was an issue.

In fact, a similar thing happened with my neighbor last fall. She lives next door, and I thought we were getting alone, but she never reciprocated my offers to hang out. So now I just smile and say hi but don't invite her over anymore.

hush said...

@NK - limiting the interaction seems like the right move!

@Cloud & mom2boy - I hear you on being a bit flakier/life going in different directions from folks' once you have kids.

@Claudia - I appreciate your candid perspective as a friendship-avoider in the situation you describe, and from where I sit anyway, your reasons for doing so seem valid.

@Caramama - I agree J has issues with closeness. Our dynamic sounds pretty analogous to that of yours and your un-reciprocating neighbor. My whole life, I've usually been the one who makes the first move in friendships, and I'm good at keeping in touch. One thing I need to work on is taking people and life as it comes, and taking a step back. As for J, I feel like I need to stop returning her calls/texts the next time she reaches out to me for a favor - even though I was not raised to be so overtly rude, I think it's called for. I don't want her in my life, though I don't want to actively burn a bridge.