Two days ago, out of the blue, a friend request on Facebook came from someone who had unfriended me a few years back for a variety of reasons. I reluctantly accepted. A bit later I went to look at her page but I had already been unfriended. Maybe it was a slip up on her part – the dreaded click on the wrong area when looking at someone’s posts. I emailed her something about it and got back one of the meanest and anger-fueled attacks I’ve received in a long time. It turns out her computer was hacked. Why the attack? Why not just say that? Perhaps she didn’t yet know. I was accused of putting on a false front. Seriously? She told me I live in a “fantasy frenzy fueled by the need for attention or of social two dimensional media”
I love Facebook. I have made real friends there. I have had many helpful and meaningful conversations with people I’ve never met in person. I have connected with people I never really knew from boarding school and college. We cheer each other on. We give each other community. We support each other. We may not chat regularly but I love it when we do. Aracelis, Karen, Jeremy, Tom, Linda, West, Sherri, Susan, Liz… and many more amazing people I wouldn’t know if Facebook didn’t exist. Violet has a deep friendship with the daughter of an old George School acquaintance thanks to Facebook. I have spent time with her, her fabulous daughter and her husband and I love them too. So does my mom. My children and I spent a really lovely day last fall with a woman from Oregon who I met on Facebook. She had taken a workshop with my mom ages ago and somehow we became friends. She visited Boston and came armed with the largest bag of thoughtful presents imaginable. She’s smart and funny, kind and generous and a wonderful painter. I see Tom regularly and we always have a good time together. I see Chris now and again. Just yesterday thanks to a post I put up trying to save a perfectly good dog crate curbside on trash day I reconnected with my old friend Terry who I hadn’t really seen or spoken to in ten years. I grabbed the crate for her and we had a long walk around the pond together when she came by to pick it up. Lucky me. The connections I’ve made are real and I treasure them all, virtual or otherwise.
I do need attention. Who doesn’t? Why do we make art? Write? In my case it is for connection. I put a lot out there. Sometimes I am needy. I don’t think that’s something to be ashamed of. The shame would be sitting alone in a pool of self-pity, bitterness and anger.
She called me “rude, hypocritical, petty, whiney, privileged, self-absorbed and unfit for real friendship.”
Rude. I don’t think I am. I think I have nice manners these days.
Petty. Sure, sometimes. Aren’t we all petty at times?
Whiney. At times. Whining serves a purpose but it’s better not to indulge too much.
Privileged. I am privileged and so is anyone who reads what I write. We have food, shelter, clean water and computers. Or at least access to them. Bombs aren’t falling in our neighborhoods. Our kids have schools to attend. We have medical care. We have choices.
Self-absorbed. Yes. If I weren’t how would I grow?
Unfit for real friendship. Intense and crippling self-loathing crops up when I’ve said or done the wrong thing. I often say or do the wrong thing. I sometimes shy away from friendships as a result. I can be horribly critical and I often expect too much from people. I suppose I’m guilty as charged but I’m learning to let people just be who they are and not expect them to act according to my script. It’s never too late to change and I work at it every single day. I want to be a good person: as a mother, daughter, sister and friend. My children are now happy and well-adjusted. They’re kind and polite. They adore each other and they love me. I could not love them more. My hard work is slowly paying off. Knowing how hard I try works for me. I still have a long way to go and that’s okay. I may backslide now and then but I haven’t failed.
Blind rage is just that. I can’t convince her that I’m sorry for real or perceived hurt I’ve caused and I no longer care to try after our latest exchange.
She was a year ahead of me at boarding school. She was one of the cool girls. We overlapped at college for one semester. We hung out a bit and realized we both felt like the black sheep in our families. We both felt cast away and sad. Over time I felt she was my best friend and I expected I was hers. We’d talk on the phone for hours on end, the receiver hot to my ear, several nights a week. We took turns listening and talking. She was funny and smart and I loved her. I loved being her friend.
When her marriage broke up several years into our friendship she had an understandably hard time. It turned out there were great big swaths of her life that she had kept from me. I had thought we told each other everything. It hurt my feelings but oh well. I wasn’t her best friend. I was just one of many.
We flew to London together shortly after she and her husband split and she was depressed as hell, possibly even in the midst of a breakdown. I had terrible separation anxiety and couldn’t lose sight of whomever I was hanging out with or I’d be struck by tremendous panic. We were a sorry mismatched pair right then. I’d wake up early and wait for hours until she got out of bed in one filthy London hostel after another, cigarette ashes all over the rug from previous occupants. After a few days it became clear that she didn’t want to be with me nor I her but I needed her company to get from one place to another.
We got on a train to go to Scotland and ended up at a bed and breakfast in Plockton, a tiny town in the northwest Highlands. One morning at breakfast she leapt to her feet and announced that her train was leaving in fifteen minutes. Just like that. No warning. She left her fucked up panic-stricken friend in the top of Scotland alone. I didn’t have Ativan back then to keep the panic reasonable.
Several days later we had to be on the same plane back to New York and I secretly changed my seat. I needn’t have bothered because she had already taken care of that. Her hair was cut short and dyed blonde. Suddenly we were strangers.
Years went by before we spoke again. I remember saying something about someone she had been sleeping with in a crass way at a party in Brooklyn one night. I was drunk. News spread and she knew by sun up. It upset her terribly and nothing I could do or say could undo the hurt.
I don’t remember the trajectory of our subsequent attempts at friendship but I know they all failed. We became mothers a few months apart unbeknownst to each other. When we discovered the coincidence it seemed to be a sign that we could be friends again. She came to Boston with her son when our kids were about three years old. I thought we had a reasonably good time but we fell out of touch shortly thereafter as my life began to implode.
A few years ago I got an email with a long list of complaints of every crappy thing I did while they visited and honestly I didn’t recognize much of what she said, though I’m sure some of it happened. The haze of the early years with my twins is thick.
I am no angel. I have never been. I have hurt people intentionally and by accident. I’ve been filled with rage. I’ve been horrible. I hate who I’ve been. I hate things I’ve done.
She knew me then but she doesn’t know me now.
[I feel the need to say that this person has sent three furious responses to this post which I am not going to approve/publish. Not because they embarrass or damn me but because I think they will her someday when all this subsides or when other more pressing matters than hating me take over.]