The social networks have put an entirely new meaning to the word “friend.” I’ve been thinking about that concept and so, today’s story is about liking people, about trying to be friends sans FaceBook et al.
I had a friend once whom we’ll call “Dorothy”. Dorothy and I met at a beautiful college back east about 25 years ago. I was a poverty-level young woman, in a terribly abusive marriage. I had managed to get away for a month to attend a writing program. ( I got there through the charity of a wonderful poet, mentor and friend, Larry Kramer.) It was like being in heaven. Dorothy was quite well-to-do and a good writer. We became very good friends in a short time. She was sweet, dramatic, fun, wanting to get out of her marriage, too. She eventually left her husband and realized that it was women she loved, not men. She lived in a state halfway across the country from me, but we were close pals. After my divorce, she came out for a visit . We had a lovely time, long talks, shopping, lunches and cocktails before dinner–a great visit. After that, we continued to write letters, call frequently, and we met up at another friend’s house once in the Carolinas for another great visit.. And then, all of sudden, she just disappeared. No letters, no phone calls, no Dorothy. When I’d call her, she’d answer, hear my voice, and hang up. Then she stopped answering. I’d leave a message on her phone and she’d never call back. I finally gave up…until the advent of FaceBook. When so many old friends and acquaintances were turning up on FaceBook, I looked her up and there she was! I was thrilled and excited. I wrote and said all the usual things: Hi-I’ve missed you-how are you–what’s going on in your life, etcetcetc and I sent her a “friend request.” I never got a reply. One day, I was on FaceBook Chat. I looked at the chat list and saw her there. I immediately clicked on her name, said, “Dorothy! It’s me, Martina. I’m so glad to see you. How are you?” She wrote back with a terse, “I’ll talk to you some other time,” and got off fast. I never saw her on FB again. I guess she blocked me. I didn’t try again.
I’ve continued to feel bad about this until this morning when I remembered something that happened to me at about 15 years old. When I was in high school (God did I hate high school!), I came home one day really upset. A couple of girls who I thought were my friends were not speaking to me and wouldn’t say why–just that infamous teenage cruelty, I guess. I felt awful. I was a shy, withdrawn girl anyway–homely, thick glasses, hooked nose, clumsy, bookish, scared of my own shadow. I didn’t have many friends, so this rejection was a killer to me. I hid in my room and cried all afternoon until my father got home.
My dad came in from work in his steel-toed boots, smelling of the open hearth and cigarettes. He came into my room and sat down on the bed. He said that Mother told him I was feeling pretty low.
“So what’s wrong?” he said.
I told him. “They just wouldn’t talk to me all day or walk to class with me. When I asked why, they just walked away. They were talking about me and looking at me, then laughing. They wouldn’t even say what I did wrong. I passed a note to them in History, and they tore it up and threw it at me in the hall.” I began to sob again.
“You like these girls?”
I said “No, not really, but…”
“They’re your only friends?”
I started to cry again. ”Yes,” I said.
He patted my back and said, “I’m sorry you feel so bad, Mugsie. The world is just not a very good place sometimes. You’ll find new freinds.”
“It’s easy for you,” I said. ”EVERYONE loves you.”
“Nope,” he said, “they do not.”
“Well, it looks like it to me,” I said. My father was the world’s Pied Piper–loved by everyone, I thought.
“It LOOKS that way because I don’t pay much attention to people who dislike me for no reason. I’m an ok person, and, if they don’t like me, it’s too bad.for them.
I sniffed, “Well I’ve never see anyone who didn’t like you.”
“Honey, what you see is not everyone liking me. What you see is ME liking me and sometimes that is all we’ve got.”
“But that’s being conceited,” I said.
He stood up. ”Yep, a little,” he said. ”A little conceit feels better than a lot of crying.”
“What do I have to be conceited about?” I said, sniffing.
“I don’t know,” he said. ”We’ll have to see. You’re too young to have done anything yet. We’ll find something when you’re older. Time for dinner. You coming?”
He was right, of course. I’m still too young to have done anything, but I’m sure I’ll find that thing that I can be conceited about sometime in the future. Until then, it’s time for more coffee and I am on it!
Hey Readers! Tell me your stories about lost friendships.