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Eulogy for a friendship
April 20, 2010 8:52 AM   Subscribe

Relationship Filter: How do you know, and what do you do, when a 25+ year friendship may have reached it's logical end? Novella length setup:

I have a friend that I've had for about 25 years. We have always been very close, even when I've lived abroad. We've helped each other through college, divorces, abortions, childbirth, deaths of friends, lovers and parents...you get the idea.

We live in different cities, and while we share some of the same circle of friends, I don't care for most of her friends, and she doesn't really know any of mine.

In the last decade or so, she's become a rising star in her chose career path, which has rewarded her with significant financial reward. Because she has more resources than most of her friends, she's developed a group of "fans"; i.e. friends who are almost sycophantic in their friendships, because they like that they can to go to theaters and restaurants and weekends at 5 star hotels that she will pay for. (I've kept up with her financially, and she and I have never had a unbalanced financial relationship.) When she does pay for things, she does it in such a way as to make her other friends effuse about how wonderful she is, and how generous she is. I find the whole thing rather distasteful because I find the display of wealth to be distasteful. (I feel that if one does things like this for one's friends, which I *do*, it should be done quietly and without drawing attention to it.)

A couple of months ago, she and I planned a weekend. It was a "learning"weekend, in that we booked spots in a conference, booked a 4-5 star hotel, and as a belated bday/xmas present she had purchased tickets to a theatre production I wanted to see.

It is important to note here, that while I was once a big drinker, I've made it clear to all my friends that I have a drinking issue, and I generally avoid events where drinking will be the main activity. I have a very hard time stopping drinking once I start, so I generally don't start.

The night I arrived in town, she'd made reservations at a wine bar for dinner. Now, this place doesn't serve actual entrees; it's more tapas and wine tasting. Ok, weird...but whatever.

The next day, about 3 hours into the conference, she announces that she doesn't feel good, and we need to leave. So, I ended up forfeiting the conference fee and not seeing the conference...but ok, if she doesn't feel good, I'm not going to make her stay, so we leave and go back to the hotel.

The day after that, we run around the city for a bit, talking about our plans for the theatre that night when she remembers that it's another of our friend's birthdays. She decides, on the spur of the minute to get two extra tickets for this friend and his girlfriend. Only she didn't ask them if they were free, and the girlfriend was working.

So, to use the extra ticket, she decided to invite someone that she *knows* I don't like. No, someone I despise. I find this person to be horrible on every single level. She's stupid, she's obnoxious, she's annoying, and her mother smells of elderberry wine. (Seriously, she showed up for this theatre event in a t-shirt with a calculator that spelled out "boobies" on it. Shudder.) I would rather have a root canal than spend any time with this person for any reason, ever. But this person is insanely fawningly sycophantic, and I think my friend may have needed a fix.

When I told my friend that I was really not happy about this arrangement, she told me that I was being ridiculous and to just deal with it, even though she prefaced the news that Boobies was coming by saying "I know you don't like her, but..."

After the show, everyone (but me) wanted to go to some trendy place and drink. Now...first and foremost, I've made it clear that I don't find drinking or dealing with drunks to be on my list of things I want to do. Secondly, I can be an incredibly cruel drunk. So, if in the company of someone I really don't like I'm not going to drink, because I will get vicious. When drunk, making people like Boobies Girl cry makes me happy. Ergo, I wasn't going to drink. Thirdly, I'm am the anti-trendy. I hate trendy places. I'm a round Janeane Garofalo. However, I was a passenger, and I was outvoted.

We stayed at the bar until it closed. Then everyone wanted to go to an after hours bar, which is where I drew the line and said that I really needed to get some sleep, since I had a long ass drive the next day. I was told that I was being passive aggressive by not wanting to go to a after-hours dance club filled with tripping kids half our age. Good lord, we're closer to 50 than 20, there is no excuse for us to go hang out somewhere like that. Sheesh.

The next morning, she was obviously pissed off at me. We packed up and were out of the hotel by breakfast. One the way out of town, when our paths fork, she didn't wave or anything. Subsequently, when I asked her to tell me what my share of the hotel was, she sent me a very formal invoice, using her family name; as in "Mrs X should remit the following expenses to Ms Y", which struck me as really odd, when she could have just said, "Hey, paypal me $X00."

Since that weekend, we have not spoken. Other than the invoice, there has been no email contact. I've left her 2 phone messages, and a few tweets, but there's been no real contact.

I *feel* like she should apologize to me for the constant pushing of booze and for intentionally creating a situation where I had to bite my tongue for eight hours, but I've neither asked for an apology, nor do I expect to receive one. From her perspective, I'm sure she feels like she did nothing wrong.

I'm thinking that the friendship may have just finally run it's course. Whereas we have a ton of things in common; our love of books, our fields of interest, a lifetime of stories together, we don't have any day-to-day stuff in common. We don't really share the same friends, we don't watch the same sorts of movies or TV, we have radically different lifestyles, and we have a palpable difference in the people with whom we choose to spend time.

Am I wrong in thinking that this weekend was concrete proof of how different we've become? Am I right in thinking that we "broke up"? Should I just let the friendship fade into that realm of bday and xmas cards? Have any of you experienced what it's like to lose the best friend you've had for most of your life?
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet to Human Relations (32 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yep, I think you've got it right. Your paths, and personalities, have diverged to the point where it's not even nice to be around each other. More, she has come to that same conclusion, which is made abundantly clear in the "Mrs. X" invoice. (I did the same thing once a few years back to a family member...it's a statement in stone that any personal relationship is over).
posted by arniec at 8:58 AM on April 20, 2010


Have you ever had a heart to heart with her about how you feel? If not, is it because you believe the conversation would not end well? If so, then you do not have a friend, you have an acquaintance.
posted by jamaro at 9:00 AM on April 20, 2010


I was almost speechless given the overall snobby, nasty, mean, and selfish behavior of everyone involved in this drama. Why on earth would either of you want to spend time with the other one. What you've described doesn't fit my definition of "friendship".
posted by HuronBob at 9:08 AM on April 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Normally I am all about saving friendships, but it sounds like neither of you find anything worth saving here. DTMFA.
posted by The otter lady at 9:12 AM on April 20, 2010


Sounds like she's now a different person than the person with which you started the friendship, and you don't like this person. Let it fade, and if she shows signs of coming back down to earth, great. Otherwise, no need to keep bothering with her.
posted by ignignokt at 9:13 AM on April 20, 2010


Your friendship stock has had its rating downgraded to Acquaintance.

But that's okay, and it sounds like you know it. This is just another phase in your relationship. In the future, things might get better. And they might not. You have a long history with this person, and that can't be erased with a bad weekend of thoughtlessness and annoyance.

Rather than thinking of this as a breakup, I'd think of this as "taking a break." You both need to recalibrate your expectations for the relationship, and in the future you'll be more prepared to make appropriate plans that you can both enjoy. It may never again be a long weekend of theater and conferences and fancy hotels. But you'll find other friends for that. And she and Boobies can do as they please in the mean time.
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:15 AM on April 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


I think that you are also partially responsible here - why didn't you see her back to the hotel when she was feeling sick then take a taxi back to the conference? Why didn't you take a taxi back to the hotel when you weren't having fun out drinking? You could have pleaded a headache or not feeling well if you wanted to be polite. I think you are letting yourself be dragged around unnecessarily, and blaming others for it.

I think you could still have a friendship with this person, but on your terms. Maybe hang out for shorter periods doing things you both enjoy? A wild party weekend seems like a terrible idea when you don't like drinking or clubs - sounds like you put a damper on things.

When you're nearer to 50 than 20 it is definitely time to stop acting like life is a school trip that you're stuck on.
posted by meepmeow at 9:17 AM on April 20, 2010 [22 favorites]


Friends don't take friends with alcohol problems to wine bars for dinner. Your friend seems immature, selfish and insecure. Those types of people are not fun to be around.
posted by dortmunder at 9:18 AM on April 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Am I wrong in thinking that this weekend was concrete proof of how different we've become?
Yes.

Am I right in thinking that we "broke up"?
Yes!

Should I just let the friendship fade into that realm of bday and xmas cards?
IF that. I would just not contact her again. Don't respond to her invoice, don't think there's an apology coming, just write off the whole thing and get together with your real friends sometime soon.. or get some better friends. I don't think she'll be all that hurt; it sounds like you slid down to the absolute bottom of her priorities.

Have any of you experienced what it's like to lose the best friend you've had for most of your life?
Not to the extent you're about to experience, but for me it hurt an awful lot. Do something nice for yourself to get your mind off it.
posted by amethysts at 9:20 AM on April 20, 2010


To me, it just seems you're both more about yourselves than each other. I don't mean that in a bad way, after all we all have to find our own path to happiness, but there doesn't seem to be much empathy or respect for the other by either person.
If it were me, I'd maintain the friendship around the things that are mutually enjoyable and forgo the rest. Keep the situation to what's comfortable, if you don't like traveling with her or being mutually dependent (i.e., sharing transportation or lodging), then don't set things up that way or allow expectations of such an arrangement.
Personally, if it were me, I'd forgive the whole ordeal (but not forget), and maintain pleasant, if somewhat more distant, contact. I'd probably avoid meeting in person for a while until my head was in the right place and I wasn't harboring any lingering resentments or unreasonable expectations about her behavior.

On preview I agree with greekphilosophy and meepmeow as well.
posted by forforf at 9:20 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree that this friendship is over. Certainly you can remain cordial acquaintances, but I can't see anything else really worth salvaging.

I will add, though, that I think you need to be really careful not to LET yourself become a victim. For example, when she felt sick during the conference, was there some reason why she couldn't have taken a cab back to the hotel by herself? That way you could have enjoyed the rest of the conference and not resented her for cutting your participation short. Likewise with the bar. Was there some reason why you couldn't just take a cab back to the hotel by yourself? You might have had an enjoyable evening in your room. The "friend" would have done what she wanted, you'd have done what you wanted, and you could have met the next morning, in much better spirits, to discuss your different adventures.

Anyway, no you're not wrong. You've become really different people. Let the friendship fade before you wind up hating her guts. That would be sad, considering all you once shared.
posted by rhartong at 9:20 AM on April 20, 2010


"Am I wrong in thinking that this weekend was concrete proof of how different we've become?"
Yes.
This should have said NO, you're not wrong at all. I guess mentally I was saying "yes" because I was agreeing with you. Oops lol.
posted by amethysts at 9:22 AM on April 20, 2010


Do you hate hanging out with her or just her friends? It seems like the way to deal with this if you actually want to keep her in your life is to plan small outings that only involve her and you (and to make that clear that you want time to catch up with just you guys). If she is unable or unwilling to do this then you guys are not friends anymore.

BEGIN JUDGEY UNINFORMED INTERNET OPINION: I don’t really understand why you followed them to the bar when you knew it would piss you off. I also don’t understand why her sickness necessitates you missing the entire rest of the conference? It kind of seems like you wanted reasons to be mad. If my jump to this conclusion is correct you might want to look into why you wanted to make yourself mad at her.
posted by edbles at 9:25 AM on April 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


It sounds to me like it's faded, but mostly because it sounds like you feel like it's faded. I think you already know how you feel/what to do. Maybe you're questioning it/us 'cause it kinda sucks.

The only thing I'll throw out there is that you might want to let her know how you felt about the weekend, making it clear that you care about her and she's been important to you. This is not to save the friendship, but just to get things out in the open. Or maybe that's not important. I could just potentially see a weird situation years down the line where this situation comes up with her in some too-long-repressed and so-long-ago-it's-weird-to-bring-it-up kind of way.

Also, what greekphilosophy said.
posted by hannahelastic at 9:28 AM on April 20, 2010


meepmeow: "I think that you are also partially responsible here - why didn't you see her back to the hotel when she was feeling sick then take a taxi back to the conference? Why didn't you take a taxi back to the hotel when you weren't having fun out drinking? You could have pleaded a headache or not feeling well if you wanted to be polite. I think you are letting yourself be dragged around unnecessarily, and blaming others for it. "

The hotel was a hour away from the conference center. By the time I got back to the hotel, got a cab willing to travel to another county, and got back to the conference center, I would have missed the majority of the event. It would have just been a wasted $100 or more on cab fare.

And leaving the evening, while certainly possible, would have seemed incredibly rude. As well, I wasn't prescient enough to take enough cash with me to taxi back to the rather remote hotel. Also...a city with very, very limited taxi service, late on Saturday night, asking them to leave the downtown area for a one-way 45 minute cab fare? Not gonna happen.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:34 AM on April 20, 2010


edbles:

BEGIN JUDGEY UNINFORMED INTERNET OPINION: I don’t really understand why you followed them to the bar when you knew it would piss you off. I also don’t understand why her sickness necessitates you missing the entire rest of the conference?"

Because she drove the hour from the hotel to the conference. Also, the hour into downtown. We picked a hotel that was half-way between the downtown and the conference.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:38 AM on April 20, 2010


I'd back away but not burn the bridge. Most likely the friendship will die off, but there's no reason to actively kill it. Friendships wax and wane. I'm not saying she doesn't deserve to be "dumped" or whatever, but you probably have like half a century left to live, and who knows what might happen in her self-growth or when you'll really be glad to still know her. So, I'd probably stop actively calling her, but I wouldn't make a scene, tell her off, or block her number. I'd just start looking for other friendships to fill that time. In other words, what greekphilosophy said about "taking a break."

My random two cents to add: the piece about money and monetary imbalance -- is it definitely, objectively her thing? Or does this come up for you in other situations, a fear of owing people, an attention to who pays what? The invoice strikes me as a particularly odd detail, which is why I ask. It might be because it's such an issue for her, and you're refusing to participate in whatever she's got going on, but it's worth just checking yourself that there's not something you're bringing to the table around it.
posted by salvia at 9:41 AM on April 20, 2010


amethysts: "Don't respond to her invoice..."

Oh no, I paid it. I asked her to tell me what my share of the hotel was. She'd prepaid for it when she booked it, or I would have paid for half while I was at the hotel. The invoice itself wasn't the concern, more the "Mrs X and Ms. Y" part.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:43 AM on April 20, 2010


Friendships can have an expiration date, and that is okay.
posted by pinky at 9:54 AM on April 20, 2010


Is she a freelancer? Maybe that could explain the invoice -- she might be filing it as a business expense or something. Not that I know much about this kind of businessy paperwork, but it's just a thought I had. If the invoice bothers you so much, could you ask her why she gave you a bill instead of a casual e-mail or note?
posted by phatkitten at 9:54 AM on April 20, 2010


salvia: "...the piece about money and monetary imbalance -- is it definitely, objectively her thing? Or does this come up for you in other situations, a fear of owing people, an attention to who pays what? The invoice strikes me as a particularly odd detail, which is why I ask. It might be because it's such an issue for her, and you're refusing to participate in whatever she's got going on, but it's worth just checking yourself that there's not something you're bringing to the table around it."

Yeah, fair question. She and I have always had a unwritten rule where we have financial parity. I don't know from where it stems; in that I don't have the same sort of accounting where any of my other friends are concerned. I don't even think about it. I can't explain the difference, but it's been a part of our relationship since college. Quite possibly *because* we were in college and working as waitresses when we met, and budgets were a bigger issue then, and it's just learned behavior. That's a guess on my part. To be fair, I do have a very strange relationship with money, in that talking about it makes me uncomfortable. As an example, negotiating prices for goods or services makes my stomach hurt. By the same token, if I grab the dinner check, I would be discomforted if anyone effused or made a big deal about it.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:56 AM on April 20, 2010


If you're thinking about ending the friendship anyway, you're in a reasonable position to insist on having things on your terms, or, in other words, issuing (gently worded) ultimatums. Do X activity with her, but insist that you don't involve other people. Make sure she understands that if other people get involved, you'll leave and not want to try again.

I'm assuming that you could have a good time with her if you could control the situation more, of course.

You know more than I do if you might be doing her a favor. In 20 years, will she be OK if she's only surrounded by sycophants now? Maybe... it's not a problem I've had to deal with.
posted by amtho at 9:58 AM on April 20, 2010


She's a party girl and you're kind of a wet-blanket. Nothing personal, it happens to many-if-not-most ex-drinkers (and ex-whatevers). She is "keeping her youth alive" or something, which is somewhat predictable for an unencumbered thirty/fortysomething.

You two seem to still have some professional commonalities but it seems your free-time interests have definitely diverged. Couple that with a dose of interpersonal ineptitude on both sides (her insensitivity and your pervasive resentment of her friends) and it seems like you should definitely dial back the expectations.
posted by rhizome at 10:03 AM on April 20, 2010


She's aware that you have a drinking problem, but she still insists that you guys go places where your problem causes you acute discomfort? That's not acceptable. You're hardly a wet blanket; you're someone managing a serious condition for health reasons, not someone who just Doesn't Like To Party. If your pal keeps trying to haul you into situations that compromise your recovery, there's not much reason to keep hanging around with her.

Pay off the invoice-- financial parity is, as you've said, a component of you guys's prior arrangements-- and leave it there. It'll hurt, but better to know who's not safe for you to be around now, instead of four drinks and a lot of embarrassment later.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:14 AM on April 20, 2010


I have a friend that I've had for about 25 years. We have always been very close, even when I've lived abroad. We've helped each other through college, divorces, abortions, childbirth, deaths of friends, lovers and parents...you get the idea.

We live in different cities, and while we share some of the same circle of friends, I don't care for most of her friends, and she doesn't really know any of mine.

You've got what I call a "big thing" friend. You don't really have the same likes or the same friends, or even the same approach to friendships - but you've each been there for the other when things go badly. You are "Big Thing" friends, not "Small thing" friends. You tried to spend a weekend with a big thing friend and the small things went badly. She didn't like the conference, you didn't like her friend - she wanted to cut loose, you wanted to reconnect. Does that mean that she won't be there for you during the next big thing? Would you really blow her off during a personal tragedy?

From now on, spend the weekend with your small thing friends, and maintain friendly distant contact with this friend. You aren't on the same page, but I certainly wouldn't consider someone who has helped you through some of the biggest tragedies of your life an ex-friend, just because she ruined a weekend.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:21 AM on April 20, 2010 [27 favorites]


Friends don't take friends with alcohol problems to wine bars for dinner.

Friends don't take friends who are in recovery to wine bars for dinner, no, but the OP said she generally doesn't drink, not that she never does. It's not unreasonable for the friend to think that special girls weekend getaway might be one of the occasions where she would drink, and even in this written question there is a lot of waffling between generally not drinking and cannot stand to be around drinking or drunks which is confusing to me and probably confusing to the friend as well. She probably didn't know that you'd hate getting tapas and going to bars after the show and she might be baffled as to why you were in such a mood all night. So maybe you should tell her why you were so grumpy and maybe she'll apologize or express regret that things went so badly. I think you should try to communicate something, though - there's a lot of room between being best friends and throwing away twenty five years over what might have been miscommunication.
posted by moxiedoll at 10:26 AM on April 20, 2010


For the record, I was using the weekend as more of an example of *how* we've grown apart, not so much as a *why* we've grown apart.

I don't mean to suggest that either of us is shallow enough to throw out a friendship of the better part of our lives because of a weekend filled with miscues. More that the miscues were indicative of a widening gulf that I had perhaps not seen/acknowledged before said weekend.

And in her defense, she is an amazing person. She's brilliant, and funny, and well read. I'm not trying to suggest that she's some sort of caricature of a social overlord with an army of tastelessly clad minions. She is charming and charismatic, and I love her dearly. But I also think it's possible that while she has been *my* best friend, I was not *her* best friend, and as such, the relationship has a different dynamic than the one under which I was operating.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 10:35 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sounds like you're just soundboarding your thoughts. I think you've got the whole thing figured out.

Yes, she was douchy, and yes, you shouldn't feel bad about not speaking to her as often because of it.
posted by Citrus at 10:49 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Different situation but....

Mrs. Doohickie has a friend she met in college, even before she met me. Her friend (and her hubby) was part of a group of friends where she was one of the syncophants. My wife tried to drop hints that this was not a healthy friend relationship; there was too much inequality.

Long story short: One of the friends in the group had an affair with the hubby and the marriage fell apart. When that happened, suddenly my wife was her dearest friend again.

Now, I'm not saying that there will be some reversal of fortune for your friend, but she may come to a point in her life where she needs a friend, a good friend, who knows her well and who won't judge her harshly but can give her honest assessments and advice.

So, if a break is warranted, a break it is. But it may be just a break and this may not be the end of the friendship.
posted by Doohickie at 11:12 AM on April 20, 2010


To my reading, the setup for your outing sounds like an absolute recipe for having a hard time. There's really no room for compromise; no way for you to join the bar group for an hour and then go for a nap, no way for her to drop out of the conference for a morning. So unless you really had agreed 100% on what you wanted to do the whole time, one or both of you would have been pretty inconvenienced no matter what.

I have friends that have very different ideas of what constitutes a social life than I have. What we do is just make sure to plan the time we spend together to make sure it's something we both enjoy. For example, one of my friends is a bit of a hermit, so I don't invite him to parties or wine bars; instead we do one-on-one things like cooking dinner for one another or going for a walk. But it doesn't mean he isn't a good friend, just because he doesn't want to join me with a big loud crowd of people in a bar. It doesn't make me a bad friend either, just because I want to go to the crowded city centre for a couple of hours and look at the markets.

We just make sure to discuss up front what each of us would like to do (or not) and plan things appropriately.
posted by emilyw at 11:15 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've had two big friendship 'breakups' - both of them have happened while we were on holiday together. And they were exactly like you describe, perhaps not in detail of bitchiness, but in terms of really slamming home how different we now were, and how much we frankly got on each others' tits.

I felt angry and upset and offended for some time afterwards, but it all faded off quite quickly - to the point that I've been invited to the same weddings as both of them and been able to be on 'friendly-acquaintance' terms with both (this of course requires both sides to be able to let go and move on - there's the potential to get nasty). Apart the weddings I've never spoken to either since.

The difference I'd say with your situation is the 'big thing' friend issue (great definition The Light Fantastic!). Looking back on those two friendships they hadn't really 'been there' for me; I'd always been there for them, and yet when I had problems other friends were far more supportive than them. They were 'there' through the bad times, but they weren't 'there for me', always making sure to put the focus back on them or conveniently not be there when things got really tough. Looking back on our friendship, they were 'small thing' friends disguised as 'big thing' friends.

So, if they are not really a true 'big thing' friend, then yes, this could be the end. On the other hand, real 'big thing' friendships can survive rocky patches (in my case I didn't speak to my best friend for two years due to various things plus my being an obnoxious arse; I became less of an obnoxious arse and we're still friends).

Take a breather. Calm down. This will take days to weeks. Then have a stock-take of things and decide whether it's worth building bridges.
posted by Coobeastie at 11:48 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you want to be her friend, you should caringly address the inconsideration, keeping in mind that she may be under duress and making bad decisions for reasons that should elicit your friendly support.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:06 PM on April 20, 2010


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