with a friend like this...
August 24, 2011 1:56 PM   Subscribe

My friend wrote something shitty about our friendship in a major publication! How can I rationalize the fact that the friendship is over and stop feeling sorry for myself about it?

One of my most trusted friends wrote something shitty about our friendship (basically that it was a failed relationship, which I vehemently disagree with, it was a once-in-a-lifetime friendship, a great one, and oh god I am having trouble with the fact that it's over) in a major publication. How can I stop feeling like a heel about the whole thing and come to terms with the sudden, unexpected end? Not to mention the humiliation involved when someone comes up and says "hey, that thing that XYZ wrote in ABC, that was about you, right?" It was published a while ago and I still find myself crying at my desk, avoiding people out of fear that they might ask about it, etc.

I have no idea what triggered him to write it. Talking to him about it is useless, he's completely blown me off since it was published.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Living well is the best revenge.
posted by yarly at 2:00 PM on August 24, 2011 [13 favorites]

It's very possible that your friend/ex-friend greatly exaggerated and took artistic license with the facts of your friendship in order to make it more salient for publication. While it may indeed be true that the two of your are no longer friends, and while it may indeed be true that he's a shit for writing what he wrote, the things that he wrote are not necessarily true or things that he truly believes. I embellish stories all the time; I'm sure others do, too.

If someone comes up and asks if the "thing XYZ wrote in ABC" is about you, you can respond, "I'm not sure...XYZ is troubled and seems to be going through a lot right now," to make the asker focus on XYZ rather than on you.
posted by phunniemee at 2:04 PM on August 24, 2011 [27 favorites]

He may or may not have been a good friend at one time, but no longer. I'd start by not thinking of this person as a friend anymore (you did start your post with "My friend"). Instead, try thinking of him as a jackass that did a rotten thing. This is what he sounds like to me.
posted by Glinn at 2:06 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm struck by the sizeable disparity in perception about your relationship.

Maybe I'm incorrect, but it almost sounds like you thought this friendship was going along swimmingly? As you put it, he's "one of your most trusted friends?" Yet, he considers the relationship a failure and that it's clearly over and has been for some time?

I don't think I quite understand.
posted by Falwless at 2:08 PM on August 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

This is the plot of the book Good in Bed, and reading it might make you feel a bit better. It's Bridget Jones's Diary, but longer and minus some of the biting wit that made Bridget so loveable. Still, it's not a bad read, and it's fast.

I'm sorry this happened to you.
posted by k8lin at 2:15 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

Nobody is going to ask about it. However, if they did, a simple "well, I can't imagine so -- he's never given me any indication that he felt that way towards me" should suffice.

Which leads me to this question: if you thought things were fine, and you feel people would need to ask you to confirm that it was about you...what makes you think it is about you?
posted by davejay at 2:16 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

What exactly did he say? Saying your friendship was doomed and one sided would require a different post mortem from you than for instance "anonymous used me and treated me badly."
posted by Omnomnom at 2:29 PM on August 24, 2011

Many years ago, a woman I dated briefly read an angry piece of character assassination she'd written about me at a big annual event in the local lesbian community.

A few years later, I dated a woman. Her previous lover left her for someone else, and then wrote a memoir that made a big splash in the lesbian community nationwide, in which my girlfriend came off pretty bad by comparison with the new lover.

What I learned from these experiences was:

1. It's best and easiest to pay as little attention to this as possible.

2. People have not been paying as much attention to you as you think, and unless you are named in so many words, most readers are not going to realize it's about you.

3. Even if they figure it out, it is unlikely that anyone will say, "Oh my god, was that about you?" If they do, phunniemee and davejay have given some good answers.

4. Also, it's entirely possible that people who do figure out it's about you will think that your former friend is kind of a jerk.

Other than that, this is just an especially dramatic version of the breakup where your ex hits the gossip circuit before you and makes you look bad. The cure for both the pain you're in and any notoriety that might arise from this is time.
posted by not that girl at 2:52 PM on August 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry, I totally get why this post is anonymous, but I just don't think there's enough information here to help you. We'd really, really need to know what was said, or a really good paraphrasing of it, to help you parse this.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:54 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree, there's a need for more info here.

Maybe this is asking too much, but perhaps "own it" and go ahead and post the link so we can have at it? It might be cathartic to have us all chime in on what a duplicitous asshole your "friend" is.
posted by jayder at 3:11 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nobody with a half brain puts any credence in breakup slander. You are inflating a molehill into a mountain here.
posted by bukvich at 3:22 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am speculating wildly, but do you mean perhaps that you were in a platonic friendship that you thought was wonderful, and meanwhile this other person publishes a piece labeling that platonic friendship as actually being a romantic relationship that never took off?

That kind of thing can make the person carrying the torch mean and graceless. I'm sorry.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 3:26 PM on August 24, 2011

I can't tell if the essay is the event that ended the friendship, i.e. you found out that it was over when you read it or ended it yourself when you read it? Or if the friendship ended and then he wrote it? Or, if the former, have you attempted to talk to him about it? Without knowing what he said and how much of it was the truth and what happened after, is it possible this is a misunderstanding and he wrote it in such a way as to make it more dramatic or provocative and therefore easier to sell?

In any case if people ask you about it, all you have to say is, "Yes it's about me, but he made a lot of it up. I'm not happy with it, but what can you do?" And shrug and change the subject. I really doubt people will think badly of you because of what he wrote. Though again, it's hard to say without details. But if it's just regular relationship dispute stuff, he is probably the one people will judge for writing it all down, not you.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:32 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

YOU feel like a heel? I don't get that bit.

I've read quite a few pieces by journalists slagging off (ex-)friends, colleagues, partners, etc. (Tanya Gold doing a hatchet job on her friend's wedding comes to mind, as does Liz Jones writing about, well, anybody). My reaction is always to think what a nasty, petty, self-centered person the writer is. And I bet I'm not the only person to react that way. If anyone ever does say, "He was writing about you, right?", they might well follow up by saying, "How did you stand him for so long?"
posted by Perodicticus potto at 3:50 PM on August 24, 2011 [9 favorites]

One day I was on MUNI reading a magazine over someone's shoulder. The photo of the author caught my eye as the wife of a casual acquaintance, in which she discussed some events from her life, and proceeded to air some fairly major dirty laundry in a national publication. By the end of the article it was pretty clear she was actually now the ex-wife of said casual acquaintance.

Never for a moment did I re-evaluate my impression of the casual acquaintance, but it confirmed some vague suspicions about his now ex-wife. Don't worry about what other people think. Chin up! You will get past this.
posted by ambrosia at 4:04 PM on August 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'm with Perodicticus. WHen I read these things, I always think it says much more about the writer than their subject. When this all blows over, years later, this person will still have written evidence with their name attached to it of how bitter, angry and petty they are. Whereas, even now, most people will never put two and two together that they were talking about you and if they do, you'll come out as being unfairly treated because what kind of person makes their grudge public?
posted by Jubey at 4:12 PM on August 24, 2011

I agree that it's not very clear what happened, but I'm guessing either your friend is somewhat bitter and used to the piece to vent, or he opportunistically created a distorted picture of your relationship because he thought it made good copy. If it's the latter, he threw away his relationship with you for the sake of an article and his now avoiding you because he (rightfully) feels in the wrong. If it's the former, there may be a real misunderstanding that you could correct if you insisted on talking. I sort of suspect that unflattering picture of your relationship + blowing you off basically means he was willing to sell your friendship for a byline. If so, that sucks but you are better off without him. And (also agreeing with other comments) readers are going to know that the piece says much more about him than it does about you.

But if you think he really got the wrong end of the stick, I would say make one more effort to talk to him. It's not fair that he should be able to blast you in print and then not ever talk to you at least once.
posted by BibiRose at 4:20 PM on August 24, 2011

Does it name you? Then how do you know it is about you?
posted by gjc at 4:28 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Were there romantic feelings involved at some point? Did you think anything had changed?
posted by J. Wilson at 4:45 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, I didn't read the article so I can't say for sure, but it's possible that saying the friendship was a "failure" carries with it a tone of regret and sadness. If the friendship was not important to him and ended, I don't think he'd write an article about it and I don't think he'd call it a failure. "Failure" implies a loss of something important and valuable to me. Otherwise you could just call it an end, or not mention it at all and definitely not write an article about it. Maybe you can find some solace in that.

Maybe I'm incorrect, but it almost sounds like you thought this friendship was going along swimmingly? As you put it, he's "one of your most trusted friends?" Yet, he considers the relationship a failure and that it's clearly over and has been for some time?

I don't think I quite understand.

well, human emotion is complex and people react differently, subjectively to every relationship and situation. I think the OP meant that she valued the friendship, but it ended, and maybe the other person was the one who ended the friendship.
posted by bearette at 5:41 PM on August 24, 2011

I always read those confessional relationship articles in the Sunday Times every week. Sometimes I talk about them with other people. When someone trashes another person, we pretty much always think it reflects badly on the writer, not the subject. Generally I think something like "jeeze, that author is an ass, couldn't they get over things without airing all that dirty laundry, and man, that is so mean to the subject, who is probably a decent person and definitely has their side of the story." I bet most people are thinking something similar.
posted by min at 5:55 PM on August 24, 2011

Sometimes it happens that you thought you were closer with somebody than they actually thought you were. (I am kind of smarting from this one these days myself.) This could be the case here. Or alternately, you were that close and now that the person has friend-dumped you, they have rewritten it in their heads that the relationship was something different. I was shocked when I ran into an ex-friend years later and she referred to me by some other non-friend context entirely (along the lines of "Oh, we had a mutual ex-boyfriend in common"). Wait, what?

Unfortunately, shit happens, and sometimes people turn into, or turn out to be, assholes. I'm sorry.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:45 PM on August 24, 2011

This is what I said before:
In terms of wanting closure, there is nothing he can say that will make this better. We all want to know "why," but this guy a) clearly cannot express why ANYTHING and b) even if he could, none of the answers would make you happy -- you'd want to argue why he was wrong ("I don't really do X, you misunderstood"), or they'd be about what was wrong with YOU and that would be hurtful and painful and probably not true, or they'd be all "it's not you, it's me" (which IS what's true here) but you can't argue with that and he probably doesn't even know what's wrong with him.

I got painfully friend-dumped with no warning by a woman who had been my closest friend, and the only thing that eventually brought me "closure" was realizing that there was no closure that would make me happy. Nothing she could say could make her actions less painful to me, and many of the things she could say would make them MORE painful. Whatever it was, in the end, was about her, and her immaturity in dealing with it by cutting ties rather than discussing it with me, even if the outcome of that discussion had to be "and therefore we can't be friends any longer."

And dude, I was angry for ages. This kind of wound takes a while to heal. But it will.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:55 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's just amazing what writers will do for a byline. It's especially weird now that writing is no longer even a lucrative career. A lot of ambitious essayist/novelist types seem to view their social relationships as basically material.
posted by zipadee at 8:45 PM on August 24, 2011

A lot of this depends on who you are, who he is, what was involved in making you close, etc. Relationships are mysteries that are only known fully to those in them. Sometimes not even to them. I agree with whoever said he wouldn't say it's a 'failure' and write about it if he didn't care. The fact that he's now AWOL is likely a sign of shame, inability to confront you honestly, and other personal issues/weaknesses.

I've had this happen to me-- that is, I've had friends and loved ones disappear, sometimes with recriminations/bitter feelings/etc. It's never easy. It takes time and only time to get over it. Nothing makes it 'better'. You suffer. Otherwise your feelings weren't real.

Anyway, severe and sudden avoidance is also a sign of feelings, in my experience. It makes no sense to me that you could be really close and totally deluded about it; further, people who aren't close don't write bitter articles about said 'not important or close' relationship. So.

Obviously there were issues he couldn't discuss, most likely 'cause he's a guy (and a weenie). Guys are often weenies when it comes to relationships, dealing with feelings honorably & honestly, unfortunate but true. Not that this is entirely a guy problem, but still.

Yeah, it sucks. It's not your fault; he forfeited the right to blame you by not talking to you about his issues and instead being passive aggressive & avoidant, even if he had a valid complaint. So... he was a weenie. But I'd say it seems clear he cared about you. Hold on to that, and the good memories you have. That's what matters, in the end.
posted by reenka at 9:25 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, "with firiends like these" -- you've got that right!! Your friend not only had problems with your relationship that they didn't mention to you, but then they published them in a major publication where anyone could see it? That person seriously is the worst possible friend. Talk to other people you know about it. I am so sorry that this happened to you, but no matter what was "failed" about your relationship, it was nothing like the way your friend described it, because their description won't account for the fact that they're the kind of person who would do this! If you do soul searching as a result, make sure one of your questions is "how did I stay friends for so long with someone who would do something like this?"

I find I heal faster from some kinds of hurt and anger by telling myself over and over "you don't have to ever see this person again. they will never do this to you ever again because you don't ever have to see them." I'm so sorry this happened to you!
posted by salvia at 1:04 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

once-in-a-lifetime friendship

I certainly hope so! What I mean is, I hope you don't find another so-called friend who will trash you in writing after you part ways. It doesn't sound like you ought to treasure this person. Better friends will come your way if you improve your self-esteem.

I agree with the advice that phunniemee and davejay suggested. If someone asks you about it, speak plainly and honestly and don't worry about getting in a sarcastic jab or a clever comeback.

"Hey, that thing that XYZ wrote in ABC, that was about you, right?"

"It seems to be, but then again, XYZ's account of our friendship is pretty different than mine. My perspective is that we had a friendship and not a romantic relationship. I enjoyed our time together while it lasted and I'm sad that it's over."
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:55 AM on August 25, 2011

Let me restate what others have said upthread:

The article has to be interesting. It can't just say "it fizzled out" - it needs to be extreme because writers, who by default should have something interesting to say, need to appear to have lived more exciting lives than the rest of us.

A more common version of this is the embellishments we all add on when we tell the story of ourselves or our friend slipping on the banana skin or missing the bus. It's never *that* funny at the time but we turn it it into something comic.

By the same token, if the point of the piece as requested by the commissioning editor is to chart the break up of a failed relationship then that is what the writer delivers, regardless of the facts.

It makes it no less shitty. It makes your former friend no less of a heel than you think they are. But recognise that the kind of writer who bares their relationships for public consumption has made their pact. Liz Jones (mentioned up thread) is a classic case. She burns through relationships with people, cosmetics, houses like most of us change our breakfast cereal. She invites and embellishes drama in her life because it makes her wealthy and, one suspects, gives her a form of validation missing in her life. She has, in effect, turned herself into a soap opera for readers to follow. She lives her life vicariously so you don't have to.

In summary: really, don't beat yourself up about it. Just because it ain't badged as fiction doesn't mean it ain't so. Your friend being a heel cannot be a statement about you.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:23 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your 'friend' deliberately ended your guys' friendship in public. Without giving you any forewarning that the friendship was over, if I understand correctly. Completely blindsiding you and closing off any possibility for you to answer to any of the faults he might think you have, or that the friendship has, or to make amends at all. I don't think I've ever heard of someone being such an asshat in all my life.

Really, it sounds to me like he wrote this piece so that all observing would be persuaded of his wisdom and his mastery - of being an epic enough person to be part of a 'once-in-a-lifetime' friendship, but also being even more epic for being able to relinquish it. He intends for his readers to appreciate his fine emotional palette - oh, the bittersweet feelings of nostalgic regret...

What a piece of shit.

He wants everyone to think more highly of him than of you, and he's gone to great lengths to look better than you, which tells me that he knows perfectly well he's not and this is haunting him. I'm sure he calculated that you wouldn't go to mutual friends or acquaintances asking 'what the heck is he talking about?' It's as though he's afraid that if were people to hear that you were no longer friends, they would automatically assume that you'd been the one to end things with him. It seems certain that he's written this bit about your friendship defensively. He trying to protect himself from something. My thoughts are that it's either heartbreak or guilt. Guilt? He's hiding something rotten he did to you or said about you.

Really sorry. I find this unbelievable. I send you a big hug. Couldn't you maybe go to one of those mutual friends/acquaintances and find out what's going on?
posted by kitcat at 9:28 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

How can I stop feeling like a heel about the whole thing and come to terms with the sudden, unexpected end?

Why would *you* feel like a heel that *someone* else concealed the fact that they were a person who would blindside someone else with such a messed up and hurtful thing out of the blue. This is not your fault and you have nothing to be embarrassed of here, this guy is the one who should be embarrassed and ashamed and it sounds like he is.

He also sounds like he's an absolute wimp who would completely fold if he were confronted about this and that's why he's hiding from you.

He sounds like he has issues, many, serious, major issues.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:02 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I also have to admit to being quite impolitely curious about what he wrote.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:21 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

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