Why did my friend downgrade me?
March 13, 2013 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Friendship-filter: why did my friend declare that I'm not one of his best friends anymore?

I left my hometown more than ten years ago. I go visit roughly every year and spend a month or two. One of my best friends, Pete, lives there and it's always fantastic to see him and catch up. We know each other for close to two decades.

In my recent visit, Pete said, not one but three times in three different occasions, that I wasn't one of his best friends. I was a friend, but not one of his best friends. Now, I understand that I'm not there when he needs a friend in person because I live ten of thousands of miles away, but we used to be best friends, we were really really close. I love him deeply and I often think of him. We both suck at keeping in touch via email or phone. But in the past, every time we saw each other, it was as if we had seen each other the day before.

As a note, this is generally a thoughtful, smart, sweet, mature guy.

My question is: why would someone say something like this?

Bonus question: how should I react (besides feeling hurt and puzzled)?

throwaway email: ay@capybara.dudmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Perhaps he said it on purpose to prompt you to ask him about it and thus get him to open up about something that's bothering him. Even if that wasn't his intent, we have no way of knowing what he's thinking, and you should ask him.
posted by unannihilated at 3:01 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

This isn't really something that adults say to each other.

I'm 27 and it has literally been years, maybe over a decade, since I've heard anyone in my peer group talk about ranking best friends. You are right to be puzzled.

If you want, you can say something like, "that's ok, you're still my bro," or whatever is natural for you, then move on and chalk this one up to your friend being immature.

Weird. Very weird.
posted by phunniemee at 3:04 PM on March 13, 2013 [23 favorites]

why did my friend declare that I'm not one of his best friends anymore

Who knows? Do adults really classify people this way? This sounds like a very, very odd thing to say once you're out of adolescence.

how should I react (besides feeling hurt and puzzled)?

Amused at the sheer childishness of his pronouncement? Astonished at the tacit narcism?
posted by ellF at 3:04 PM on March 13, 2013 [9 favorites]

Pete said, not one but three times in three different occasions, that I wasn't one of his best friends
Ugh. Sounds like a jerk. Why on earth would it be so important for him that you know this? Perhaps he feels hurt because he doesn't think you think he is one of YOUR best friends.

But what they said above, about grown-ups. This doesn't sound like grown-ups.
posted by Glinn at 3:06 PM on March 13, 2013

Yeah, I agree that this sounds like either:
1. A awkward plea for the two of you to be closer
2. Like he's going through one of those navel gazing periods where he's had like, this "grand realization", you know? and he like totally isn't properly filtering because his mind is like, so blown (you can read that last one in your best deep Keanu stoner voice if you'd care to)

FWIW I'm an adult and I have a best friend, we had a very meaningful DTR convo in our early 20s where we came to that conclusion. It's a thing that matters to us, and we refer to each other as such, but outside of that relationship I would find it very odd to rank (or consider the implied rank) of the rest of my friends too much.
posted by dadici at 3:18 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you female and does he have a girlfriend?
posted by sageleaf at 3:24 PM on March 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

Is he engaged/soon-to-be engaged? Maybe he is trying to figure out his wedding party and you aren't in it, so he is bracing you for that in an incredibly awkward way. I only mention this because figuring out wedding parties is the only time past the age of 13 that I've seen anyone attempt to rank their friends.
posted by gatorae at 3:25 PM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Perhaps what Pete was trying, awkwardly, to communicate is that he wasn't feeling "as if we had seen each other the day before" any more. Perhaps that sense of instant connection had become one-sided, and he was feeling uncomfortable with the level of intimacy you were assuming existed, or the amount of time you wanted to hang out.

However, the best way to find out would be to ask him. Seriously, just say you were puzzled about what he meant and you want to clarify because it's obviously important to him.
posted by psycheslamp at 3:29 PM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

Uh, I heard that once when I was, like, five years old. That's the age when people need to spell friendships out for themselves in this fashion, in order to not get lost in their own system. Then, they intellectually mature.
Chiming in with the rest here: do ask what really is the matter...
posted by Namlit at 3:47 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

He says it to you, but he's talking to himself.

He was devastated when you left the first time, goes back into mourning whenever you leave again, and is trying to talk himself into not caring about you as much so he won't fall so far when you go.

He has to say it to your face to make it more real, but it isn't working.

Very sad.
posted by jamjam at 4:04 PM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

This sounds like either a passive aggressive attempt to get you to keep in better contact or a passive aggressive attempt to distance himself from you. But we have no way of knowing, and you should just ask him.
posted by sm1tten at 4:38 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ask him; there's really nothing else for it here and we're all just guessing. If you ask there's a chance it blows up the friendship but there's also a chance it saves it (and if there's really anything there to save the odds are better on the save side). If you don't ask it becomes an insidious niggling worry that will slowly sap any sense of connection you have and make you second guess every communication you ever have with the guy. I'd just ring him up (or, knowing me, I'd probably email but whatever you prefer) and say "you know, I couldn't help but notice that you said on three separate occasions during my last visit that I wasn't one of your 'best friends.' What made you say that?"
posted by yoink at 4:39 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Serious question: was there any drinking involved? Sometimes weird things get said when people get a bit on the tipsy side, and this is such a strange thing to say that I can't work out a better explanation.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:47 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I literally have not heard the term "best friend" from my friend group since I was 13 years old. That sort of thinking is really childish and outdated, and as an adult, you shouldn't be investing too much energy into thinking about these terms. Do you enjoy still occasionally meeting up with him? Then do so. If you don't, fade out. It's pretty simple.
posted by Conspire at 5:55 PM on March 13, 2013

You answered your own question.
(a) You don't have frequent/daily contact any more, it's once a year.
(b) You don't contact each other over e-mail or phone, so it sounds like you only talk at all once a year for a month.

It's not that you don't like each other, but you're not in a place where he can rely on you and where you are there for him when shit goes down, and you hardly talk at all. I can see why you're not a "best friend" under those circumstances, because you don't have that level of closeness any more. You're only close for a month a year, in practicality.

I'm sorry that's the situation for you. Maybe you both need to work on your contacting each other long distance more? You really do need to do that more once somebody moves far away.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:29 PM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

The only non-weird reason I could see someone saying this is if you were doing something like holding him too tight with one arm while bragging to other people
"Yes sir, Pete here and me are each others best friends! Ain't that so Pete?"
—leading him to take you aside and say
"Well, actually...we're friends, but I only see you, what, a couple of weeks a year...? We don't call each other, we don't write each other, you just kind of appear sometimes and then leave. I think of you more like a relative—like a good-natured aunt with a familiar face that I'm pleased to see at our table every Thanksgiving..."
I had a friend have something similar happen, where she met up with an old flaky school acquaintance for coffee. This acquaintance said something like
"[blah blah, something about other friends from school...] ...but like us... I know if I ever needed a kidney, you'd be the first in line to give me one of yours!"
to which my friend cut her off and was like
"Uh, Let me be clear here—No."
posted by blueberry at 11:24 AM on March 17, 2013

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