Love and Freindship
June 27, 2016 2:48 PM   Subscribe

I’m reconsidering friendships I’ve had for over a decade based on an unkind interaction I had with two of them recently via Skype. One of them has an overseas wedding coming up that I need to decide about soon. Should I confront them? Am I overreacting?

Love and Freindship

Ok, so this is really only about friendship—I’m generally struggling with evaluating years-old friendships. Do my friends suck? Or am I just being a large, overreacting baby about things? Is this issue complicated by my own difficulties in day-to-day and adjusting to the big city I’ve moved to in the last year? Moreover, should I go to this wedding?

I had a three-way Skype call last month with two college friends, one of whom is getting married this September in Asia, where she lives, and another friend. I was quiet because I’ve been stressed overall about difficulty with a difficult colleague, so I may not have been as warm and talkative as I might normally have been. Toward the end of the call, the bride-to-be reminisced about a late night we had a few years ago where we had made our way to the house of a friend/acquaintance of her then-boyfriend—we didn’t know guy, and we ended up crashing on his couch. In our conversation last month, my friend recalled—somewhat unkindly—that I had been “freaking out.” The other friend on the call agreed and said, “Yeah, that sounds like you.”

This interaction took place in May, and I'm seriously considering not going to the overseas September wedding based on this exchange--am I overreacting? Should I confront them?

These friends have provided me support at critical times when I’ve needed it over the years, and I’ve defined myself and my worth--as a partner, as a fun person herself--by these friendships. I mean, I’ve always thought that they were cool and fun, so I am, too, right?! But that hasn't been the first sort of mean thing one of them has said to me (years ago, she told me I had "cow taste" in men--which I took to mean that I have no specific type).

Another friend whose life decisions I generally respect and trust thinks that these women are jerks. I've generally accepted the premise that all women tend to be sort of catty sometimes, and I've been friends with these girls for over a decade, so my mind is blown--and yet I know that friends and people change all the time. Maybe this is an opportunity for personal growth and a type of friendship I've yet to experience.

Anyway, any tips or advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You sound young. As you get older, you'll realise that good friends become harder and harder to come by. If these two have provided you with 'critical support' over the years, please don't throw them away over what seems like a minor off the cuff comment. If you're very hurt, ask them what they meant by it.

But it really sounds like an observation of how you were at the time rather than a criticism. And (I mean this gently) considering that you're prepared to dump two friendships over a minor comment, maybe the 'freaking out' observer knows you better than you think. It sounds like you are prone to over reacting and this post would appear to back it up. Go to the wedding. Put it behind you. Have fun.
posted by Jubey at 2:59 PM on June 27, 2016 [104 favorites]

Some people freak out over things, some people don't. I don't think it's mean to tell a friend that you remember them freaking out years ago, and I don't think it's mean to tell a friend that freaking out sounds in character for them. Also, it seems like you're considering not going to a really good friend's wedding over this, so maybe they're more right about you freaking out over things that you're comfortable admitting to yourself. Go to the wedding.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:00 PM on June 27, 2016 [35 favorites]

Well, first off, don't measure your self-worth by your friendships with other people. You are inherently worthy and deserving of self-respect no matter who your friends are.

No one can decide for you if you should keep being friends with these people, but it sounds like you're pretty upset. Your choices are: end the friendships; talk to them about how your feelings were hurt and why, and see if they apologize or if they just double down; ignore it and try to maintain the friendships.

Personally, I have no problem dropping friends if I perceive them to be assholes, no matter how long I've been friends with them. But it depends on you and what's important to you.
posted by a strong female character at 3:02 PM on June 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

Also, in my experience, any kind of snide/catty/disparaging comment from a "friend" that is delivered in an insensitive way is a pretty clear indication that that person doesn't actually respect me. But again this is just me and my experience, not yours.
posted by a strong female character at 3:05 PM on June 27, 2016 [10 favorites]

I've generally accepted the premise that all women tend to be sort of catty sometimes

This isn't true. If your friends are catty, drop them. But, it's hard to tell from your example if your friends are jerks or if you're overreacting.
posted by Mavri at 3:08 PM on June 27, 2016 [37 favorites]

This sounds like a great opportunity to learn something about yourself, and to learn how to constructively accept criticism (they weren't even really criticizing you, they were pointing out a reaction of yours from a while ago). As commenters have mentioned above, if you're thinking about not going to a wedding of a close friend based on an errant remark, perhaps you do have a propensity to blow things out of proportion. So... learning opportunity*. Make the most of it!

*I tend to take things very, very personally. Recently while pregnant, I overreacted to something a friend did and lost the friendship over it. Our mutual friends have since called me out on that reaction - not my feelings about it, to which I'm entitled. It's been a lesson to me in tempering my perceptions of the things my friends and relatives say to me, and I appreciate my close friends finally pointing out to me a personality trait that likely greatly affects everyone with whom I interact.
posted by Everydayville at 3:08 PM on June 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

Good friends will say things that bug (because good friends have this way of casually hitting on your truths without realizing it, this is a sign they know you well), but good friends will also listen if you say "hey, I'm sensitive about that, can you not make it a joke?"

I've no idea what the dynamic is between you three, but I am not friends with people if I can't assume their actions towards me are in good faith. And vice versa. Without that, all interactions become questionable.

If you find your friends catty, you already do not assume good faith on their part.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:13 PM on June 27, 2016 [16 favorites]

That doesn't seem "unkind" to me. Unless it hits a bruise.
posted by nkknkk at 3:13 PM on June 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

I think they are teasing you and remembering the moment fondly. Friends, old friends, tease each other like this. Give the interaction a generous interpretation. Go to the wedding.
posted by djinn dandy at 3:20 PM on June 27, 2016 [42 favorites]

That could be teasing, meanness, or the kind of honest assessment of your foibles that friends should have room to make. Which it is, we can't tell, because we weren't there for either the phone call or the alleged freaking out.

But blowing up years long friendships over someone describing you as once having freaked out sounds beyond ridiculous on its face, which makes me think it might be honest assessment.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:29 PM on June 27, 2016 [13 favorites]

you say this is not the first unkind thing. But have you said anything to them when they made their comments?
You need to yell ow when it hurts.
Their reaction should tell you whether the friendship is worth saving.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:30 PM on June 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

It sounds like the kind of remark that could be innocently posed, but could easily hit a nerve with someone. Let them know that this bothered you (separately) and see what happens.
posted by xingcat at 3:49 PM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

If this is a regular thing they do - poking a spot that hurts and then faux-pologizing if you bring it up - then you may not be actual friends and you should drop them. But if your relationship over the years has included various levels of teasing or comments that may sound mean at first but either a) aren't or b) apologized for sincerely when pointed out, then I say this incident may be Just You. Having stress in your life can make you hypersensitive (NOT oversensitive) to all kinds of things that non-stressed you wouldn't even take note of.

Data point: I have some friends who go back more than 20 years, and I am positive that way back when someone said something ouchy to me, on purpose or not, and I cannot for the life of me remember it. Because it's not regular, or because they apologized, or because it really wasn't actually ouchy and it was just me.

I would not ghost or blow up relationships of more than a decade without some actual discussion happening.
posted by rtha at 3:54 PM on June 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

Re-read your own question as if someone else wrote it, asking for your advice. Would you think they were over-reacting if they were contemplating bailing on an old friend's wedding based on a single offhand comment?

Because I sure do. Either there's something else going on you haven't told us about or you're over-reacting.

Also, it might be bad timing to try to have a big clear-the-air talk with a friend who is planning a wedding.
posted by adamrice at 4:12 PM on June 27, 2016 [14 favorites]

I am here to cast my "yes" ballot for Proposition Overreacting, and "no" on Proposition Confront. I'll pick up my sticker on the way out.
posted by sageleaf at 4:34 PM on June 27, 2016 [14 favorites]

I think it's interesting that you're asking us to judge your friends' character and whether you should drop them as friends based on this interaction, yet you give extremely little context in which to interpret the conversation.

WERE you freaking out? You don't even say! If you were, why would it be wrong to recall that? I mean, you're talking about crashing at a stranger's house (possibly while intoxicated), it sounds like freaking out somewhat about that might be warranted. I'm totally reading between the lines, but isn't their point something like "yes, you are the type of person who doesn't like to do risky things like crashing on a stranger's couch, perhaps you have always been a little more mature and risk-averse than we have"?

If you were freaking out, but you wish they didn't say so, why is it that this bothers you? Self reflection seems important here. Is it because you think that instead of speaking to your maturity or risk-averse nature, they're actually saying you're boring and don't like fun and excitement? That you are a stick in the mud, or something more along those lines? If that's what you think, I hope there is more to back up that assumption than what you've described here, because if they thought you were being a crazy worrywart or that you have no sense of adventure, they could have directly said that - now those would be mean things to say. But what they actually said was just an observation of your behavior rather than a judgement.

Confrontation-wise, it sounds like this calls for a discussion involving "I-phrases." As in, "when you said that I was freaking out about sleeping at a stranger's house in the past, I was upset because I thought you meant that _____________" [whatever you think they mean, which I'm not sure based on what you've written]. Quite honestly though unless there is a specific pattern of implications or behavior related to this particular issue, I'd let it go, because bringing it up again will just reinforce the impression that you get upset over stuff that's not a big deal. They probably don't even remember this conversation from last month anymore.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:38 PM on June 27, 2016 [15 favorites]

If I were in this situation, my comment to them would have been "I know! That sucked", or something along that line. With my friends, this would have been light teasing, but also an intimacy of sorts. Knowing that my friends still love me after my imperfect behavior and it doesn't need to be hidden from them is pretty cool. I don't know your particular details but in my world it would have been acceptance.
posted by Vaike at 4:40 PM on June 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Maybe you don't feel understood and taken care of by your friends right now at a time when, to quote you, you're having "difficulties in day-to-day and adjusting to the big city I’ve moved to in the last year." Maybe it's hard for you to have one of your friend's attention off of you and on her own wedding. Maybe you don't like being reminded that you're sensitive and find transitions difficult. Maybe you're struggling with the natural changes that happen in friendships as people age out of their high school/college experiences into their adult lives. Maybe you struggle with anxiety in general. Maybe your friends love you anyway. Maybe you're looking for an excuse not to go to an overseas wedding, which freaks you out, because you're scared of traveling and not knowing the language and what will be required of you in a situation that is so outside of your ken. Maybe you don't have the money to go. Maybe you're jealous that one of your friends is getting married and you're not. Maybe you're happy for your friend but miserable for yourself, thinking you made a huge mistake moving to NYC (or whatever other big city makes you feel like shit for the first year or so you're new in town). Maybe change is just hard.

There are lots of maybes. The one thing for sure is this - you have friends of ten years that you Skype with with some regularity, friends who try to get you not to take yourself so seriously, and who clearly love you. That is a precious thing. Say it out loud. Friends of a decade are precious things.

If, after a week of sitting with this, you can't make peace and get over it on your own, then just call, Skype or e-mail the friend who made you feel criticized and just tell her how you took that comment, that it hurt your feelings, that you feel like you're overreacting, and that you're kind of miserable right now but you want her wedding to be awesome and so you feel like you just want to clear the air. Don't go on about it; just tell her you feel kind of crummy about the conversation and you'd like a fresh start. She'll probably apologize profusely, tell you how freaked out she is about planning an overseas wedding, and that she could really use your support and that she's sorry she made you feel bad, it wasn't her intention. Think small strokes, not big strokes with your friendships - fix these little things, let most of them slide, and only worry about big picture stuff when there's actual betrayal and bloodletting involved. This stuff? It's so easy to get through this kind of thing with the foundation of friendship that you have, it really is. Trust that these people are more invested in you than to let you tank ten years of friendship over an observation that, to someone like me, seems really, really not a BIG THING. It's a little thing. This is more about you than about them, in my opinion. Good luck. Hang in there. Moving is hard and cities can be brutal until you get your legs under you.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 4:50 PM on June 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

I’ve defined myself and my worth--as a partner, as a fun person herself--by these friendships. I mean, I’ve always thought that they were cool and fun, so I am, too, right?!
I have a couple of family members who have expressed similar feelings, and both of them are very quick to anger at apparent slights from others. I don't think it's coincidental-- I think that when you define your self worth in terms of externalities, it can feel very precarious and in need of defense. It's easier to say that than to figure out how to magically fix it, of course. Especially when you are experiencing other life challenges like living in a new city. Try to be gentle with yourself, and part of that is not blowing up your support system. If you can, let this one go. They aren't challenging you and your self worth; you don't have to defend yourself against them. Just tell them, "hey, that stung!" and let it go.

The alternative is living in a new city without old friends to Skype with when things feel rough.
posted by instamatic at 5:06 PM on June 27, 2016 [12 favorites]

Because it is really bothering you, I would email something like:

"Hey guys, it was wonderful to catch up the other day. So good to see your friendly faces. I was having a really rough day at work, and it rubbed me the wrong way when you were teasing me about "freaking out" at Bob Smith's the future, if you can just keep in mind that I bruise easily (and, well...I can be prone to freaking out a little) at times, I would appreciate it. I know you wouldn't mean to hurt my feelings! It just left me in a bit of a sad funk. Love, X."

Do not skip the wedding over this unless you can't drop it and would be a jerk about it at the wedding.

I also suggest you do some deep self-reflection, because it is sexist and untrue that "all women are catty" or the like - if you perceive all women this way, that's usually a sign of some insecurity on your part (you feel attacked or threatened in some manner by other women and are on high alert around them) - the common factor there is YOU, not the entire planet full of women. I haven't seen anyone reasonable sustain this belief beyond age 30, so perhaps you just have some growing up to do.
posted by sallybrown at 7:06 PM on June 27, 2016 [10 favorites]

Based on what you've written, there's no way to know whether you actually have been mistreated by one of the friends more generally, and are using this detail to sort of feel through it, or whether your sense of hurt is totally misplaced. However, fixating on this conversation for months without deeply considering other factors (if you haven't), and not wanting to go to the wedding because of it, is disproportional, in terms of intensity, without a lot more backstory behind it (which there may be - but I think you are missing the forest for the trees, a bit, here).

Maybe you're picking up on something about the tone we're missing (along with leaving out many, many more details). Maybe "cow taste" was deliberately hurtful (have never heard this phrase myself); maybe there was something that happened before "cow taste" that you're forgetting. Maybe this other friend who thinks they're jerks is right, maybe these friends have offered only convenient support and you've been wrong about them all this time - but maybe this friend is only getting your side of the story.

You say women are catty - is a lot of what they do, and how they communicate, not fully understandable to you? This sort of missing the forest for the trees (if that's what it is), does it happen in other situations?

Basically, agreeing with at least some of every comment above - don't drop these friends, unless you know for sure why you'd want to do that. Go to this wedding. Find some new friends where you are. Pursue further reflection.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:19 PM on June 27, 2016

You are freaking out now over what seems to be a small issue.

I would not be surprised if you were freaking out then, or all the time.
posted by moiraine at 11:39 PM on June 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

I usually think people aren't overreacting to hurtful things and I have been known to defend people from the accusation of overreacting because it has been used to gaslight me and others I've known. But in this case, I think it's one of the (rare) times that it is an overreaction. To me it sounds more like playful and affectionate teasing. Something like this happened to me earlier tonight, when a friend insisted on reading my horoscope (I don't believe in them) and said I was an "airhead" as Pisces are apparently prone to be. We both had a good laugh over that, and I laughed because I know she didn't intend it as a mean comment and she doesn't think I'm stupid. I'm just absent-minded and I rarely discuss any changes in my life before they happen, so it seems like I'm impulsive. I feel very secure with myself in that respect. She also said my cat was spoiled, and I was able to laugh at that too because it is rather ridiculous for me to give him purified water from a turkey baster because he refuses to drink from a bowl. If I were in a more insecure place in life like I used to be, I'm sure I would take these comments to heart and wonder if I really was an airhead or if I was pathetically attached to my cat. I think insecurity leads to letting other people define you. When I realized I was the foremost expert on myself, I got over a lot of that.

All that said, though, friendships are like romantic relationships in that you don't need a reason to justify ending them. Wanting to leave is enough, as Cheryl Strayed famously said. You are the expert on you and your friendships, so you get to decide. I'm just a stranger on the Internet who only read a small snippet of your life.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 1:35 AM on June 28, 2016

But that hasn't been the first sort of mean thing one of them has said to me (years ago, she told me I had "cow taste" in men--which I took to mean that I have no specific type).

OP, unless there was some truly huge and hurtful event that happened that night that they know is a really painful, upsetting event for you that you hate to think about or remember, there is no way the "you freaked out" comment was mean, and it wasn't even "sort of mean". Nor was the cow taste (???) comment mean, especially if you took it as them meaning that you don't have a specific type which isn't a bad thing, so how could this comment have ever been construed as being mean other than their choosing to use a really odd but hilarious way to describe it.

So either you're not telling us the whole story and there is a huge amount of omitted information indicating a long history of them trying to insult you or hurt your feelings, or I'm massively misunderstanding what you're describing, or (mostly likely) you are overreacting.

Having some sort of come-to-jesus conversation or sending some sort of confronting email about it would be a pretty major overreaction. For minor things like this, the time to address it is when it happens, by saying "Dude, that was not a time that I am proud of. Can we not relive it please?" or "As hilarious as the term "cow taste" is, I don't like having my preference in men be described that way. Can we use slightly more charitable, less-judgey descriptions, please?" You say these things at the time, not in a big huff or full of attitude. You can keep it light and matter of fact, and they will still get the message.

And like others, the fact that you are considering dumping your friends because they described some past reaction of yours as "freaking out" makes me think you probably DID freak out. Your reaction to this I would consider freaking out.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:18 AM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Well, as a data point, I've said much ruder things (by accident or not thinking or testy and in a bad mood!) to people I consider very dear lifelong friends. Heck, I've said a nasty thing or two to my husband, because thousands of words a day come out of my mouth directed a him and occasionally I'll hit a foul ball, but I do not love him any less or wish he wasn't a part of my life. Unless this is a major pattern (and the second example being "years ago" suggests it isn't), I'd let this go without a further thought.
posted by whitewall at 6:04 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

We all bring our own stuff to these answers, but several things in your question remind me of my younger self: 1) black and white thinking (are they awful, or am I a baby?), 2) poor sense of self "I define myself in relation to other people", and 3) low self-esteem "my friends said I was freaking out, they probably are catty bitches who dislike me, right?".

And all three of those things fed in to my anxiety, which would lead me to want to dump other people before they could dump me. Because of course they would (why would anyone Not?), because I also liked to catastrophize. And all of this stuff would have combined to make me Even More Miserable with the tough transition to a new city you mention - heck, I spent my first year in a new city isolated and comforting myself with ice cream, which turned out to be a poor choice.

All of this is to say that if I could go back in time I would go to my friends' weddings, I would not bring up specific hurts unless I was very sure of what I wanted to achieve, and I would start therapy earlier.

tl:dr - Therapy!
posted by ldthomps at 8:18 AM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think it sounds like you need a hug and help getting a bit more stable footing under yourself. This transition might be just that hard, and it might also be bringing out some underlying tendencies toward anxiety. But having a talk with a friend about something like this in a kind and not obsessive or really upsetting way requires that you have your own kind pretty stable in terms of how you're feeling, what is reasonable, what you're *really* upset about etc. It's hard to do well and easy to make things worse if you're in a bad place emotionally due to all the other things in your life.

I would recommend finding a counselor you can talk to, someone who can provide a kind ear and help you work out ways to ask for what you need, to figure out what you need, to think through what your friends are really meaning, etc. And just generally to support and comfort you and help you with all the challenges of this move you're doing.
posted by Lady Li at 8:38 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

In addition to a lot of good advice people have given, maybe it's time to think about your friendship with those two and where you want it to go. You mention one of them lives in Asia, which makes me think you live elsewhere. Maybe the friendship is changing into a much more infrequent one where you get together once in a blue moon. Do you want to keep that up or is it a strain on you? In other words, reconsidering the relationship is probably a good idea, but without placing undue weight on this incident.

Skipping the wedding? Don't go if you don't really want to; it sounds like a fairly large deal with travel. But again, don't skip it over taking offense at some remark. And don't back out on responsibilities you have undertaken, using that remark as an excuse. If it's just too much, say so. Maybe you're just realizing you don't need any of this anymore and that's fine, too.
posted by BibiRose at 8:47 AM on June 28, 2016

Yes, you're probably overreacting. No, you shouldn't confront them. (Maybe this is my reserved WASPy background speaking, but confrontations are almost never worth it.) If you've RSVP'd and have no other reason to not want to go to the wedding besides this one comment, you should still go to the wedding.

You mention being stressed:
-At work
-In your city

This is probably skewing your perspective.

These friends have provided me support at critical times when I’ve needed it over the years


and I’ve defined myself and my worth--as a partner, as a fun person herself--by these friendships. I mean, I’ve always thought that they were cool and fun, so I am, too, right?!

-Nooooooooope. You're doing friendships wrong. Coolness doesn't rub off and you shouldn't care about coolness past age 11 anyway.

But that hasn't been the first sort of mean thing one of them has said to me (years ago, she told me I had "cow taste" in men--which I took to mean that I have no specific type).

Two mean-ish things in 10 years, who gives a shit. "Cow taste in men" is bizarre and indecipherable whether it's an observation or an insult (not a very good insult) and I'd probably laugh and then forget about it.

Another friend whose life decisions I generally respect and trust thinks that these women are jerks.

Interesting. Is this what this is really about?

I've generally accepted the premise that all women tend to be sort of catty sometimes


I've been friends with these girls for over a decade, so my mind is blown

Are you going to be confident and trust yourself and your judgement for the past 10 years, or throw that out and take the advice of your other friend who thinks these friends are jerks and has probably not been friends with them for 10 years? You really care a lot about what other people think, don't you?

I know that friends and people change all the time. Maybe this is an opportunity for personal growth and a type of friendship I've yet to experience.

What's an opportunity for friendship? Is new friend making you choose between them and her or something? If so, forget her, that is a lame move in itself.

Stop caring what other people think. Stop caring if people think your friends are cool. Stop caring if people think you're cool. Stop caring if your friends think slightly mean things about you occasionally. Stop caring. Stop caring. Stop caring. You have no shits to give. Do what you want. Only your opinion matters. Repeat this: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
posted by quincunx at 12:27 PM on June 28, 2016

you're getting a lot of pushback that you're just overreacting, and I feel compelled to add: YOUR FEELINGS ARE VALID. Nothing says you must or must not end these friendships; you have to do what's right for you. But if you decide to continue the friendships, just know that your feelings are valid and it's ok for you to feel hurt/angry/sad because of your friends' comments.
posted by a strong female character at 8:15 PM on June 28, 2016

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