Why do my female "friends" treat me like sh&t?
June 18, 2017 2:45 PM   Subscribe

I have trouble finding a true, intimate, reliable female-female friendship, even when dealing with those who call me their "best friend." (Ha!) Please help me rule out all potential causes, including the possibility that I am somehow repellent in ways that only women my age can detect. (Men like me well enough, as do children, Baby Boomers, and senior citizens.)

I am single, childless, early 30s. I get very mixed signals from other women my age.

I have some friends whom I would consider to be close friends, but they are all extremely unreliable. Most of these people barely know each other, so this isn't some concerted effort on their part to drive me to suicide. It's just... a weird coincidence?

-They will call me and want to hang out, but on rare occasions where I contact them, they completely ignore the message and never return my call or text. In the past five years, I have made a determined effort to contact each female friend MUCH less than they contact me, and still this happens. (Note: I was never one to one-sidedly contact someone a lot. That isn't the issue.) Meanwhile, I always answer people the same day / next morning and have never ignored a text, email, or phone call in my entire life.

-Some of them have co-hosted birthday parties with me or referred to me in public or private as their "best friend." Yet these are people who only seem interested in talking with/seeing me when it's convenient for them. In some cases, a girl will act like we're close but then they make plans with others and don't include me in group hangouts, even though I always invite them along to group stuff. Some of these people have literally *never* included me in a group hangout.

-Some of these are people I've known for years. Others are relatively new acquaintances. I have tried to be selective about who I invest time and emotions in, but I feel I can't be too picky since I have had to cut off people in the past for these exact reasons and don't want to end up with no female friends.

-Not mentioned above is the vast array of girls who make no attempt at being friends with me, even if I try to start something with them. Granted, some of them seem to be loners who aren't hanging out with ANYONE beyond work/gym, but nevertheless, why is it so hard to find someone who longs for a connection like I do? These are single, childless women, by the way -- they have time for friendships.

-I am in a very small book club with a tiny handful of other girls (maybe 4-6 girls show up for each meeting). They never, ever want to see me outside book club. If I invite any one of them to go to a play or get dinner or something, she says she's busy. Every single time for years. If it's a mass email, they simply won't reply. If I'm hosting a party, they all come and stay for hours.

-Growing up, I was never popular in school, but I always had one suffocatingly close female friendship at a time, and the two of us were geeky outcasts together, so my emotional cup ranneth (sp) over.

-Am I physically repellent? Plenty of guys want to date / get into relationships with me, so I know the problem is not that I'm hideous or have an annoying voice or smell bad. (Yes, I actually went through the logic of this because I was starting to consider those possibilities.) I also have some super close male friendships.

HOWEVER. I would be the first to admit that male friendships are much easier to come by, particularly if they emerge out of situations where a guy asked me out as the kickoff to our acquaintance. Some of my closest male friendships had to dwindle away to nothing when I refused to date/marry those guys. So it's not like they were viewing me objectively. Other male friendships ended when the guys met their spouses (my point is that there's an expiration date and I totally get that).

Male friends seem lower-maintenance in general. You can have lots of low-level male friendships, but it's hard to sustain a casual, simmering female friendship since girls/women are usually BESTIES 4EVA or nothing. Ergo, if I met a girl who had ONLY male friends, I would totally suspect that something is wrong with her. Why can't she sustain female friendships? And yet here I am! That's me!

-Here's the rub: The two female coworkers I spend the most time with, all day every day, seem genuinely suuuuuper fond of me. They often ask to hang out with me outside of work, say that they miss me when I'm out of the office, etc. (and they aren't close to each other at all). Unfortunately I don't like the idea of spending a TON of non-work time with coworkers - seems excessive - so I usually decline, and I don't have that much in common with these coworkers anyway. But my point is that these particular women my age who are constantly exposed to me aren't running away screaming.

AND YET. The coworkers are people who were thrown into constant daily contact with me. They were basically forced into intimacy with me through no choice of their own. I think if you spend that much time with anyone, you'll start to like them, despite their flaws (which, in my case, are... what, exactly????).

-I went to a therapist a couple of years ago and she basically said you're fine, you don't need therapy, your life is great. She fired me from therapy, seemingly. Every time I went to a session, at the end of the appointment, she'd ask sort of incredulously whether I actually wanted to book a future session. I told her at the outset that I sought therapy to find out why girls don't want to be friends with me and that I hoped she would tell me what's wrong with me -- and I ended up feeling like SHE doesn't even like me (since she stopped having me come see her), which proves my point, and I still don't know the reason for all this rejection. I am completely willing to change if someone just tells me what the problem is.

-I have asked several people What Is It -- a female coworker who is very kind to me (she is the eleventy-billionth person to call me her "best friend"), and also a couple of close male friends I trust -- and the answer was some variation on "You're GREAT and these people suck!"

But I know it cannot be that everyone sucks. I am the common factor here. Please advise?
posted by Guinevere to Human Relations (62 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
You know how people say that you find true love when you aren't looking for it? I think it applies to " true, intimate, reliable female-female friendship" as well. What happens if you stop trying so hard?

Accept that you have many different kinds of friendships in your life, including female-male, female-female, similar age and mixed age friendships. Each friendship has its own personality. At the moment, you don't have any in the "true, intimate f-f" bucket but that could be OK - many women don't and it is not a requirement to be a good person or have a healthy friendship circle (even that one particular niche is unoccupied).

I think if you stop looking and just accept what you do have you will (a) feel better about yourself, (b) be more accepting of the people who don't want to be your friend but don't qualify for that bucket and (c) maybe, while you aren't looking, it will happen anyway.
posted by metahawk at 2:58 PM on June 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

And here is an opposite suggestion: try to find a process oriented, personal growth, group therapy for yourself. It is a great setting for getting feedback on how others perceive you in real time but in the specialized, more honest setting of therapy. Individual therapists are horrible at this since they can't see what is really happening. In group therapy, it is actually happening in the room with the other participants and they are being encouraged to give you feedback on how you come across.
posted by metahawk at 3:00 PM on June 18, 2017 [14 favorites]

The two female coworkers I spend the most time with, all day every day, seem genuinely suuuuuper fond of me. They often ask to hang out with me outside of work, say that they miss me when I'm out of the office, etc. - - - I usually decline

-I have asked several people What Is It -- a female coworker who is very kind to me (she is the eleventy-billionth person to call me her "best friend"), and also a couple of close male friends I trust -- and the answer was some variation on "You're GREAT and these people suck!"

So, you do have friends, at least these people. Are you working on the wrong issue in therapy? It's not "why don't I have friends" but rather "why don't I feel that my friends are really my friends."

I sought therapy to find out why girls don't want to be friends with me and that I hoped she would tell me what's wrong with me -- and I ended up feeling like SHE doesn't even like me (since she stopped having me come see her), which proves my point, and I still don't know the reason for all this rejection.

I don't know why your therapy was terminated, but that wasn't the reason. Maybe a new therapist, and add a new issue, "Why couldn't I understand my last therapist's reason for terminating?"
posted by JimN2TAW at 3:01 PM on June 18, 2017 [22 favorites]

But I know it cannot be that everyone sucks.

Not everyone. Just almost everyone.

You also might be over-estimating other people's social networks (don't go by facebook friends - I have around 200 of those but I count my real friends on my fingers and I have some fingers to spare). Watching my friendlier friends on facebook I still see that they have a core social circle of maybe 4 or 5 people tops that they regularly do stuff with.
posted by srboisvert at 3:19 PM on June 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

I think this is something a therapist could help with--just not the therapist you were seeing. Find another one whom you click with. They are not all the same, and you will need to keep trying until you find one who is helpful. This is very common, I've experienced it too, and it's not a flaw in you.

You're right that you're the common denominator in these situations, but that doesn't mean you have some flaw that makes you unlikeable or incapable of deep female friendship. You may just be choosing friends who are not good friends to you because of something you learned in your previous friendship experiences (or family background; we don't know). A good therapist can help you figure out the dynamic there.

Something interesting that stood out to me in your post--the two women who have shown you the most true and loyal friendship are the two that you are most uninterested in being friends with. Why is that? I know you said you don't like mixing work with friendship, and you don't feel you have that much in common with them, but...it seems like there's something worth exploring there.

You also seem to have firm but maybe not...entirely accurate? or generalizable? ideas about male vs. female friendship:
I would be the first to admit that male friendships are much easier to come by, particularly if they emerge out of situations where a guy asked me out as the kickoff to our acquaintance. Some of my closest male friendships had to dwindle away to nothing when I refused to date/marry those guys. So it's not like they were viewing me objectively. Other male friendships ended when the guys met their spouses (my point is that there's an expiration date and I totally get that).
If a guy ends a friendship with you because you don't want a romantic relationship, that wasn't friendship. He wanted something romantic and was friendly with you to try and move you along to romance.
Male friends seem lower-maintenance in general. You can have lots of low-level male friendships, but it's hard to sustain a casual, simmering female friendship since girls/women are usually BESTIES 4EVA or nothing.
That is not my experience, nor the experience of many other women. These are stereotypes that are worth unpacking.

And as a last point: I notice that you referred several times to the women you have friendships with as "girls"--as an admittedly anecdotal data point, the women I know (including myself) who have strong, healthy female friendships don't refer to themselves or each other as girls--we are grown women. On the flip side, I've noticed that the women I know who complain about their female friendships or how hard it is to make/maintain them, tend to refer to themselves and other women as girls. Now, I am not saying this to pick on you or make you feel bad about your word choice, but rather to draw your attention to it as an unconscious thing that may be attracting the wrong sort of person for you to form lasting, deep friendships with.

Good luck! I think your friends are right in that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with you at all! You might just need to discover (with the help of a therapist) the things that are drawing you to friendships that make you feel unloved or neglected. You deserve better than that!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:22 PM on June 18, 2017 [68 favorites]

Nthing the "girls" comment.

I think that there is often a change in people's social lives in their 30s and going out is far less common than when people were in their 20s. This may be part of it.

There may be something else here - in my 20s and 30s the following factors had a big impact on how friendships work:
- When people are in romantic relationships they often have less time for their friends, especially if the friend isn't part of a couple.
- People get busier with their careers and families in their 30s.
- As people make different housing decisions in their 30s (less likely to live downtown etc.), going out is more infrequent.

- But maybe you're not giving back in these friendships? Maybe you're not being a great listener? Maybe you're complaining a lot? Maybe you're not paying for your fair share of the bill? Pay attention to your own behavior and see if you can pick up on anything.
posted by k8t at 3:30 PM on June 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I apologize for the "girls" thing. I actually worried that would offend people so I tried to mix it up and use "women" sometimes. Among the people I know, most of them refer to women as girls pretty much up until they've had children... or maybe marriage is the cutoff? I don't think anything nefarious is meant by it, and I'm certainly not offended if someone refers to me as a girl. My gay friend who is 41 talks about dating "boys." Maybe it's an aspirational thing about looking young!
posted by Guinevere at 3:31 PM on June 18, 2017

I ended up feeling like SHE doesn't even like me (since she stopped having me come see her), which proves my point

What? No it doesn't. You had a bad fit with your therapist which is a thing that happens to everyone. Find a new therapist.

My read based on what you've said is that it's possible you are ... a little intense? That is, people enjoy being with you in social situations but do not want to do things one-on-one with you (the people from your book club not wanting to go to plays with you or whatever) or maybe "vouch" for you in larger settings (as in "Hey I invited Guinevere because I think she'd be a great complement to this party!")

As someone who also is mostly friends with dudes except my own sister and a handful of female friends none of whom I'd consider my best friend I have this advice....

If I invite any one of them to go to a play or get dinner or something, she says she's busy. Every single time for years.

1. Learn to back off sooner. After you've invited someone out for one on one time a few times and they don't pick up on it, stop. Don't do this for years, it makes no sense.

since girls/women are usually BESTIES 4EVA or nothing.

2. Stop overgeneralizing. You are not the weirdest person on the planet, but you are clearly not finding your people. You seem to have a lot of fixed ideas about women and I'm not sure where they are coming from. I agree with you entirely that it's weird for people to call you a "best friend" when they're not acting that way but people are weird and you just need to keep moving.

Am I physically repellent?

3. Again, i think you're looking for something that is "objectively" wrong with you when friendship is all about fit. Maybe you are asking women to go to plays and they don't like plays and don't like you SO much that they'd go a play. Maybe you don't like doing the things that they do (other than larger scale partying things) or are negative when they are positive. It's not math.

My advice, like people who are having trouble dating is to "widen your pool" and sort of cut and run from socializing with people who don't want to hang out the way that you do. The women at work want to be friends, you're not that into it. The women in your book club don't want to deepen your friendship, either decide to accept what you have from them or move on to another book club. The only thing I can tease out of your narrative is that you seem to be sticking to trying to be friends with people who are saying friend-like things and you sound like you're trying to get them to "make good" on what they are saying. I suggest moving away from that approach, finding a better therapist, looking for activity-oriented things to do and going to some MetaFilter meetups if you're into nerdy intense people who will probably laugh at your jokes.
posted by jessamyn at 3:34 PM on June 18, 2017 [39 favorites]

I'm pretty sure there's nothing wrong with your friendships. There's just something wrong with the way your perceive your friendships.

As a childless woman about your age, everything you describe seems totally normal to me. You have a bunch of friends who want to hang out with you sometimes; they invite you out sometimes; they go to book club with you; they go to your parties and stay for hours and say that you're great friends. Also, some are sometimes busy; some are always busy; most don't reply to mass emails; some of them are flakes and are bad at responding to any emails.

Everything about your description of what people actually do seems 100% normal to me. The only thing that seems unusual is your deep unhappiness with these friendships.

You should consider why you're happy with casual male friendships but not with the same casual friendships with women. It seems pretty weird to think that the latter is impossible. I also agree with JimN2TAW that the problem isn't why you don't have friends (the evidence clearly suggests that you do) but rather why you don't think that your friends are actually your friends.
posted by MangoNews at 3:40 PM on June 18, 2017 [54 favorites]

The reason I brought up the use of "girls" wasn't to chastise you or hope for an apology--it was more to point out that perhaps the use of the term "girls" to refer to women (by what it sounds like is most of your social circles) might reflect adherence to other stereotypical or sexist assumptions about women that can actually hinder you from forming close, healthy female relationships.

Traditional beliefs about women (often espoused by the same people who refer to women as girls) include the belief that even when women are friends they are catty and you can't really trust or rely on them. Or that only men are low maintenance in relationships (supposedly positive) and women are, conversely, high maintenance (negative). What do those terms even mean??

I think you are having difficulty finding "your people" in your social circle. I'm just saying you may need to expand it to other women who don't hold such stereotypical views of men and women, and you may need to unpack your own preconceptions to get there.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:43 PM on June 18, 2017 [20 favorites]

They will call me and want to hang out, but on rare occasions where I contact them, they completely ignore the message and never return my call or text...Some of them have co-hosted birthday parties with me or referred to me in public or private as their "best friend." Yet these are people who only seem interested in talking with/seeing me when it's convenient for them

Sounds like some of these folks are really only "friends of convenience", perhaps friendly acquaintances at best who enjoy your company when it suits them but aren't really into being in a reciprocal friendship. There's not really anything you can do to cultivate more of a friendship with them. Accept them as they are (when it suits you of course) and put your extra energy into cultivating friendships with people who can reciprocate, and don't go by what people say when deciding where to put that energy. Go by how people behave.
posted by jazzbaby at 3:43 PM on June 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

You are at a rough age. Late 20s to mid-30s is the career-climbing marriage/family-launching years, and honestly I only had one really close one-on-one friendship at that time (with someone who's always been amazing at friendships, in ways I am not). What I had were groups - super-tight groups (some of them with additional outer-lying acquaintance layers), several of them, and occasionally I'd do someone with just one of them, but for the most part we roamed in packs, and people might fade in and out a little as work/family was a bigger drain on resources.

I still do, actually, in my mid-40s. I do have a few people I spend time talking with alone occasionally, but mostly I have 3-4 social clusters, some mostly online, but mostly it's group events.

I don't think your real actual crime is using the word girls. I'd get prickly about a man I didn't know calling me a girl, but when I'm with women we're as likely to self-refer as girls or ladies or cats or poodles as 'women', which is a word we tend to use in formal and social justice terms.

I think your only real issue might be one of expectations. It seems like an over-reach for someone to call you their "best friend" without some kind of agreement so you're kind of getting shoehorned into those, and it seems like you're maybe under-valuing your group friendships because they don't look like adolescent (hyper-intense) or media-narrative friendships.

Every once in a while, you make work friends who are good enough to keep outside work. You might have that going on with at least one of yours.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:45 PM on June 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

it's hard to sustain a casual, simmering female friendship since girls/women are usually BESTIES 4EVA or nothing

I don't think this is accurate. I have some friends I get lunch with every month or so, we email or text and FB now and then to keep up. I haven't had a BFF situation since probably college. If another woman called me her best friend I would just feel weird. Most women my age - 40s - seem aware that most of us have several important relationships and ranking them seems unnecessary.

I do know a woman who often invites me to do things and I keep saying no because I don't want to be friends. The only reason I don't want to be friends is that it's nearly impossible to get a word in edgewise with her. She rambles almost without breathing, when she finally thinks to take a breath or ask me a question and I try to talk, she immediately interrupts my response and keeps going. I'm quiet and introverted and need spaces in the conversation to absorb all that's being said, and I find it completely exhausting to be around her. However she has tons of friends who adore her. So even if you do have some kind of quirk that puts some people off, it's very unlikely that it puts off everyone.

To me the marker of a good friend is that when we do get together, we catch up as easily as if no time had passed, I feel respected and appreciated, and we have fun.

Female friendships are a complicated terrain to negotiate after college. Cut yourself some slack - everyone has peaks and valleys - times when we have piles of friends, and times when we feel very alone.

It could be worthwhile to seek out another therapist to support you in finding the connections you seek. Good luck.
posted by bunderful at 3:59 PM on June 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

Not to threadsit: I was just trying to give a full picture of the situation. I am in a bizarre situation where multiple people unilaterally decide that I'm their best friend. I have not referred to anyone as my best friend since I was 14. I agree that it's childish. It adds to my confusion when they claim to like me *that much* and then blow me off.

These women more often than not ignore my call/text/email and then a week or two later contact me when they want to hang out. Everything is on THEIR timetable.

I contacted three women earlier this week. Two of them had contacted ME multiple times last week to say hi and see how my trip was going (I was traveling) and one of those two repeatedly says I'm her best friend. The third is someone who called me out of the blue a month ago to say hi and catch up.

All three ignored me this week!

Please also note: I have no interest in seeing my coworkers outside of work, ever. Forty hours a week is enough.
posted by Guinevere at 4:05 PM on June 18, 2017

I have this problem as well. Friendships with men of all ages, with women who are older or younger than me, seem to come easily. But I have always struggled to make friends with women my own age and life situation, whatever that situation maybe at the time. Piecing together a few comments people have made over the years -- basically, that were intimidated by me until they got to know me well -- it seems that women my age who don't know me find me threatening in some way.

My solution to this problem was to stop trying. Unlike what other commenters have suggested, this did not translate into organically finding good female friends. In truth, I've not made a new female friend my age over a decade and a half. However, I'm fortunate that I have a few very strong long-lasting friendships with women my own age who I met in early young adulthood. Focusing on these and my other friendships has made me happier than when I was trying to make friends with women "like me."

With all of that, I still think you are over-thinking things. I'm a decade older than you, with kids and a job and hobbies, and I just don't have a ton of time to get together with friends, even my very good ones. I'm also not a texter, so it's common for us to go a few weeks without speaking or seeing each other. Very frequently, I'll suggest a get together, it won't work for them, a couple of weeks will go by and then they will suggest something, and I get to decide whether or not it works for me. This isn't them expecting for me to work around their timetable, it's just how many adult friendships work.

My suggestion is for you to get a hobby. Something that meets very regularly, like a weekly running club, where you'll get to interact with the same people frequently, with a built-in shared interest to talk about. I don't do this, because I'm too busy, but in my observation it is the best and easiest way to make good friends.
posted by scantee at 4:22 PM on June 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

but it's hard to sustain a casual, simmering female friendship since girls/women are usually BESTIES 4EVA or nothing

but...this is exactly what you're complaining about having, exclusively! It's so easy to sustain that you're doing it even though you don't want to. You have all these casual now-and-then relationships with other women that are almost more friendly acquaintanceships than friendships, and it's depressing because you want them to be closer and deeper than they are. which is a complaint I totally, completely share and understand, but it's the opposite of what you're saying women are like. casual ease with no intense emotional obligation is the norm and the problem!

It adds to my confusion when they claim to like me *that much* and then blow me off.

that is why you are their best friend. Other people drop them when they do that, because it's annoying. so you're the most loyal/longest-lasting friend, and therefore the best.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:25 PM on June 18, 2017 [23 favorites]

These women more often than not ignore my call/text/email and then a week or two later contact me when they want to hang out. Everything is on THEIR timetable.

Is it possible to reframe this as an ongoing conversation, rather than their texts/your texts? If I were one of these women, I would think of myself as "responding to your text" when I got back to you in a week--in part because I'm terminally behind on almost all forms of communication, but also in part because that seems to be reasonable timing to most people I know. One thing I've found as I age is that things do need to be planned further ahead--in my 20s and early 30s I could reliably text a friend or two at 4pm and easily have happy hour plans for 5pm. Though I still have a few (very close) friends with whom that's possible, most planning happens a week or so ahead, because everyone's busy and overwhelmed.
posted by dizziest at 4:27 PM on June 18, 2017 [17 favorites]

You seem to have a lot of fixed ideas about women and I'm not sure where they are coming from.

Well for heavens sake, they're coming from the OPs experiences with women.

I dislike the pile on that seems to happen so often when questions like these are asked. I have had a lifetime of experiences similar to the OP's but would never ask about it here because of the barage of unhelpful "oh you called her a girl, you must secretly hate women," responses.

OP, none of this may be applicable to you but here is what I think might be going on for me, maybe something will resonate with you.

1. My not having conventional desires to have children seemed to put some women off.

2. I think I relate to the world in fairly masculine way despite being a heterosexual female and perhaps this confuses people about my intentions/sexual orientation.

3. I have chronic anxiety which causes me to behave akwardly when I'm nevous or stressed, and then the reverse is, when Im comfortable with someone, its such a relief, that Im just bubbly all the time, so maybe I come across as sort of manic. Yay.

4. At 50 I feel like Im still in the very beginning stages of my life. Physically I dont feel any different than I did at 30. I feel like a girl, a more powerful, much wiser girl than I was at 20, but I feel like a girl not a "woman." I have purposely avoided The resposibility of raising children and I still enjoy the freedom and privilege to change jobs/careers if I want to. I think that these things cause a disconnect between myself and my peer group.

5. I try not to, but I may well bore people with my enthusiasm/tendency to get up on a soapbox about cetain subjects.

6. I was raised by a super judgemental family, I may have some habits I'm still not aware of that are judgey. I've worked really hard on rooting out ingrained behaviors, expressions, and beliefs picked up from my family, and I cringe to think I'm still a judgey person, but there is the possibility.

I hope that might help you at least a little.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:36 PM on June 18, 2017 [56 favorites]

I'll speak only to the "they call ME their best friend" thing.

I moved to a new state a bit over a year ago. In April I was asked to be a bridesmaid for one of the people I had met in my new town. I was shocked by this. I mean, I really like her but WTF? When I imagine a future wedding for myself I see women standing beside me who will be looking over the old photos with me when we're 80 and sitting in rocking chairs. Some of these friends are from middle or high school, college, living abroad and other places. But asking someone I've only known for about 7 months seemed so weird! I said as much to one of my "best friends," a woman who I hope will one day stand next to me as I say my marriage vows. Her response was simply "well, take it as a sign that the bride wants to be better friends with you."

So you have people in your life who call you "best friends." Accept that. Be that best friend. Part of that is being honest and vulnerable. Say "hey, I value our friendship and it hurts me when you take a week to get back to me. It makes me feel unimportant." Or whatever you need to say.

I struggled with the aforementioned bride a bit. She said some things I wasn't comfortable with. At first I bit my tongue and was sad about it, and then I realized that if she valued me in her life enough to be a bridesmaid then she valued my opinion on things (like a veto on the use of "bride tribe").

So say the hard stuff, it will make it all more meaningful. And if it doesn't work out, well, you've learned something else then.
posted by raccoon409 at 4:40 PM on June 18, 2017 [12 favorites]

Yet these are people who only seem interested in talking with/seeing me when it's convenient for them.

I have to say as a woman in my 30s that this is how so many adults are. I think I notice it a lot when I'm single. Book club, for example, would be the extent of the week's social activities for many adults I know, and asking people from that group for one-on-one time might try their schedule and energy.

I'd think the idea that these women from work, who see you for hours every day, should disprove your hypothesis that women don't like you. I understand you don't want to pursue it but that should show you the possibility is there.

I gotta say, men who were trying to date you are not a good control group for this experiment. So I wouldn't conclude men want to be your friend but women don't from that data.
posted by kapers at 4:45 PM on June 18, 2017 [26 favorites]

I disagree with your assessment that not everyone sucks, and therefore you are the common factor. Some people (myself included) have the type of disagreeable personality that precludes friendship with everyone except those having a similar or complementary disagreeable personality. These are "your people," and just due to scarcity and luck of the draw, you haven't found many female ones in your vicinity. Me too. It sucks. I deal with it by having one best friend (my husband, with a similar awful personality, but dudes don't care.), a rotating group of acquaintance type friends that I don't even really care if I see or not, and online communities (mostly male) where I can find my "rare people" not limited to my local city.

I'm always trying to make long lasting, deep female friends, and still failing. This was a big reason I got married in the courthouse with immediately family only - I didn't have a maid of honor and no prospects for one. Like a gender swapped "I love you, man."
posted by permiechickie at 4:49 PM on June 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I’m about your age and female. I suppose what I don’t understand is what you’re looking for in a “true, intimate, reliable female-female friendship” or a “casual, simmering female friendship”. Your idea of friendship & the related expectations seem really stressful to me and the complete opposite of casual. I’m not saying this because I think anything is wrong with you, but I do think you should define (to yourself) what you want.

There have been times where there are girls I do not like for whatever reason. When I don’t like someone, I avoid them. I don’t go to group hangouts they’re hosting, and I 100% do not call them and ask to hang out or refer to them as my “best friend”. I only do these things if I like people.

I will admit I (and a lot of people our age) am shamefully bad about replying to people’s texts. I think it’s a combination of age and significant others/families and careers. I hear what you’re saying about things being on ‘THEIR timetable’, but on the other hand, I doubt people who dislike you would ask about your trip or call out of the blue to catch up.

I do think you should rethink the coworker thing if they’re willing to talk about things outside shoptalk. You don’t have to be BFF with these women, but I find it kind of weird that you’re so openly dismissive. (Also I can assure you I have worked 90 hr/wk jobs with some people and the proximity certainly did not turn us into friends.) The reason I say this is, in college I used to be really dismissive of some friends because I wanted to feel better than them and like I was being ’desired’, and then I would bemoan not having any friends because of course A and B and C didn't count! they weren't my friend, I didn't have any real friends. In retrospect they were perfectly nice people and I was just nitpicking and being shitty about people who had been good friends all along. I’m not saying that this is what you’re doing, but it’s just something I would keep in mind.
posted by angst at 5:06 PM on June 18, 2017 [19 favorites]

When people I don't think of as close friends call me their bestie, it's almost always been a sign that I'm pouring far too much into the relationship, relatively speaking. What I've been giving varies (usually attention, inadvertent therapy sessions, and/or favors; sometimes physical stuff), but it's never just been about them enjoying my presence. It makes me really sad now to hear something like that, but here's what I do, always in hopes that they'll surprise me: I gently dial it back. I just start being a little less thorough and/or a little less prompt in however I've been taking care of them. ONCE this has resulted in the other person reaching back out to strengthen our actual connection, and he was a borderline case to begin with (I agreed we were good friends, just maybe not best ones), but now the support is much more mutual. Besides that, it's mostly tipped the balance to a mutual ghosting as another self-declared best friend drifts out of my life of their own accord, and then I have more space for people who are actually fond of me.
posted by teremala at 5:34 PM on June 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

So I'm kind of the opposite of you- there are definitely people who could describe me very much as you have described these women you think don't like you very much. The thing is, I actually DO want to be friends with these women! Very much! But life is complicated and it is hard to be friends as easily as it used to be. For example:

1) The texting - I am so constantly swamped and drive a lot as well, so sometimes I can't get to a text right away. I mean to, and tell myself I will, but when I actually look at the text an hour later I'm only likely to respond if it's informational. I don't usually text my friends - even the ones I FB messenger or Signal to. I can't explain it well - something about texts feels "only for immediacy" while IM feels more casually chatty. It might be the intrusiveness of the notification?

2) Group hangouts. I have friends who I love dearly but I have never invited to a group hangout. Often this is when I care about the friends in question and don't want them to be miserable. I.e. a close friend (and mefite, even) I have never invited to a drinking party with my Army buddies, because I know they would be mean to her and I would snarl and want to spend the night yelling at them. Likewise, I don't invite my Army buddies to a night watching something that matters to me. It's not about how much they like you, it's about how you mesh with the activity and the other participants.

3) One-on-one time: This is actually really hard for cash and time strapped people. I love plays and going to dinner! I would still also say no to you every time, because I am poor and can't really afford to spend money to hang out with someone I'm already seeing regularly. It's also harder to dedicate a three hour chunk of time to someone - have you tried suggesting grabbing coffee/drinks with someone? Both are less time and money and may be an easier initial push.
posted by corb at 5:34 PM on June 18, 2017 [14 favorites]

Yet these are people who only seem interested in talking with/seeing me when it's convenient for them.

I have to say as a woman in my 30s that this is how so many adults are. I think I notice it a lot when I'm single. Book club, for example, would be the extent of the week's social activities for many adults I know

This. This this this this this.

I always answer people the same day / next morning and have never ignored a text, email, or phone call in my entire life.

That's a level of communication I would expect from a significant other. From a friend, it would feel stressful and suffocating and like they wanted a lot more time than I could offer. I would say returning texts the next day or the day after is normal between friends. I wouldn't expect them to justify the delay with a reason either. Just, sometimes life gets in the way, you know?

Here's my take: when these people call you their "best friend," what they really mean is "reliable friend." The one who will always return their texts and calls and never cancel plans. But, in an unfortunate Catch-22, your extreme reliability also makes them feel bad about themselves. They're thinking, "This person is so rigidly dependable, they probably expect the same level of dependability from me, or they want me to provide very good reasons if I don't return texts or cancel plans. But that's really stressful and just not my style, so... I'm not going to engage much."

If you want to be friends with these people, take more time answering their calls and texts. Forget once in a while. And then, when you've done this for a while and it's obvious to them that they're an option rather than a priority in your life (meaning their answer-time is about the same as yours), invite them to join a group event where it doesn't matter if any single person doesn't show up. "Hey, anyone want to get a group together to see Wonder Woman tonight?" If you can get a definite yes from one person, that's very helpful. "Hey, Amy and I are going to see Wonder Woman at 7:45, want to join us?" And then don't bother following up with anyone who doesn't show up or asking them the next day where they were.

Another possibility: you are just way more extroverted than these people.
posted by danceswithlight at 5:38 PM on June 18, 2017 [15 favorites]

I am pretty confused by all of this.

From your description, it sounds like it's your men friends who are treating you shitty. They treat the friendship casually, pick it up and put it down, mostly revolving around their own sexual feelings for you or for other women. Maybe they answer your texts in a timely way, and they'll hang out with you one on one until the accept that you aren't going to sleep with them, but is that really the friendship you are looking for?

It sounds like you have very different expectations for friendships with women. You don't just want a casual friendship where you hang out in larger groups when it's mutually convenient. But you use pretty negative words (suffocating) to describe what you seem to want (a mutually close friendship where you are in touch on a near daily basis and are their social priority).

I think I feel my head spinning from this question because i always thought of myself as having really good women friends, and being a good women friend. But I don't always answer instantly and I'm not always available for my friends. Of course a friendship is 'at my convenience'. They're for fun! Of course if a friend needed me for an urgent (emotional or logistical) situation, I'm there. But if it's for planning a meet up, chatting, etc, of course I will want it to be at a time that's convenient for me. And I want it to be convenient for her. And she wants it to be convenient for me, because she's my friend and cares about my convenience and our friendship is primarily a source of pleasure and mutual support for us, not of duty and obligation (the duty and obligation grows out of the friendship. And I sometimes go weeks or months without regular contact with my best friends who live out of town, but I still consider them 'best friends' because of what we do share.

It sounds like you feel free to reject overtures that are not to your taste or convenience, but you have pretty strict expectations for women friends/potential friends. Like, you want things your way, on your terms in terms of speed of communication, times/modes of hanging out, etc, but get frustrated when they want things their way and accuse them of treating you shitty for it.

I guess I do think a return to therapy might be helpful for you. Not to think through 'why don't women like me', which is a tricky question in therapy since it's about what's in other people's heads, not what's in your head. But about, what are you looking for from friendships with women? (Clearly something different than you are getting, and accepting, and not calling shitty, from your friendships with men.) What are your expectations, and how are they different than the responses you're getting and how can you see common ground? What does 'best friend' mean to you and why does it grind you so much that it seems to mean something different to others? If you had your dream female friendship, what would it look like? Whatever it is, I'm sure there are other women out there on the same page. But you might need to look for them and select for them differently. For example, purposely ramping down your pace of communication to be slower than the potential friend - to someone who is casual about communication, it might be confirmation that you are on the same page with her about how it's not fundamental to friendship to be rapidly and frequently in touch! And to someone who would be happy to have that, it looks like that isn't what you're looking for.

I guess I also want to say that failing to be your true intimate friend as-you-envision-it is *not* 'treating you shitty.' Friendship takes fitting and chemistry and time to build similar to how romantic relationships do, and also take timing.

But if your standard is the level of attention and prioritization a man orients towards you when he is trying to date you, women will consistently fall short.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:52 PM on June 18, 2017 [61 favorites]

I went through this. I'm older than you and not kid -free. It's taken a lot of time to see this, but I realized I was not choosing good friends. By good, I don't mean close. I mean that, when I was getting into a relationship with a friend, I was often so grateful for it and for the intensity of the new friendship that I wasn't putting the same scrutiny that I would with a less intense friendship. So I'd end up with these superawesomeomgyouaremybestfriendevah! friends who wanted to spend every moment with me, text and call all the time...and then they'd wrap me up in their dramas and maybe help me through the same intense kind of thing...and eventually would suddenly drop me or ghost me or cancel and say that they just aren't that reliable, are tired of hearing of all my problems, don't have the emotional energy for me, etc.

I realized these relationships have a lot in similarity with abusive relationships. Because they were with women, I didn't think of it the same way. But I see now that a lot of these friends were seizing upon me and then manipulating me for stuff like babysitting, homework help, business advice, career advice, help with moving, etc. I don't know that they were all doing it in a bad way. But I notice that some of them have moved on to friends who can lend them the ski chalet, the weekend cottage, pay for a trip to the other side of the world, pick up their kids for hockey, take the kids for a few days so they can do a spa weekend (staying at the other friend's vacation place, natch), go out on another friend's yacht, etc. And they remain 100% full of their same emotional issues and drama. I even see them date guys and drop them and then move on and say that guy was boring, after they got the guy to renovate their house or whatever.

So, maybe it's not you. Maybe it's who you're choosing. Therapy can help with this. It can also help you look for those friends who are less intense, less boring and find other ways to get some of those emotional needs met, in case that is part of the problem. Or perhaps you grew up in abuse or were in an abusive relationship before, so you can't see these things about your friends because it seems normal.

I realize now that these people were using me and not my true BFFs, but that the relationships, at the time, were genuine. And I'm *so* much better at the relationships I have now and, while they're less intense, the people are pretty awesome and I've known some for years and years.
posted by shockpoppet at 6:17 PM on June 18, 2017 [10 favorites]

I feel like late 20s/early 30s is a time when lots of people are selfish and the fair-weather friends tend to show their true colors since they are busy getting married, thinking about their career and future, having or trying to have babies.

I am your age or a little bit older and due to a confluence of events find myself largely "friendless". Lots of people moved, changed careers, dropped technology, etc. I said no too many times because I had to hit the gym. I didn't have the time or energy to force friendships on people and stopped trying to do group stuff. I do something social maybe once a year now, and don't think this is particularly abnormal. Many people I know have had periods like this. I also think people our age have been fairly unlucky as far as student loans, job and housing markets, etc., and any problems like that tend to suck up all available time and energy.

Keep going to book club and inviting people to parties. Keep in mind many people do not ever have people over because they are slobs or have no furniture or space, their housemates don't like it, etc. Dial back communications wherever it seems one sided if it bothers you--this always bothered me--but be aware it may result in fewer friendships.
posted by love2potato at 6:20 PM on June 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think there are a lot of good answers here, and I just want to address this bit:

These are single, childless women, by the way -- they have time for friendships.

I am a single childless woman, and I don't have as much free time as you might think. I work a demanding full -time job, I'm doing a lot of online dating, I have family obligations, I have projects, and because I am single, guess who does all the grocery shopping and home repairs? Me! A lot of single women without kids are busy too. So when some of these women tell you they're busy, they're probably legit busy and not just "busy," which means it actually ISN'T personal and about you.

I also understand that you don't want to hang out with these work women, but I do think it might be smart for you to take a step back and think about that. Some of my closest and dearest friends are people I worked with, even as much as 15 years ago. (I am currently trying to figure out when to see two of them -- we've been trading texts for three weeks trying to find a day.)

Another question: Does it REALLY matter to you that these friends be close to you in age? If you get along better with fifty-five year old women, maybe nurture those friendships. Maybe you just have a older soul.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:49 PM on June 18, 2017 [36 favorites]

I am a little surprised at the number of people choosing to excuse their communication patterns/delays via this Ask. If your texting/responding pattern is justified, so is hers.
OP, I'm 28 and this is me. I don't feel like I'm treated like shit but I certainly feel like things happen on someone else's timetable pretty much all the time. And over a period of time this can feel both annoying and disrespectful.
The only way I've found to deal with it is (a) if someone is calling me a 'best friend', I'd call out the behaviour - not in a 'you suck' way but 'this hurts me and is there a way we can do something about it' way. Sometimes it works, sometimes it clarifies for me that this is not a friendship I need to emotionally invest in. I back away and back away quickly.
(b) The other thing has been to narrow my focus to people whose support I have been able to count on more often than not. I found, once I had given up giving my time and effort (and frustration!) to a lot of female friends, I had a lot more to give to the people who really mattered. Maybe have a chat with your colleagues and see if you have hitherto undiscovered common interests? Don't write them off, is what I'm saying.
And those men? They aren't your friends. Ask me how I know.
posted by Nieshka at 8:02 PM on June 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'll be the first to admit that I find it challenging both to find friends and to be a friend (as another unmarried, unchilded woman in her 30s).

I guess I'm with the folks in this thread who are perplexed about your definition of being treated "like shit" and about what exactly it is you want to be different about your friendships with women. And nthing that it's odd you think women can't do casual friendships when you seem to have, like, a LOT of casual friendships with women. Unless I'm just not reading you right, and what you mean is, "I want a best female friend (or friends), but I can't seem to make that happen with women that I actually can stand." In which case then I think the answer is to figure out what it is that you CAN stand in women, and then go looking for them.

Also a thing that occurred to me: "simmering" is a word I would pretty much only use to describe a thing that happens when someone wants to bang you, or vice-versa; that's why your non-platonic friendships with men who want to bang you have a "slow simmer." You, uh, will likely not find that with people who are not attracted to your gender, much as you likely don't find that with straight men who are not attracted to you specifically.

And yeah, that thing where you're doing a "will we, won't we" dance is like, a little intoxicating. And the dude who wants to bang you is DEFINITELY not going to be like, "aw sorry, a play isn't convenient for me," because HE IS TRYING TO BANG YOU.

I'm really sorry if I'm getting off base with semantics. But it sounds almost like you are expecting your female friends to, well, date you.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:12 PM on June 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

To clarify: Some of the men are still friends with me to this day. Some faded away when I didn't want to date them. My main point in bringing up the male friends thing was to preempt a slew of responses speculating that I am hideous or socially awkward. If NOBODY liked me, that would make so much more sense.

Also, some of these women who ignore a simple text for two solid weeks, leading me to think, "I get it - she doesn't want to be friends," later reemerge and suggest we go on a vacation alone together(!) or something else suggestive of friendship. And some of them contact me on a random day to make plans THAT DAY, their idea, implying that they expect a prompt response to THEIR communications.

I object to the hot and cold aspect, more than anything else.
posted by Guinevere at 8:15 PM on June 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

A couple things jump out at me from your post - and they both seem to boil down to you having a fairly rigid definition of what you are willing to consider friendship. Firstly, if someone doesn't respond to you within a day you think that are ignoring you. In my friend circle, every single one of my friends has a different response schedule. Some are right away, some are sort-of-within-the-week, one of the women I hold dearest sometimes doesn't get back to me for weeks. But, I know she is busy, and dealing with a lot, and just isn't as attached to her email as I am. And that's fine, I define our friendship by how good of a time we have when we are together, and how amazing a person she is, I don't require that she respond to me on a tight schedule. If I decided that a person wasn't my friend because they didn't answer me within a day, I'd only have one friend left! It is annoying when people don't respond, but they aren't trying to offend you, they just have a different attitude about communication.
Having said that, though, of all the people we meet as we go through life, there is only a small percentage that will end up being compatible enough to have a real friendship with, and it's important to hold on to the people that you get along with - so, you have 2 women at your work that are being really clear that they want to be friends with you, but you are rejecting them because they are co-workers. It's another rigid definition that is keeping you from appreciating the people around you. (Imagine what their askme questions would be! "I work with a woman I really like, and she has mentioned that she would like to have more female friends, but whenever I suggest we hang out, she says no, what's up with that?")
it just feels like there is friendship being offered to you from a lot of directions, but you are not open to it.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:40 PM on June 18, 2017 [15 favorites]

Also, some of these women who ignore a simple text for two solid weeks, leading me to think, "I get it - she doesn't want to be friends," later reemerge and suggest we go on a vacation alone together(!) or something else suggestive of friendship. And some of them contact me on a random day to make plans THAT DAY, their idea, implying that they expect a prompt response to THEIR communications.

Okay, this paints me a clearer picture.

I don't think they are deliberately ignoring your texts, or they wouldn't pop up with plans. I would suggest that they aren't, in fact, counting texts at all. I know I personally have a love-hate relationship with my phone and where I would not ignore a friend I bumped into on the street, ever, and would delight in seeing her, on some days I am getting texts from 3 people at work, social media alerts for work, app alerts for various things, calls from elderly parents, and grocery-store requests, and I feel like I am losing my mind.

It has zero to do with the person texting and everything to do with the medium of text itself.

And if I texted her last-minute it wouldn't be because I expected her to respond right away, it would be because I genuinely wanted her to come along, and ditto the vacation.

I will freely admit that I have started friendships with people like you -- and you are a tribe! I bet your thank-you notes are prompt! -- and it has not worked out, because I have to communicate all day every day at my job, which I can do, but I am not one of those super-responder communicators, I burn out on a regular basis and go home and lie on my couch imagining a life on an island of calm, and fail to answer a day or two of "non-mandatory" texts, and then lose track of them until I next open that person's messages window and am like ! I never answered this!

And I totally get why, if you can actually keep track of the texts you have sent and notice who has responded when and can worry about it, a task I find so difficult I have to put alerts in my work calendar if I have to follow up that way, you would not want to be friends with me. But bear in mind that until you say so, I have no idea you are one of the Prompt Responders and that you are angry at me for asking you to join in with last-minute plans, I am just going through my sloppy communication life cheerily.

So basically I think you have communication needs that are narrowing your friendship field.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:48 PM on June 18, 2017 [45 favorites]

I'm troubled that your starting place with this was trying to disprove that you're hideous and repellent. If your self-worth is tied up in other people texting you back promptly, that's not great, and might be something to work on via therapy or a book/online CBT resource.

And yeah, unreliability is kind of the norm. I have a dear friend and we text most days, but sometimes it'll be like a week because one of us is busy / socially anxious / generally out of mental space. She's also more extroverted than me, plays a sport (15+ hours a week) and has a stressful job. Sometimes it's a hassle to schedule hanging out and she cancels on me last-minute sometimes. She likes a lot more "stuff" happening in her life, which makes scheduling tough. When we try to schedule hangouts as a group with a couple other close friends, the scheduling issues multiply. None of these people are married or have kids; work, hobbies, self-care (exercise, cooking healthy food, therapy....), and other friend groups I don't really mesh with are all existing commitments folks have.

I also have some friends who float "wouldn't it be nice" type plans, where we'll talk about going to Japan together or going on a road trip. Real life intervenes, these will never happen, you can follow up later if you really liked the plan, but probably it won't work out. And some folks (including me) don't have time to manage their social calendars the way they'd like, and wind up inviting friends to things last-minute. It's not awesome, but they're not intentionally jerking you around. See also: unreliable other friends who didn't finalize plans until the last minute.

It does sound like you haven't really found your people. Try out a new hobby, go to the interesting bar down the street, deepen your friendships with older folks if those relationships feel good and enjoyable to you.
posted by momus_window at 9:33 PM on June 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

When I was a newly single person in their early 40s I found, how do I say this nicely, that people who are still single and relying heavily on friend groups at our age for day to day interaction are often........... not the first picked kids. I have friends through a lifelong hobby, life long friends, and some are married, some are single, some are divorced and we all get along and have stuff to talk about just fine. I also have friends from chlldhood. But going out there and "meeting people" in your late 30s or early 40s is a shitshow. Especially as a woman. Trying to make college or early 20s type friends in your early 40s where you do fun activities together just for the sake of it tends to lead to a few kinds of people showing up: alcoholics, parties past their expiration date, people who are still trying to make their 20s happen and the newly divorced who take one look at the horror show and flee back into matrimony. Then there are the people who don't really want to socialize, which is why they are single probably and they want friends but are really not up for doing much.

I say develop the good relationships you have and drop the work friend rule. In your 40s there just isn't a pool of people out there looking for "friends". It's the busiest time of most people's lives. I'm childless but existing relationships, work and hobbies and family consume my time to an unimaginable degree. I'd love to get out there and meet more women but every time I do it's through and activity like politics or running club or other sports, not just "hey lets be friends".
posted by fshgrl at 9:55 PM on June 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

Those intense Daria/Jane friendships of your teenage years were unhealthy. It is not actually normal to derive that much meaning from one friendship, outside of long term romantic partnerships. The level of engagement you crave sounds typical of a dating relationship, not a friendship. That is probably why you are okay with that intensity from men who wanted to date you.

I was raised to have pretty intense friendship expectations--all the women in my family do. And they're all constantly unfulfilled and unhappy, because it's just too much. No friend can ever be all things to a person, and they shouldn't. I promise you your own friends aren't thinking they're avoiding you at all. They're simply busy with a full and diversified life. The best answer is to get busy, yourself.

Expect less. I mean it. True friendships wax and wane and can go a few weeks without a response. Texts can occasionally go unanswered. Its not the end of the world. If one friend, even a "best" friend, doesn't answer right away, call someone else, or read a book, or something. The more you focus on feeling resentful that your friends aren't getting back to you, the more you're going to sour a perfectly good friendship. These women messaged you last week! Multiple times! I promise you that they're being absolutely fine friends.

I had a friend like you a few years ago, actually. A woman who seemed very nice at first, if a little intense. Sometimes we would get together. Occasionally I'd miss a text. She'd send me resentful diatribes about how disrespectful it was. I have a mother, man. I didn't need that unhappiness in my life. I did a slow fade, because she seemed overly intense and a little scary. Down the line, I discovered that the same thing had happened with another friend and this same woman. She was scaring multiple people away by just being way too intense. Had she chilled a little, I probably would still count her as a friend now.

Chill. Seriously. Nothing you described actually constitutes someone "treating you like sh&t."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:39 PM on June 18, 2017 [45 favorites]

Coming in late to echo what many others have said, and then add a bit.
You have good friends, even several of them - what you describe is how it is to have friends when you are in your mid twenties up to mid forties. Over that time, some of those friendships will grow into something else, and some will fade out, and right now you can't know which are which.
One thing you can do is go on one of those trips/holidays that are being suggested. Spending a lot of time together is a good way of either creating those deep bonds you are looking for, or finding out that this isn't what you are looking for.

When we were your age, my best friend and I hardly ever met. This was before mails and text messages, and maybe we wrote a postcard now and then. That was it. We were both busy with stuff. Now we maybe meet once a month and text once or twice a month. She has other friends she sees a bit more, and I have other friends I text with a bit more, but I know we'll be friends till one of us dies.
posted by mumimor at 1:33 AM on June 19, 2017

Not to threadsit: I was just trying to give a full picture of the situation. I am in a bizarre situation where multiple people unilaterally decide that I'm their best friend. I have not referred to anyone as my best friend since I was 14. I agree that it's childish. It adds to my confusion when they claim to like me *that much* and then blow me off.

You're attracting a certain type of female friend- shallow and cliquey. Only a certain kind of person would do the hot/cold "best friend" thing. Most people don't.

It seems you're much better at picking male dates than female friends. Just like people can change their dating types you can change the type of friend you end up developing a friendship with. That takes a lot of self-reflection about the type of female friend you want to attract, and cultivating things with those women. Just like someone that dates a string of obnoxious men then changes who they go for, it also takes learning the skill of quickly shutting things down with the wrong people. When women who call you a best friend weirdly shut down that friendship (not in a rude way, make it clear at the first few red flags that you two aren't going to become friends. Eg not adding them on facebook, not giving them your number, not accepting invites, not engaging in intense conversation)
posted by hotcoroner at 2:32 AM on June 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree that much of this is differing expectations with media. I gather that most people are overwhelmed by their cell phones and spend much of their lives trapped on facebook or being interrupted by texts, most of which they do not respond to, but many of which they respond to by forwarding to other people or by "Liking". If they forward or "Like" them, the person who sent the original communication may not know, depending on the app involved.

I gather than many people no longer read e-mails but only read short texts and reply in short texts. Okay, in twenty-five characters how do you remind someone that they need a life and that they would like to have you in it?

I understand that many people get so many messages that they can only respond to a fraction of them. Also, many of these messages are click bait, designed to make it overwhelmingly tempting to open and to reply, being outrage lures or emotional appeals or humour that the best minds in marketing can design which have won Darwin's lottery by being forwarded the most times, so that any message your friends are going to respond to has to be very compelling indeed.

You are are probably an extremely nice person, nowhere near as horrifying as the Grenfell Tower Fire. Your text about going to the mall after work on Tuesday is competing with the information that instead of installing sprinklers the Council installed flammable exterior cladding to enhance the property values of of the local luxury apartment towers that were complaining that ratty old Grenfell Tower was bringing their property values down. By the time they have processed both of those facts the eleven seconds they have between messages have expired and they have responded to neither.

But in any case your friends have all become accustomed to ignoring messages. They ignore so many that after going through a dozen messages they probably could not tell you how many were requesting replies and how many were FYI's. Not replying or responding is the norm.

These interruptions take up so much time that many people do not want to actually use verbal phone communication any more and will not reply to their phones - which is sensible if they are driving, and polite if they are talking to someone else - but will only check to see who called when they are next free. When they reply they will probably not call but text: wuzzup

Meanwhile there is the age differences: When you were in your teens and probably your early twenties you liked to get out because you lived in someone else's house and were spreading your wings and meeting new people. You were claiming public space as an adult, rather than living the restricted life as a child. You could now go to venues you couldn't before. It was cool.

But now you and your potential friends have done all that and probably don't live with your parents any more and they would probably prefer to crawl home at the end of the day.... which means you might have a lot more success if you phrase your invitations in a way that cut down on the effort for them: Like to do Chinese take out on Tuesday night? Tell me what to pick up and I'll bring it to your house. (This is actually fair and splits the effort. You have to pick it up but they have to make sure they can find the kitchen table and clean up afterwards)

It's also worth noting that relationships tend to be based on having adversity in common - such as with coworkers, or struggling with linear equations, or trying to figure out what looks good on you now that you have a figure that isn't girlish but is actually womanly, or realising that you've crossed the threshold from old enough to drink to drinking a lot... So you might want to try to find something in common with your friends, or the people you are cultivating as your friends and use that as a hook for your friendships. The easiest way to do that is to find out what is going on in their lives and work together on it. So if your book club friends don't want to get together just to socialize would one of them want to get together to hear an author's reading, or be your buddy at the lunch time library writing prompts?
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:30 AM on June 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

Count me among those who think you're choosing to give electronic communication technology far more influence over your emotional state than it could ever possibly deserve.

Texts are for reminding you to pick up some milk on the way home. They're not for communicating anything bearing emotional weight, and attempting to use them that way is just asking for trouble. Facebook likewise. Even emails and phone calls score a sideways look and a raised eyebrow, to my way of thinking.

For matters relevant to deciding whether or not somebody is a friend, physically present face to face communication is best and letters written out longhand on paper and not sent before being read over several times over the next few days are next best; anything else loses way too much nuance.

This is of course a fusty, unrealistic, unfashionable, fuddy-duddy Luddite point of view that clearly has no place in modern 21st century life. But speaking as a 55-year-old who holds it quite unashamedly and who is much much much more content with his small yet high-quality friendship circle than you are with yours, I cordially invite you to spend some time pondering the consequences of the bizarre possibility that it might in fact be correct.
posted by flabdablet at 3:46 AM on June 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

There's a lot of good advice on this thread, in particular, Salamandrous.

I know it's standard reply, but therapy will be good for you. You appear to have a lot of issues to unpack that is rather hard to describe in an answer, including:

1) Your repeated insistence (see all your replies on this thread) that following up on an non-urgent text several days or weeks later is 'treating you like 'sh!t'. It is not. Life (hobbies, sports, holidays, family, work, friends, lounging around in underwear in front of bad soap dramas) gets in the way. Even for single childless women.

2) Point (1) suggests that you have an unhealthy attachment type. I'm not a therapist, but I'm guessing you have an Anxious Attachment, see one particular description below:

This could be you if you often feel like you give more to your relationship than you get back. You might be uncomfortable without very close relationships or worry others don’t value you as much as you value them. Being very emotionally expressive is also a characteristic of the anxious-preoccupied type.

This attachment style doesn’t serve deep connections because it puts you on a lower playing field than the people you connect with. Like the title, it makes you anxious, and that’s not attractive to secure people.

3) I have a particular friend who sounds like you. On first few meetings, she comes across really well -- friendly, carefree, exciting, etc. She made friends easily and some of them would probably even call her a 'bestie' within weeks of meeting her. But when I really got to know her, I found out that she would expect the friendship to revolve around her needs. I needed to reply to all her texts in a timely manner, never mind if I happened to be busy or did something. If I ever dropped the ball on communication, woe behold! Drama! Multiple texts stating how bad a friend I was. Multiple phone calls about how her life was terrible, no one would reply to her, and what is the point of friends when they treated you like shit. Apparently, according to her, everyone treated her badly.

No one needs that kind of manic entitled crazy in their lives. I shuddered a little when I read your post -- it sounded too close to what she would say. She was so wrapped up in her head that she never considered anyone else's feelings or priorities, or that friendship is a delicate breathing thing.
posted by moiraine at 4:25 AM on June 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Update after reading your other questions:

Your relationship with your undependable and highly-critical (probably bipolar) mother, Anxious Attachment style definitely explains many aspects of this question.

It also explains why you have this particular problem with female friends (as a result of of a dysfunctional relationship with your mother), rather than with your male friends (whom you appear to expect less of, see your relationship with your father and brothers).

Many parents and/or caregivers are inconsistently attuned to their children. Attachment researchers describe the behavior of these adults, noting how at times they are nurturing, attuned and respond effectively to their child’s distress, while at other times they are intrusive, insensitive or emotionally unavailable. When parents vacillate between these two very different responses, their children become confused and insecure, not knowing what kind of treatment to expect. These children often feel distrustful or suspicious of their parent, but they act clingy and desperate. They learn that the best way to get their needs met is to cling to their attachment figure. These children have an ambivalent/anxious attachment with their unpredictable parent.
Children who have an ambivalent/anxious attachment often grow up to have preoccupied attachment patterns. As adults, they tend to be self-critical and insecure. They seek approval and reassurance from others, yet this never relieves their self-doubt. In their relationships, deep-seated feelings that they are going to be rejected make them worried and not trusting. This drives them to act clingy and feel overly dependent on their partner. These people’s lives are not balanced: their insecurity leaves them turned against themselves and emotionally desperate in their relationships.

More here.
posted by moiraine at 4:36 AM on June 19, 2017 [7 favorites]

Also, some of these women who ignore a simple text for two solid weeks, leading me to think, "I get it - she doesn't want to be friends," later reemerge and suggest we go on a vacation alone together(!) or something else suggestive of friendship. And some of them contact me on a random day to make plans THAT DAY, their idea, implying that they expect a prompt response to THEIR communications.

My only long-term successful female friendships are with women who know me enough to know that responding to a text or an email after a six month lapse of time is a testament to my own anxiety and tendency to get overwhelmed, and has nothing to do with whether or not I value their friendship. Two weeks? I mean, between life, and family emergencies (I’m single with no kids, but I still have family emergencies that can take up a lot of time and even more mental energy), traveling for work, and general life admin tasks, two weeks is like a blink of an eye for me.

I know that someone upthread said it is weird for so many people in the comments to be making excuses for their terrible response rate on texts, but that is not my point at all. My point is that you are interpreting lack of response as “I do not want to be friends with you”, but people here are giving you a huge range of other ways to interpret that lack of responsiveness. To assume that it even has anything to do with you is going to make everything much harder for you. You are the kind of person who would never not answer a text from a friend, so you are assuming a sort of transitive property for other people, where you think their lack of answer therefore means they do not want to be friends. But people here are telling you that this interpretation is false, and it is hurting you unnecessarily.

Let’s say I have a friend who is always inviting me to things, and is always getting no response from me, or is occasionally hearing “I can’t” from me, and then one day I text her about an event that night to see if she wants to go. I’m not sending a message with a secret subtext that says “my time is valuable, but you should drop your plans immediately to suit my convenience”. But since this is a person who frequently asks me to hang out when I’m not available (or non-responsive), and who usually responds super quickly, if I find out about an event at the last minute, asking that person is part apology, part a gamble that they will actually answer in time to make plans.

I’m kind of confused about this binary system of friends/not-friends that runs throughout your question and your responses, because it isn’t something I identify with or understand. Friendship is flexible. I recently had drinks with someone I hung out with a LOT around 2006-2007, and then not at all for nine years, and then once when I moved back in the area, and then once again after a six month lapse in communication (for both of us). I actually consider us pretty close! But by your definition of friendship, we would barely be acquaintances.

Finally, the “girl” thing— I don’t think anyone here is actually offended by your use of the term. But when I think of women who call their friends “girls” (just hanging with the girls!!!) and use the term “best friend” in a casual way, I think of a model of female friendship that just isn’t my style— and it sounds like it isn’t yours either. It almost reminds me of what movie/tv friendships look like, or Facebook-style friendships where ladies post selfies of drinking wine together. To be clear, I have friends who are like this, and I love them and don’t judge them, but their social circles are not places where I feel comfortable or able to be my true self, and that model of friendship is not one that works for me at all. I don’t think people here are pointing out your use of the word for any reason other than to mention that it is a trope in a kind of social scene that seems not to be working for your needs.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:24 AM on June 19, 2017 [11 favorites]

I remember your question about your mother-- to which I responded, having come from a similar background. In my experience, having grown up with the idea of being not ok, it's all too easy to get into relationship patterns which exacerbate that notion. It may be the type of person you pick or it may be your reaction to them; it's almost always a combination of reasons in my experience. My mom was always telling me about something dramatic going on with her circle of female friends and she would talk about being really "disappointed" a lot. There was always sort of an underlying thing about power going on and about whether you were good enough. I am sure a lot of it was with her-- because it happened to her over and over-- but it was also the circles she moved in and some other stuff. One thing I was really impressed by when I tried out some recovery meetings was the insistence that you are accepted and you are enough. That seems like sort of a silly bromide, but a lot of people actually walk around believing the opposite. And it's easy to say that of course your friends' behavior is not a referendum on you, but if you grew up with a shitty parent who convinced you their behavior was your fault somehow, it's not as simple as just knowing it intellectually.
posted by BibiRose at 6:36 AM on June 19, 2017 [7 favorites]

I've been thinking about your question a lot since it was posted. Your comment about single childless women rubbed me the wrong way, initially - I'm single and childless, but every new possible relationship means dropping someone or something else. So, there's a high barrier to entry. As much as I may want to bring in new people, they have to be better than what I already have. That's why people may be up for parties and not hanging out one-on-one. At a party I get to maintain a lot of relationships.

Something I don't think other people have mentioned is physical proximity. A couple of years ago I moved a mile and a half - one city neighborhood - to my current house. THE DAY I MOVED, an acquaintance texted saying "since we're practically neighbors now, want to come over to my pool?" In reality, the difference between my old apartment and my new house to her house is...a mile. Nothing, considering that in both locations I have to drive to her place. But now she and her friends are my closest buddies; we travel together, we sleep on each others' couches, we're all mutual emergency contacts. Nothing changed except my location, and that barely changed - it was the perceived distance.

Proximity also makes it easier to invite people more casually. I have a group of 8 or so former acquaintances who live nearby; I text them if I'm going for coffee or dinner or a walk. Sometimes no one comes; sometimes everyone does. It's a very low cost invitation, both to them and to me. We're all busy people with busy lives, and can't predict whether we'll feel social or not; spur of the moment invites do tend to work best, for non-event activities.

This leads to a third thought. I have a friend who I dearly love, but every plan with her turns into a THING. I'll text to see if she wants to get pizza some night this week; she says yes, maybe pizza and a movie? Well, I just wanted pizza, but sure, a movie's fine. The day of our plans, pizza and a movie will magically become pizza, drinks, a movie, and more drinks, and man, I have to be at work tomorrow. I just wanted to get some pizza. I didn't want to invest my entire night.

So, I guess my thoughts are:
1. Don't discount physical location or perceived physical location. Humans are lazy.
2. Lower the stakes and investment on hanging out. Make it easier for them to say yes, and reduce the work that they have to put in (whether that's travel time, overall time, expense, getting a babysitter, whatever.)
3. Don't overcomplicate your plans. You might not be doing this, but some of the activities you mentioned are sort of involved.
posted by punchtothehead at 6:37 AM on June 19, 2017 [12 favorites]

The comments here have really opened my eyes to alternative styles of responsiveness.

The next time each of these women contacts me, I am going to completely ignore their call/text/email. So curious to see what happens!
posted by Guinevere at 9:12 AM on June 19, 2017

The next time each of these women contacts me, I am going to completely ignore their call/text/email. So curious to see what happens!

Hopefully you mean this generously and not as a 'gotcha', but just in case a slight caveat.

I really do not track my friends' texts and they actually know how to get hold of me if they really need me (and know that I will be there right away!). But I do kind of know who responds quickly and who responds slowly and if a quick responder is slow I might say something like "hey you ok?"

I actually had this situation last week where a friend of mine expressed that she was upset in a FB message which I got like, hours later. I answered it and she didn't answer and since she had been upset, I escalated it to text -- because I was worried about her, not because I wanted a response right away. If she'd been testing me, probably that would have been a fail? I don't know.

(People who test me generally don't end up my friends because I don't pass the tests, I assume...I'm the friend whose door is open at 2 am any time even 15 years from now, and who will do months of daily emotional labour listening during a divorce, but not the friend who sends thank you notes on time. This is not justifying anything, it's just how I roll and after literally decades of working on it, this is how I do me and I'm ok with it.)

What might work even better would be talking to your friends about this face to face -- not a huge Come to Jesus talk but just a 'hey I've noticed this pattern, how do you guys feel about texting and last-minute invites and stuff?"
posted by warriorqueen at 9:21 AM on June 19, 2017 [11 favorites]

"The next time each of these women contacts me, I am going to completely ignore their call/text/email. So curious to see what happens!"

I guess that's something you can do? But this seems like making this more into a weird experiment than actually wanting friendship with these women. And it's TOTALLY okay if you don't want to pursue a friendship with these folks (it sounds like you have really different expectations/needs for friendship RE: time together than I do, so we probably wouldn't be best buddies). But making this a test/experiment seems problematic.
posted by superlibby at 9:24 AM on June 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

The next time each of these women contacts me, I am going to completely ignore their call/text/email. So curious to see what happens!

If your intention was for this to be as passive aggressive as it sounds, then that might also be an answer to your question. When I have acquaintances who imply that my communication preferences & bandwidth are actually moral failures, then yeah, I'm not going to be super anxious to hang out with that person.

If your intention was not for this to come off as passive aggressive, then you may need to work on communicating via text.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:27 AM on June 19, 2017 [21 favorites]

I will also say that a lot of your previous questions on AskMe seem to involve ascribing negative feelings to folks in your life and/or not really giving them the benefit of the doubt or believing what they tell you. As a fellow anxious person, I get this - I have spent SO much time worrying about other people analyzing my actions and responses as much as I tend to analyze theirs. Being honest with folks about what you want and need can be pretty liberating.
posted by superlibby at 9:27 AM on June 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

You're probably just not a personality match for your friends and acquaintances. Probably too intense. Do you dominate situations? Get overexcited? Maybe you are offending people unwittingly. Sorry, I don't know anything about you, but you asked for possible reasons.

You could sit and spend more time observing people when you do socialize with them. You already said you ratcheted down your responsiveness in the last 5 years. Further disappearing communication wise is one way to go, but why don't you try being passive when you are actually with your friends. Like, calm and happy and present.

Try it.
posted by charlielxxv at 9:48 AM on June 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I really do not track my friends' texts and they actually know how to get hold of me if they really need me (and know that I will be there right away!). But I do kind of know who responds quickly and who responds slowly

This, count me in the slow responder category. Sometimes I even start to respond promptly and get distracted. A few days later I wonder why I've not heard back and find that I never 'sent' my almost finished response. There is no malice here - there was a lot going on and some of us are just really bad at multitasking. There's a good chance that in addition to your messages today I have already dealt with the 75+ emails I have received since this morning (that's a comparatively quiet email day), talked to a number of people on the phone and had a 3 hr meeting. I never listen to my voicemail because I figure people will follow up if it is important and will just keep calling if urgent.

Also, all the people I am really close to live in other countries. Not all are equally fond of and good with different means of communication. I try to make allowances for that but I still sometimes go for weeks without 'meaningful' contact with these people. But when we do manage to spend time with each other we get caught up and feell appreciated.

Note that these things happen on mutually agreeable schedules. For example, my best friend's son wasn't christened until he was 7 months old. This was because she had to find a date that worked for all 3 godparents, two of us don't live local and had to travel between 4-8 hrs each way (ie this involved multi day trips), all of us had various other commitments that couldn't be changed easily and the local vicar looks after 4 parishes and was only available in my friend's parish once a month. Given these constraints it just was really difficult to find a date that worked for everybody who had to be there even though this was very important to all concerned.

If that kind of thing doesn't meet your expectations/needs that's ok. Just say that and/or fade away, instead of playing games around who can last longest without responding to messages.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:21 AM on June 19, 2017

I'm troubled that your starting place with this was trying to disprove that you're hideous and repellent.

this is really unfair, people who post angry entitled "why don't people like me?" questions without explicit consideration of their flaws get told to step back and think about what might be wrong with them. it's not bad advice, either. but that's why it's worth noting that yes, she has considered the possibility that she's putting people off without knowing it, and the evidence does not support that.

but OP, when you get a text from someone who wants to hang out that same day and you get mad because they expect you to be available at a moment's notice and they never answer your own invitations with that kind of devotion -- do you ever say no? I mean before you said in your last reply that you're going to try delaying responses or just not sending them, did you ever say you were too busy to hang out, either because it was true or because you just didn't feel like it that day? or do you feel like you always have to say Yes, because you're at their mercy and they're the only ones with the power to turn you down?

because same-day invites aren't an imposition or an entitlement if you don't feel any obligation to say yes to them. and I don't think anybody expects you to always be free. just, if you always have been in the past, and somebody has a sudden day off and a good idea, they're going to turn to the person who is always up for last-minute adventures. which is you. which is actually a position I like to be in, the one who can just do stuff without whipping out a planner and doing some time equations. but you can say always say no just because, they won't decide it means you're not friends anymore.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:29 AM on June 19, 2017 [11 favorites]

The next time each of these women contacts me, I am going to completely ignore their call/text/email. So curious to see what happens!

Wow. Um. You have totally taken the wrong advice from this thread.

Yes, because being passive-aggressive and testing adults on how well they score on Your Friendship Test is definitively how people nurture healthy adult friendships these days...
posted by moiraine at 10:58 AM on June 19, 2017 [14 favorites]

I've recommended a Judge John Hodgman podcast, Amicus Grief, for similar AskMe friendship-related questions. On the one hand there is the person who thinks that friendships can be measured in some objective fashion to determine whether it's a 'real' friendship or not, and on the other hand there is the frustrated friend who doesn't think friendships work that way. It might be helpful to give this a listen and get a sense of how individuals perceive friendships differently, and it can be frustrating for both sides of a friendship.
posted by needled at 11:28 AM on June 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

I wonder if part of this has to do with trying to translate sort of a college-age/young 20s model of friendship into a different stage of life. At least for me and most people in my friends group, we just had really different styles of friendship when we were younger versus now -- the sort of fairly intense, constant hanging out/socializing style versus just having more limited time/bandwidth for social things now. And it's not just marriage and kids -- it's also that work has ramped up and gotten more intense, people live further apart as opposed to all living on one dorm hall, I've become a bit more of a homebody, etc. Honestly, many of my close friends who I actually see the most are people from work now, in part because of the convenience of being able to super easily grab lunch or a drink after work when we're all in the same location!

You seem concerned that your friends are placing convenience as a high priority, but I think maybe you should rate your own convenience a little higher. This doesn't mean ignoring a friend who's in serious trouble (and I don't see you mentioning here that your friends have let you down in a legitimately difficult time), but for fun hanging out times -- these things really should be mutually convenient! It honestly sounds stressful to be constantly monitoring my phone for all incoming calls/messages so that I can respond right away! Instead of intentionally noting and ignoring calls/texts to test people, maybe try setting your phone to "Do Not Disturb" during certain hours so that you can unplug and disconnect from technology/social media. When a friend texts you asking if you can go out for drinks in 4 hours, ask yourself whether you honestly are both available and interested in the social event -- if so, say yes and be happy for a surprise social event! And if not say "I'm sorry, I'm busy/not feeling up to it/am totally burned out from a crazy week at work and desperately need a nap" etc. I have a few friends that I tend to do last-minute social scheduling with (from both of our sides!) but neither of us gets mad if the answer is "No, can't this time!" When I'm asking whether someone can meet up on short notice, I know fully well that it's quite possible they have other plans! It's not that I'm demanding they show up on my time table, but rather that I'd love to hang out if they're free and won't at all be offended if not.

I would also think about the relative incomes of the folks you're hanging out with in certain contexts. Back when I was in grad school, I was in a book club with some awesome women who I definitely considered friends, but while I was surviving on a tiny stipend, they all had regular full-time jobs. When they invited me out to restaurants, I often had to decline because the ones they loved/suggested were way out of my price range. But, indeed, I'd be more than happy to see them at a party where I could bring a bottle of Two-Buck-Chuck and still be able to fit it into my budget! Since the one-on-one activities you suggested are both potentially pricey (restaurants and plays), I wondered if this might be an issue here. Keep in mind a LOT of people are really embarrassed to talk about money issues -- I know I sometimes was, and my issue was really non-socially-embarrassing (being in school) vs. someone who might have to get into more sensitive stuff like credit card bills or medical debt.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:55 AM on June 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

You seem concerned that your friends are placing convenience as a high priority, but I think maybe you should rate your own convenience a little higher. This doesn't mean ignoring a friend who's in serious trouble (and I don't see you mentioning here that your friends have let you down in a legitimately difficult time), but for fun hanging out times -- these things really should be mutually convenient!

And look. There is such a thing as getting a last-minute invite and thinking, "boy, I am so tired and in a perfect world I would love to go home and sit around in my underpants and do laundry, but I AM technically free, and haven't seen Mary Jo in like 5 months and if I blow this off, it'll be another 5." And then you go to the thing, which is not maximally convenient, but which maintains the friendship, and it's usually more fun than you were expecting anyway, etc.

It's ok to do that sometimes, but if you're doing it so often that you feel put upon, you really should stop. Prioritizing one's own schedule and well-being are not indicators of a lack of fellow-feeling. But I reiterate that if your expectations are being set by relationships in which one party is pursuing the other romantically, this will fuck up your expectations, as courtship rules are pretty different from friendship rules.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:40 PM on June 19, 2017 [12 favorites]

People are being too harsh with you OP. I want to validate you that it is in fact shitty of someone to ignore your texts and calls, yet expect you to drop everything and immediately respond to their texts and calls. It's shitty whether they're married or single, male or female, close or acquaintances. Please do not let people in this thread convince you this is normal or not shitty. You are not wrong to be hurt by this. It's okay to want to stand up for yourself and value your time equally to that of your friends. Reciprocity in friendships (to a fair extent, it will never be exact) is a normal and healthy thing to want.

It sounds to me like the women you know already have a large social circle, and are content to hang out with you one-on-one when they don't already have commitments with their other friends.

What you perhaps need is to get in on a new group that isn't already strongly formed, or find other true outliers who have no group, and attempt to form a group over time with them.

I think a common activity with other women, which you genuinely enjoy, would go a long way. Book clubs are typically composed of solitary types (reading is a solitary activity). I suggest you pick something which requires coordination and teamwork, such as camping, or a sport, or geocaching, or puzzle rooms, or something active and team-y. Good luck!
posted by stockpuppet at 3:18 PM on June 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

OP it looks like you disabled your account - I'm sorry if the advice here was harsher than you expected. I won't pile on here but I did want to say that the two pieces of advice I repeat to myself often (daily if necessary) is to meet people where they are, and the only person you can control is yourself.

It sounds to me like you have a variety of friends, at different friendship-levels. Good luck in finding more!
posted by lyssabee at 4:16 PM on June 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

There's a bunch of comments here so I don't know if this was touched on already at all. But I think its two things at play: first, you maybe haven't found your people yet. People you truly click with and who 'get' you. This is rare, and pretty difficult; for some, it never happens. For me, it only happened when I started frequenting my hobby groups. Secondly, consider that a lot of people aren't intentionally treating you badly.

I get bouts of what I call 'hermititis' where I don't want to see people as much. Now I adore my friends, I love them and think the world of them-- I have found my 'tribe'-- but sometimes I just can't deal. Even with people I like. Part of this is depression, part of this is anxiety, part of it is introversion-- if I have too many things on one weekend, I get burned out and wanna withdraw. But I have been the one who cancels in the past, or who dictates when to meet, and it isn't for nefarious reasons. Yes, it is a bit selfish, but my friends have realized this is part and parcel of who I am and don't take it too personally. I do however, try my best if they reach out to me to give them answers or notice if I cancel, but I do admit I have read messages before and fully intended to reply, and just forgotten. I admit, I am not the best friend all the time, but I do truly care and love my friends, and I'd hate if they thought I disliked them or was intentionally flaking on them. It's not about that; it's not a them thing, it's a me thing. I have a close overseas friend I keep meaning to write an email to, I think this person is great, but I just keep forgetting. (I better go do that now).

Of course, some people are just not great people and are bad friends, but do consider that some people are just struggling-- and this is probably more than you think. I'd wager at least 50% of your flaky friends do really like you and think you're a great friend, but can't be the friend you need all the time. Consider that you are just a bit more socially healthy than them, and aren't wired the same way, so you don't really 'get' it.

So what I'd do, is if you have friends like this, is just adjust your expectations of them. Take the good, leave the bad. Sure, hanging out might be on their schedule, but you can always refuse. If you feel like hanging out, great, if not just say no. If reaching out more feels 'unbalanced' to you, then don't. But don't let it upset you or get you angry. Friends don't really owe you anything; it's not a thing to score keep. If it's bothering you, dial back your attention. If it means you may lose touch, oh well, things happen.

Lastly, consider branching out to people in a shared hobby, to try and find people more on your wavelength that you feel you click with. That said, it's a generalization but I find the more introverted a hobby tends to be, the more you get people who perhaps are a bit flaky, who aren't always there and perhaps cancel often. Instead, the more extroverted a hobby or activity, the more 'there' these friends tend to be. Of course it varies, but this is generally my experience with it. Also, depending on the activity/interest, you may attract more male friends than female in that hobby or vice versa-- for example, being into sci-fi growing up, I often came across more male fans than female fans, and only lately do I find more women friends at conventions and such. But in things like book club, or salsa dancing, it was always predominantly females in the classes. So consider that too when picking a hobby to pursue.

Hope that helps. Also I do largely agree with WalkerWestridge also.
posted by Dimes at 1:59 AM on June 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm just going to leave my 2 cents here. To me this is the simplest explanation.

HOWEVER. I would be the first to admit that male friendships are much easier to come by, particularly if they emerge out of situations where a guy asked me out as the kickoff to our acquaintance.

You are approaching men and women that you've met fairly randomly as potential friends. Meanwhile, men are approaching you for greater intimacy. When they approach you, they already like you. You've cleared their limit for wanting to be close. I wish I could draw it out like a diagram, or pipeline. You are approaching both sexes but men are approaching you more. Does that make sense?

You're netting a lot of male friendships out of this.

Don't dismiss how nice that is! These men don't have to be your friend. You say they are not being "objective," or somehow their affection for you is erotically driven, but I think that is bunk. How many people have you asked out without thinking they were fun to be around?

Don't dismiss friendships with women. That makes my heart ache. You just have to go out there and meet more!
posted by benadryl at 7:52 PM on June 21, 2017

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