When I first saw the cover of Mindy Kaling’s debut book, ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?’ a few years ago, I felt like she had written that book with me in mind. Except, of course, she hadn’t and I could only barely, if even, relate to the contents. It was a good read, nevertheless, and I enjoyed reading it. The reason I liked the title was because it had much to do with what was going on in my life back then. I was going through a friendship crisis of sorts and felt betrayed by a friend with whom I had been close. I feel kind of in a somewhat similar boat now… hence, return of the same feeling.
She was my first friend in Chicago and I felt close to her and her husband. We were inseparable on most weekends always doing fun things together. Until…for some reason, I noticed that she had started to distance herself from me. As days passed, I found this “friend” slowly turn into an acquaintance as she started hanging out with my other friends without inviting me. I would see pictures on Facebook of events and places to which they all went without me even though I was the one who introduced her and her husband to all of them. I felt betrayed, not only by the one whom I considered a close friend but also by the others who were good friends.(we were all new friends and except for one, I had befriended the others in Chicago)
Perhaps my transition from being the single, divorced friend who always tagged along and was willing to do anything for a friend (including go all the way over to her house just to help her parallel park!!) to one who now had a boyfriend (now, husband) and with whom I liked to spend time was an issue, Perhaps, she found she had more in common with other fashionably-forward and rich couples friends willing to spend $$$ every weekend on bars and pricey restaurants with which my humble teacher’s salary could never compete. Perhaps their Indian husbands had more in common with each other too which Aaron, even after becoming my husband, not being an Indian, could never come close.
In fact, another (Indian) friend even implied as such. She clearly said, “Now that you are with Aaron…it is natural that this will happen” referring to my wondering why I always felt left out of their hangouts. Yet another friend, the husband of a friend, also remarked, (when my husband and I started dating), “यह तो परायी हो गयी” (yeh to parayi ho gayi – she has become an outsider)…if you had any doubts about biases or racism among Indians, wash those off now.
Why do adult female friendships have to be so complicated? Why the needless drama? Click To Tweet
Why do adult female friendships have to be so complicated? Why the needless drama? The heartache? The feelings of rejection and betrayal, of being personally wronged? Friendships are famously known for their ability to help lead longer lives (not to mention, lower blood pressure, reduce the development of physical ailments, allow for the likelihood of leading contended lives, reduce stress, etc.). We are supposed to be bonded in some kind of an implicit sisterhood laughing, sharing, connecting, growing, feeling gloriously recharged in each others’ company. It’s unfortunate that this does not always happen. I have had some experiences like that with some friends on some occasions so I know the feeling. Alas! That has not been a consistent occurrence in my life.
Adult female friendships have always mystified me. I go into my shell when I feel betrayed, especially when I don’t see what I did wrong. I get defensive and simultaneously close all or most communication with the person who hurt me. I respect myself way too much to beg for someone’s friendship. Still, if it is a relationship that really matters to me, I will reach out and try to heal things, like I tried to do with my friend in Chicago. I emailed her and apologized. I said that I was really sorry for doing whatever it was that she thought I had done even though I hadn’t the faintest idea what that was. I was genuine in my sentiments but felt insincere in my apology because I really didn’t know what it was for which I was apologizing.
She wrote back saying something about how I had “accused” her husband of having told one of my other friends about a blog that I used to write back then (which was no secret to begin with). All I could think of was…WTH!!!? Like, seriously, what!!? THAT was the reason you started ignoring me and that was how little you thought of our friendship, our bond, that something so harmless (and untrue) as this could so easily do it for you! How petty are you!? A couple years later I learned that her pettiness was legendary, except I had never experienced that until this whole drama.
Regardless, I felt worse knowing that our friendship meant so little to her. I had put almost all of my eggs in her basket of friendship and she had knocked it over, just like that, nonchalantly and unapologetically. I was better off without friends like that. My heart was broken. I could never be her friend again. I was sad, hurt, angry, and felt sorry for having lost another friend. It takes me a long time to make friends and the ones I have and I find myself close to, I cherish those people and would do anything for them in their times of need….unless, of course, they could care less and go looking for better friendships elsewhere. You can’t force a friendship. That’s fair, I guess. Just because I consider someone my friend does not mean that she should consider me her friend too.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a social pariah and I have had some really good female friends in my 30-some years so far. Yet, other than high school, I have never been fortunate enough to have girlfriends from whom I could choose a BFF or get chosen as one by someone else. I had a best friend in high school, a really close rockstar of a girlfriend in College who continues to amaze me with her excellence at EVERYTHING…and I mean that in the most literal sense…she has three kids, she heads the HR of a multinational company, and she bakes, sows, mends, quilts, cooks, teaches, volunteers, emcees, gardens, teaches drama on the side…the list is endless…, and a really amazing group of super nerd friends during my doctoral program whom I loved and who loved me back. We represented India, Lebanon, Turkey, and Singapore and we loved each other like sisters! We are scattered to different parts of the world now but we still get together virtually occasionally. I miss these relationships a lot.
I have never been able to have a close friend since then and I know it’s not me. At least, not always. I have good friends but the “good” is a matter of perspective and context. I know I am a really good friend once I get close to someone. I am trustworthy – I won’t gossip and I am a good confidante. I am loyal and I am always emotionally present if you need me. I will bring you soup when you are sick, stock you fridge with food or take care of your plants when you are out of town but I am sorry, I can’t take care of your dog – I never grew up with a dog, I can’t handle that responsibility well. I will check on your home and collect your mail when you can’t. I will stay up with you letting you cry on my shoulders or listen to you for hours helping you talk through your relationship problems.
I will meet with you and help you figure things out for yourself reserving my own views on the matter because you are considering giving into the temptation presented by a coworker while still being in love with your husband. I will support your causes and be there to cheer you when you meet your goals. I will bring you cheesecake when your child is sick and you and your child could do with some cheering. I will hold your hand and wipe your tears as you unburden years of family drama by sharing with me your stories of emotional abuse. I will invite you over for lunch or dinner when I have made a dish you said you have liked in the past….among other things, and all of which are true experiences.
What I won’t do as a friend is push my way into your life uninvited. I respect boundaries. I know it’s not always easy for people to say they need or want something and sometimes I will be perceptive about these things and get you what it is hard for you to say or do yourself, but I am not always that intuitive so I may miss cues which of course, you may interpret as my not caring. I am not over the top with my reactions, and don’t go overboard with exhuberance, affection, or show extremes of any emotion, really but that does not mean I don’t care. I will aways do right by you but I am not the ‘in-your-face’ make you do things kinda gal – the kinds of things you see friends in movies do – mostly because I have never needed to – I have never had friends who needed me to “fix” them or help them get their lives back on track (like in the movies, again). But if you were ever in a situation where such intervention seemed prudent, you can bet your life, I’ll do that for you.
I am hoping the above does not read like an advertisement for seeking friendship. If it does, I am not ashamed of it and it is not pathetic (if you think it is, stop reading, I don’t want to be your friend). Who knows? Maybe someone who reads it decides to give me a shot. I am accepting applications…haha. If it doesn’t, just as well…it wasn’t really meant to be one, anyway.
Rejections are hard to accept. Female friendships are considered nourishment for the soul. While my soul isn’t parched, it could do with some uplifting. My poor soul is just going to have to wait. Meanwhile, I’ll be in my little corner, hanging out by myself, enjoying the company.