In the last few months, there has been some talk of floundering friendships in the ALI blogosphere. I am specifically thinking of posts by Daryl and Trisha, but I think there may have been others too. And recently, I have come to realized that it’s time to acknowledge I’m part of this club too. I anticipate that this will be a long, tedious post, so you have been warned. I just really am feeling the need to get this off my chest and out of my head.
My friend Kat and I met the first day of our sophomore year of high school. We clicked immediately and bonded over geometry homework and boy drama. She was a cheerleader and I was not, she was popular and I was not, but that never stopped her from becoming my friend. I was lucky in that, though I was chubby and shy, I was well-liked by most everyone and never bullied, teased, or mistreated by my classmates for a single day. And Kat accepted me completely.
We were never best friends in the same way that my declared “best friend” and I were. We didn’t have sleepovers. She didn’t call my parents “mom” and “dad.” She didn’t accompany my family on weekend road trips. She didn’t spend more time at my house than hers. But we were on the phone almost every night, doing homework together or gossiping. We passed notes in class. And during the summers, we e-mailed regularly and met for coffee or lunch every few weeks. She was not a classic best friend, but more of a closeted one. She was the one who knew me best and understood me completely (as we were very much alike). She was the one I trusted and told my secrets to.
After graduation, things didn’t change all that much. She went to California for college and I went cross-country to Florida, but we still remained connected. I visited her during my spring break and, during the summers, we would meet at Starbucks as often as we could for 3- or 4-hour marathon chats. That was our “thing” and it seemed to work for both of us.
Until it didn’t anymore.
As time passed, and she spent less and less time in our hometown in Idaho, it became harder for her to give me any of her time when she did come to town. As I did everything I could to accommodate her schedule so we could once again meet for coffee, I grew weary. And angry. And it’s then I realized this had been the definition of our whole friendship. I had spent years accommodating her. We always planned things around her plans, not mine. I always went to her house to study or chat; she never came to mine. After nearly fifteen years of friendship, she still could not tell you where my parents live because she has never been there. I was always the one to e-mail or call her to see if she could meet for a coffee date; she never contacted me. To this day, I am still the one who will first send an e-mail to just “check in” and see how things are going. Maybe it’s because Kat has never needed me as much as I have needed her, but I don’t know if she has ever made the first move to nourish our friendship, and certainly not recently.
Was I sick of it? Am I sick of it? Yes and yes.
But our story didn’t really end there, in Idaho, with me giving up and her moving on. First of all, I am not really one to give up. I will cling to the last threads of friendship until they snap. I have said it before on this blog, but let me repeat: I am not good at letting go. And so instead of letting us both go our separate ways, I made a desperate move: I asked her to be my Maid of Honor after Honey proposed to me. And she said yes. She was ecstatic actually, which thrilled me to no end. I told myself the reason I had asked her was because she was my closest friend, and responsible, and someone I loved and trusted, and all of that is true to a point. But really? I was just trying to cling to friendship that was already on life support.
From across the miles, Kat and I shopped for bridesmaid dresses and brainstormed showers together. But when it came time to actually throw my bridal shower, she admitted that she couldn’t really afford it. She had spent every last penny on her own wedding just months before (which I flew to California for, mind you) and she thought my bridesmaid (a cousin) should give the shower instead. The problem? My cousin also lived out-of-state and couldn’t do it because of work. Kat eventually relented and agreed to give the shower, but only after my parents offered to buy her a plane ticket so she could fly to Idaho to do it.
The shower was lovely, but the weekend was not. I had dreams of us spending all weekend together, making plans, going to dress fittings, shopping for the last-minute items I needed. Maybe even sharing a late-night dessert at a local diner, or having an early morning breakfast and coffee together. But all I got was the dress fitting. The rest of the time she spent with her family and other friends, and I was once again pushed to the back-burner. I should not have been surprised, but I was. In fact, I was crushed. It was my wedding that was approaching. And it was my parent’s money that had brought her to town. Couldn’t I be a priority for once?
In the end, though, she was truly there for me on my wedding day, and that’s what mattered most. We continued to keep in touch afterwards and I once again accommodated her schedule so that I could see her every time she came back to Idaho. It was a lot of work and exhausting trying to be her friend, but it was important to me. I didn’t want to lose the connection with the girl who was my Matron of Honor, someone who was such a huge part of such an important day in my life.
And then Infertility happened. To both of us. I went through it first as we tried to conceive my daughter. I was hopeless and broken after only a few months, and Kat said all the wrong things to me. She told me to relax. She told me everything would be fine. She told me what a great option adoption can be, multiple times in multiple e-mails. She’s right, but I was just at the start of my journey. I was not at any place where I was ready to consider giving up my dream of carrying my own child. It hurt me, but I tried not to take what she said to heart. I knew she didn’t understand.
But three months before I gave birth to Cupcake, Kat and her hubby started TTC as well. And a few months later, she admitted to me that they weren’t having any luck. Her cycles were far too close together and Clomid was not helping. I felt for her. I hurt for her. She e-mailed me almost daily for weeks, maybe months, with questions and fears and concerns. For the first time in our friendship, she needed me. And I won’t lie, it felt really good to be on the receiving end of it. But as she fell farther and farther into the depths of fertility treatments, she started withdrawing. It broke my heart a little, because I was doing everything I could to support her and be there for her. I was being the friend I had needed when struggling through my own journey. But nothing I said or did brought her back to me, and who could blame her really? I hadn’t needed to take the steps that she had in TTC. And I had a baby, the very thing she coveted. The last I heard — and this was over a year ago — she and her husband were in the process of deciding between IVF and adoption because they couldn’t afford both.
Kat has done a lot of things wrong to me. With some time and perspective, I have come to realize that I have been used at times. She’s been my friend when it’s convenient and easy. She is willing to ask and to receive, but less willing to give. Surely, I have been a better, truer, more loyal friend to her than she has been to me. But I know not all the fault lies in her hands. I have been a needy friend. I have tried too hard, and at times depended on her too much. I have perhaps had unfair demands or expectations. And — the thing that is really unforgivable in my eyes — I, too, said the wrong things to her in the early days of her fertility treatments, even when I should have known better. When Kat would worry over the future of her womb, I said once or twice that I worried too if I would ever have another child. Ugh. I know. At the time, I felt I was sympathizing with her, but now I just see it as insensitive and unfair. (Though, in my defense, I did later sincerely apologize for the thoughtlessness of such comments, and I have never made that same mistake again, to her or anyone else.)
Kat and I still connect over e-mail every now and then. She still doesn’t have a baby. We e-mailed back and forth a few times after my miscarriage. She asked what was wrong and, for the first time, I decided not to tell her. I just didn’t know if she could offer me the support I needed and, quite frankly, I was afraid to get a response such as “At least you can get pregnant” or “Just be happy you have Cupcake.” So I just told her I was grieving a very personal loss and didn’t really feel like talking about it. It took her weeks to respond with an “I’m sorry” and that’s when I decided our friendship was pretty much over. I can’t tell her things anymore and I can’t trust her to be there when I need her. And without that, what sort of friendship could it be but dead?
But here’s the thing: even that revelation has not been enough to force me to move on. Not completely, anyways. Because just a couple weeks ago, I e-mailed her again. While I don’t communicate with Kat much anymore and I don’t know where she’s at in her own family-building journey, I felt like it was my responsibility to inform her of my current pregnancy before announcing it on Facebook. I hate being ambushed by pregnancy announcements, and I wanted to be kind and try to protect her from such a surprise. This is just an excerpt of what I wrote in my e-mail to her, after telling her my news:
I don’t know anymore where you are at in your journey to have a baby, and I suspect you’re in a much better place than I ever was while going through this, but I wanted to tell you this privately before going public on Facebook next week because I have always hated being blindsided by pregnancy announcements. I wanted to show you the same sort of respect and sensitivity that I appreciate. I do totally understand if you’re not the in mood to be congratulatory and I will be happy to block you from any FB pregnancy posts if you prefer — no hard feelings, I promise. I hate that anyone else has to go through this, but I have more than one friend who is struggling through infertility in some way and has kindly asked that I don’t include them in this sort of thing. You can just let me know if that’s what you want.
I think that’s about the best I could do. It took her ages to respond to me — she still hadn’t when I began this post, which is what prompted me to write it in the first place — and once she did respond, it was short and sweet. Something like, “Congrats. Work is nutso. I bet Cupcake will like being a sissy.” And that was it. So different than usual, so unlike her and the long, rambling e-mails I am used to. A part of me wants to make excuses for this. Maybe she doesn’t have anything happy to say. She doesn’t have her baby yet. She’s hurting. Of course she doesn’t want to share in my joy. I would be truly okay with that if I really believed that was the honest reason why she didn’t sound like herself in her e-mail. And yet… Yet, thanks to Facebook, I know she has attended baby showers, 1st birthday parties, and enjoys spending time with “squishy” babies on a regular basis. She does not appear to find it difficult to surround herself with other people’s children.
So now I’m feeling insulted and annoyed and exasperated and done. Just completely done. I really mean it this time. And I realize as I type this that I am now sounding like an addict trying to convince the world of the untruth, but that’s not it. I. Am. Done. Certainly, I won’t turn Kat away if she ever contacts me on her own, but I will no longer be the only one in this relationship who keeps making an effort here. I can’t keep being the only one who tries to be a friend, who tries to keep our friendship alive, who believes that we had something between us worth cherishing forever and ever. I just don’t have the time or energy. And, quite frankly, I just don’t care that much anymore. I have other friends who fulfill for me what Kat used to. I don’t need her now. If that makes me a bad friend, then so be it, I guess.
It is so hard to accept, though, that the girl who commiserated with me over our scary geometry teacher, the one who stood up for me when I got walked all over in Spanish class, the one who gave me advice when I lost my virginity, the one who stood beside me and held my bouquet when I said “I do” is no longer someone I know. Maybe not even someone I want to know. I suppose it is normal to grow up and grow apart, but it is still sad. Still one more thing in my life to grieve.
But I have been through worse. I have been molested. I have lost too many family members to count, been to too many funerals in just 29 years. I have been scarred by infertility. I have held my dead, 7-week embryo in my hands. Surely, I will get through this too.
In fact, this is starting to look pretty damn easy.