Women are mean, mostly to each other. Women treasure their friendships with other women, yet we treat our friends like trash the second we think we don’t want to be friends again. I hate the freeze out. Being on both sides is painful and stressful. While in school there is often a group mentality about it (think Mean Girls) as we reach adulthood it seems to become more difficult to deal with, and yet I know in the midst of it (as in right now), I know I’ll be okay without this friend eventually, and I have other amazing friends to spend time with. I also know I will keep making new friends. So why does this hurt so much, and why do we insist on doing it to each other?
The issue of mean girls and freeze outs and cutting friends out of the clique seems to be uniquely female. Please correct me if I’m wrong in that statement. It starts early and continues through the rest of our lives. At some point we should learn from the past and change our behavior. Right? But we never do. Is this just ingrained within us? Here is my story.
My friend, who we’ll call Jane, has been a great friend over the past few years. We see each other regularly. There is the usual email or text during the week commiserating about commute times, bad days at work, amazing or horrible meals out, etc. We have a few mutual friends and have never had issues falling in with each other’s main circle of friends.
We talked and hung out a few months ago, chatted around Christmas, discussed getting together just after New Years. Jane has been incommunicado since Christmas though. I emailed a few weeks ago about plans to get together. No response. I texted another week later about grabbing drinks after work. No response. No response over the course of a few weeks to phone, email or social media contacts. I’ve been updated on a few of Jane’s life events through Facebook – not directly to me, but when she posts to her wall.
I’ve found myself wondering: how soon is too soon to try to reach her again? At what point do I give up? At what point do I reach out to a mutual friend? Is talking to a mutual friend a good idea at all? The worst part of the unknown is the why. Why won’t Jane respond? Why doesn’t Jane want to talk to me? It reminds me of breakups. When you’re 16 you avoid and ignore your boyfriend or girlfriend (or at least some of us do). At 30, you have a conversation. You say something.
I was the odd girl out in middle school, thankfully before social media and cell phones existed. There were falling outs with friends in college and just after. I honestly don’t expect middle school girls to talk out their issues and resolve everything in a mature manner. I also don’t expect the type of bullying girls see today. The bullying I experience was more than enough. As you get older I’d like to say we learn from these earlier trials. We don’t. Not all of us, and not fast enough. So here I am, all grown up with the same questions rolling through my head that went through it at age 12.
Looking back on the times I was on the other side of this battle, I know I could have handled it differently. I know I should have acted in a more mature way, and talked it out, even if it ended the friendship. There are those friends of course I wish I’d made up with, and tried to talk about what went wrong –even if it was years later. Every once in awhile I look up a few of those long lost used to be friends online, only to come up with nothing.
I had hoped writing about what I’m going through would help me resolve my next steps. It hasn’t. It has reminded me I always move on, and I always make new friends. My mom reminded me this week how this has happened to her in her adult life, over the last 20 years. In one instance she did make the effort to talk about what happened. It didn’t solve anything, but she was able to walk away from the friendship knowing she’d tried, and done all she could. My mom also pointed out how she and my dad have expanded their circle of friends, reminding that just comes naturally as a part of life, losing friends or not. But in losing friends, you’ll find who your real friends still are.
No matter what happens with Jane, I do want to have an opportunity to talk, and reconcile in some way, even if it means we aren’t really friends anymore. I have no interest anymore in walking away from friendships because one or both of us is angry. Time passes and makes it more difficult to return to where you were.
I find it fitting that I am going through this as I approach a big birthday. I understand better now why so many people are happy in the end to leave their 20s behind them. I may struggle to make time for my friends, but I want to make that effort to keep those friends I have.