The Vine: January 18, 2012
"H" and I have been friends for seven years. For the first four, we were very close; then I moved schools and we both went to university, so we saw each other less often, but still talked on the phone and met up regularly.
She is a much more dramatic and sensitive person than me, and over the years I've seen several of her friendships go up in flames. I know it takes two people to argue, and I've always been supportive of H when she's been upset. I've always been quite sarcastic and cynical, as are most of our friends, but I always try to tone it down around H if I think she won't appreciate the joke. Having said all this, we're very similar in lots of ways, have had loads of fun together and have never had a serious argument. She's been a good friend to me, and up until a few weeks ago I thought she felt the same way about me. I really hope the following isn't too confusing.
This past summer we spent a lot of time with our other friends in the town we all come from, although this tailed off in the last few weeks of the holidays as we went on holiday with our families. About a week before term started, I received a long email from H which said that she thought we "hadn't really spoken" over the summer, that our interests were diverging and that she had decided "not to contact [me]" again because she thought I didn't find her interesting, but had decided to resume contact because she wanted to know what I thought about the whole issue.
It was a pretty confusing email and I wasn't sure exactly what she wanted from me, but it was clear that I'd hurt her feelings, so I replied saying — truthfully — that I hadn't noticed that she didn't think we'd been getting along well, I was sorry if I'd seemed rude and she should have just said something casually. I also mentioned that, over the summer, H had said to me that she didn't think she was getting on well with some of our other friends, trying to suggest (although I didn't say it) that maybe the problem was with her and not me. I accepted that I might have accidentally been rude to her — I don't think I was, but it's a totally subjective issue and I fully acknowledge that I could have upset her.
I should also mention that when H talks about "speaking" to someone she means "having the kind of conversation you have at 3 AM when you're 14, about which teachers you secretly have a crush on and how you do kind of wish you were one of the popular girls." This is related to something I asked her about in my reply, which was her opinion that she's interested in "us and why we are the way we are," as in our small group of friends and acquaintances, and I'm interested in "films, politics and literature, and the outside world in general." That she would present these as opposing interests which meant that we could no longer be friends completely baffles me. Sars, I know that university changes people, but I've always been interested in "the outside world," which isn't to say that I'm not interested in gossip or hearing about my friends' lives. She seemed to be saying "I'm more interested in myself and my friends than anything else; sorry."
H replied thanking me for being so "kind," apologising for being "overly sensitive" and basically suggesting that we forget the whole thing. She said that she couldn't really explain what she meant about our different interests. When we met up a few days later, she apologised again and seemed genuinely embarrassed. Apart from that, everything was as normal — no sign of the apparently insurmountable difference in interests. This was all a few weeks ago, and since then two things have been bugging me:
1) She said she decided never to contact me again (before changing her mind)! This only really struck me recently, but surely it's pretty rude to tell someone that you decided your friendship with them was over. Although you might have a different interpretation, in my opinion her email basically said "I don't really like you anymore, but I want you to know that it's all your fault. Hey, want to apologise?" I now think I might have been too kind in my reply in an effort to reduce any awkwardness in the future, because even if H had stuck to her decision never to contact me again, we would definitely have seen each other at parties, etc.
2) I didn't really care. I have so many friends from whom an email like this would have been really upsetting, but my reaction to this was nothing more than irritation. I think this is a mixture of knowing how dramatic H can be and also just…not really caring. I'm sorry that she was upset, but I wouldn't have minded if our friendship never picked up again. She may have picked up on this before I did, which would explain why she felt I was being rude to her. I just don't know, because until she emailed me I had no idea that I felt like this. This might be a simple case of "friendships have a lifespan," except that H doesn't know what she wants. I know this sounds odd, but I don't really mind either way.
Basically, my questions are: What exactly happened here? Was H wrong to express her anger/sadness/irritation by telling me that she had decided to end our friendship? Was I too kind to her, or not kind enough? My instinct at the moment is to do what H wants and forget the whole thing — maybe it was caused by another problem in her life which she hasn't told me about — but I need some perspective on this.
Yes, we really are 19
I think you're right that H picked up on your…well, "apathy" is maybe a little harsh, but the fact that you don't have as much invested in the friendship as she apparently does. So, to answer your first question, I think that's what happened: she sensed that she doesn't mean as much to you as you do to her; she decided to make a big old drama out of capital-W Walking Away from it; when you failed to follow her, which she could have predicted, because you don't care as much as she does, she decided to make sure you knew she'd changed her mind about storming out of the relationship. That would get your attention, in a way that a more graceful withdrawal from/acceptance of the evolution of the friendship would not, and your attention is the central issue for H, I would guess — that she doesn't get enough of it, or the right kind, or whatever, and she hasn't gotten to that point in her life where she can accept that not everybody is BFF, or manage her feelings about that.
As far as whether it's "wrong" for H to have handled it that way…yeah, I suppose. "Wrong-headed" is probably more accurate, because at best, she overreacted to a simple miscommunication and now she looks like a dramaholic. More likely, she's playing on a sense of guilt, or pity, to keep you close to and/or paying attention to her; that isn't the most awesome friendship foundation, but…honestly, I don't know how much of a "friendship" this is. You walk on eggshells around her; the way you describe her hurt feelings, it's like a lawyer instructed you on how to phrase it so as not to draw any further ire, with the "subjective" this and the "I fully acknowledge" that. It's…not actually that subjective. Girl needs to grow a thicker skin, like yesterday, especially if she's going to try to provoke her so-called besties with condescending nonsense about how she's just more interested in people than in books, or…whatever that was.
She's got some growing up to do, and that being the case, you handled it the best way you could have. You let it go, which is the smart play; you took the least enmeshed, operatic route. I don't think a harsher tone or response would have helped the situation, but I do think you spend more time on managing her oversensitivity than your stated feelings for her would warrant. Don't you think? For instance: "I always try to tone it down around H if I think she won't appreciate the joke." Well, fine, that's nice of you, but if you can't even be yourself around her, what's the point of any of this. Not appreciating a joke is not going to kill her, and you calling her on it when she gets way oversensitive and brings the whole room down isn't going to kill you, either. In fact, it sounds like it's overdue.
The short version: she's a drama queen. She'll get over it eventually. Regardless, stop handling her like she's a bomb with 4 seconds left on the timer; you have better ways to spend your time.