I'm really lucky. I have epic friends but I have also made some tragic mis-steps in friendship. It's absurd that those are the ones I focus on- that haunt me.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I began a friendship with a girl who was also pregnant. I'll call her Marie. She gave birth two months after I did and I went to her baby shower. She was the underdog in the group I was hanging out with. The less popular one, the one that was made fun of and then ostracized eventually.
This always pissed me off, the games within the games. The nice thing about being a part of a group of misfits was that no one was excluded, anyone could come and be a part of things but some people are ridiculous no matter what and are just there to make you feel bad.
I existed within the subsets of group and people mostly because I refused to take sides and to ostracize people. I wonder if everyone didn't say "That Vanessa, she'll talk to anyone."
But truth is- I have always felt a kinship with the underdog and no matter what I always root for the misfit and this girl was in need of a friend. So, we began as most begin- with a common bond. We were young, single mothers trying to go to college, living with our parents who were driving us crazy. We couldn't wait for the boys to get to kindergarten so we could get steady jobs and steady lives- and we both had massive dreams- she wanted to be a singer and you all know what I wanted to be-
In the beginning, we talked on the phone a lot and kept one another sane and she would come over and visit when my parents were out of town. We used to stay up all night and play trivial pursuit. We had a pretty great time together, she was smart, funny, and I kind of tolerated her less than stellar traits. I mean, we went to musicals together, when the boys were older, we went on vacation together, went on road trips- went out to see bands.
I listened to her pain of losing her best friend- one day the girl had just called her up and said "the friendship is over, I'm done with you." no more explanation than that.
I was so critical of that moment for her. Loyalty is kind of a given for me. I'm ridiculously loyal to a fault. I have defended my friends and forgiven my friends, many times to my own detriment- but it is of paramount importance to me to be a good friend. There is no excuse for not being a good friend.
One of the things that bothers me is how long I allowed her to not be a good friend to me- but to hurt and hurt and hurt me. I think I was made to survive suffering. I suffered through my abusive father and suffered through my abusive boyfriends but it took me most of my life to figure out that I had an abusive friend.
Marie was the best friend you could ever have in crisis. And I had a lot of them. My life was drama from one minute to the next and I was often in need of rescue from one situation or another. Sometimes, I confess, I was so uncomfortable with the quiet that I created a drama so that there would be noise. I'm not proud of that.
She would often tell me I needed therapy and at the age of 24, I entered therapy. She might have been shocked when I actually did it.
It was the slow slide to the beginning of the end of many things for me. For the first time in our relationship, I got a voice. You know, if you tell someone to stand up for themselves enough times, eventually they will stand up to you.
It was the end of my tolerating abusive relationships. And that included her treating me like crap whenever she felt like it. I had tolerated her discouraging me from pursuing things she didn't approve of, tolerated her jealousy of my other friends, tolerated her calling my answering machine the day before New Year's eve, making plans with my answering machine (I actually had other plans) and then getting mad at me on my answering machine when I wasn't home on New Year's eve (I was working!) and going out with my ex-boyfriend instead, then bitching at me about it later...
Confused yet? We didn't speak for three months after that incident because I wasn't going to be held responsible for her making plans with my answering machine. But I got nostalgic and missed her and called her on Easter...
It went like that for a long time. She could be the nicest person, the most generous and loving, the most supportive friend- or the most evil, nasty, insulting low down cruel person you have ever met. She was babysitting one night at my parent's house and she left our boys outside on the back porch at midnight and they played with lighter fluid. They were eleven. When her son had third degree burns on him from lighting himself on fire, I rushed home from work, got someone to watch the kids and stayed up all night at the hospital with her.
The kid's father wasn't there but I was.
It was a tragic accident and I wasn't angry with her for her negligence of not watching the boys or properly keeping an eye on things because she had suffered enough. Never mind that my child had minor burns as well- and the accident was one hundred percent her son's own fault- she sued my parents.
Yeah- she tried to do that. Even though my parents were out of town and she was the responsible adult, she decided since it was their house, she would try to sue them.
And I stopped speaking to her for a very long time- I think it must have been a year because I told her this might destroy any trust I had left with her and she continued. Of course the case was thrown out before it ever went any where.
And she called me up one day to apologize and I forgave her. And tried to move past it. At some point after this, she gave me a cute blanket for Christmas or my birthday and it says "Friendship is Forever" and we said to each other, if our friendship can survive what was in our past, it can survive anything.
And I thought we might make it. But it became increasingly obvious over the next few years that she is an abusive bully who would do whatever she felt like to make me feel bad about myself and tear me down. She tried to bully her way into being my maid of honor (though that honor was long ago promised to my best friend from childhood) in my wedding and then proceeded to insult me because I wanted to wear a white dress.
Yes, she actually told me that I would be stepping on everything she held dear in her life if I wore white. That got her kicked out of the wedding party. I could go on with the litany of her abuses- the time she told me my son should have been an abortion-
I don't know why I felt I should keep forgiving her. Because friendship is forever?
People would ask me, why do you put up with her. I would defend her good side but the fact of the matter is that I was in an abusive friendship.
The final straw was when I located my son's half sister on my space and sent her an email- the girl was fifteen at the time and my son very much wanted to meet his father and his sister, so I reached out to her (this is a long and complex story) but Marie said "You are no better than a child abuser."
and that began a litany of nasty emails back and forth with one another.
I'm not proud of some of the things I said to her- I don't know if she regrets what she said to me but at the end I told her I did not see any hope for this friendship unless we went to therapy to seek some help and she said she would think about it. Think about it? Really?
That was it. I realized for the first time- I was better off without this friendship. That I was done. Forever. That this frienship was over forever. I didn't need to go to therapy with her to fix what is irretrievably broken. I have real friends who care about me who don't tear me down and make me question myself, who don't constantly try to make me feel bad about myself, who say things with my best interests at heart. I wanted her to be something she would never be. A friends without jealousy, nastiness and conditions on her kindness. So I let go.
It took me such a long time to realize I was in an abusive friendship- that she was abusing me on the most base of levels and that her hypocrisy was intolerable.
She used to find reasons to try to separate me from my other friends- she hated everyone I liked. And these people were not allowed to make mistakes. I was supposed to forgive her atrocities but she wanted me to judge harshly the most minor of indiscretions from others.
The long and short of this is that blanket still exists and I still keep it in my house as my badge of survival and thank God I didn't have that friendship forever. I've been in recovery from her for three years now and have never been so happy to have someone out of my life!