Monday, October 13, 2008

When good friends go bad (and how to write about them!)

I am one loyal cookie. I am still friends with my best friends from Northeast Elementary Kindergarten (a happy shout-out to Carolyn Zeytoonian who stole all my pens and pencils and along with me, was the terror of the safety patrols; Judy Hartley, who taught me how to wear makeup in sixth grade and who showed me where her mother's "pep pills" were; and Kathy Hill, whose house was my home away from home--loved you then, love you now), and I just like the long ebb and flow of a forever kind of friendship. But I've had friendships tour sour and it has always taken me by surprise.

This is the roster:
1. A great friend of Jeff's and mine suddenly got into bodybuilding, and began photographing himself pulling a Mack truck chained to his chest. He ditched his wife of 17 years (we loved her) in a very cruel way. OK, he isn't the same person, so maybe that makes sense.

2. A fabulous rock and roller journalist we both really liked--sweet, generous, funny, smart--a nice Jewish girl who heard God talking to her one night and veered 180 degrees to right wing Christianity. She ditched a Christian beau who didn't love Jesus as much as she did and she doesn't want to talk to anyone who does not believe as she does. This one I really miss.I think, too, that she is just lonely and for her, Jesus is the one man who will never leave her. I don't really mind what she believes as long as she allows me my beliefs.

3. A great friend of years and years who changed the day she got married. It seemed clear her husband didn't like me (WHAT? How could he not like ME??!!!) and it rubbed off. This one I really mourn. I tried to patch this one up, but it never gelled.

4. The last and scariest. A writer friend--a very successful writer friend--who was furious when I wouldn't take her suggestions for rewriting a manuscript and proceeded to write about it. Publically. Not using names, but most of my writer friends knew what and who it was about. I've been very "go with God-ish" about this particular person, but I have heard that this person refuses to blurb anyone who is blurbed by me, which is sad for the authors who could use that person's blurb.

So, why am I still obsessed? Because I can't let anything once good go? Because I don't quite understand why these friendships couldn't weather change? Because I am obsessive by nature? Outside of number #1, whose cruelty made it impossible to forgive, why couldn't things resolve with the others somehow?

I imagine, too, that it is a writer sort of question. What makes a friendship die? When do you walk away and say Do Not Revive?


Clea Simon said...

This is a great topic to write about, but oh so sad. I have one friend who is sort of nutty (she's had a variety of diagnoses and tried a ton of meds) and sometimes I have to get some distance from her. But I keep coming back. We've been friends for more than 20 years and I try to cut her slack when she's manic and focus on the times she's not.

The only friend I've ever dropped was a woman who tried to seduce my then-boyfriend, now-husband Jon. When I talked to her about it, she said, "Oh, I wouldn't have let anything happen!" As if it were her choice. She clearly just wanted to show her power and I (and Jon) don't see her anymore.

Gina Sorell said...

I too find this a difficult topic. I am also a loyal friend and am still best friends with my pals since 4th grade...but there have been times as an adult that I have had to let friendships go. It was never easy and there was always closure and an understanding that was reached by both of us...I hate unfinished business, and I need to be understood, and I need to know that everyone is okay...but still it is sad when a friendship ends. Now the few that did end for me, needed to as they were not healthy friendships...and I equate them with that philosophical position that states "until we learn what it is we are supposed to learn, we will repeat the same thing over and over". OR in my case, "you will have the same type of friendship with the same type of person over and over." Apparently I needed to learn to stop being a doormat.

As for how I write about them...they appear in speech patterns and characteristics of characters in my work...and in that way I am able to smile and love them for what they are.