Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Balance of Two Evils

Andrew Clark: What do they [your parents] do to you?
Allison Reynolds: They ignore me.

-- The Breakfast Club (1985)

I recently had a conversation with my friend Mark about some mutual friend we had whom we both had lost touch with. Thing is, neither of us so much "lost touch" with her so much as we no longer really cared to keep her company. Since that conversation I've come to realize that that decision -- the conscious decision to just stop making efforts to keep in someone's company -- more than once in my life. (Most prominent example here.)

Which is when I got to thinking: is there a difference between "hating" someone (or even "really disliking" someone), and just no longer really caring about them?

It seems that objectively, there is an actual difference between "just losing touch" and having a full-on falling-out. But for the person whose being involuntarily "dumped," does that make much of a difference?

Dee, for example, still doesn't really realize what happened between us that caused me to decide to stop really including her in my life. She's never inquired and I've never bothered to fill her in. As far as I can tell, she doesn't know whether my decision is based upon a one-time (and one-sided) falling-out, or whether we just drifted apart. Does this make a functional difference to her?


Joanne and I pretty much suffered from a similar fate. We were friends in high school and through a little of college, but eventually -- at least the way I characterize it -- we drifted apart. We weren't that interested in keeping up with each other's lives anymore. We just gradually stopped calling, stopped writing or exchanging emails, and even stopped the once-a-year holiday card exchange. Even though I've been in one place for over 10 years now, she hasn't seen the need to inform me when she moves to a new city. (Even when that new city is Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of DC.) And I don't fault her for that.

Mark does keep in touch with her, though, and the real truth of the matter is that she feels about me the same way I feel about Dee -- there are certain characteristics of mine that she doesn't care for, and these don't outweigh any of the pros of keeping in touch with me. Hm, is this a karmic payback, or just the way life goes? (Is there even a difference between the two?)

Does this distinction make a difference for me? It kinda does, if for no other reason than I'm one of those people who just likes to be liked. Even though I know you can't please all of the people all of the time, it distresses me when I think that people -- particularly people I've shared some really good times with as friends -- actually don't like me anymore, as opposed to just drifted away from me. (Though it's getting easier and easier for me to put aside the "need-to-be-liked" mentality and just ask that people accept me for who and how I am.)

But is that just me? Perhaps in Dee's mind, she and I have "just drifted apart," and she's perfectly okay with that, the same was as I am okay with my former relationship with Joanne. Or perhaps Dee knows that there was actually a precipitating event (though she can't place her finger on it); if she does, does this change anything about her perception of our former relationship?

Someone once said something to the effect of "It's better to be talked about badly, than to not be talked about at all." It's kind a turn of "there's no such thing as bad publicity." Is the same true for situations like the one I'm rambling about? Is it better to be thought of and disliked, or to not be thought of at all?


Steve said...

I think people really do just 'drift apart' for no apparent reason, but you hit on one thing that hit home for me; wanting to be liked. I've stopped doing it, but for the longest time, I found myself agreeing to things I would've never agreed to do because, in my mind, if I said no, that person wouldn't like me anymore. How f**ked up is that? If there was some heavy falling out and it was something that's bothering you, you should probably try and clear it up though.

duane said...

You are totally right; people just drift apart, and sometimes, it is for no reason at all. This has happened to a lot of people from my old friend group, and I honestly can't pinpoint the moment when we all just stopped hanging out. We literally did stuff all the time, and now, nothing.

Maybe it was when James and I got together, but if that is the tradeoff, I am fine with it. Either way, I have lots of new friends now... so I guess when they drift off, I will just find more; I guess that is the circle of friend life.

Drew said...

Agreed - most of us don't like to admit it, but many relationships have life expectancies. Things change and people move on and drift apart.

To answer your final question, though, I'd say that that's entirely dependent on the situation. We all want to memorable, of course, but there are many people I've met whom I'd rather never think of me again. And then there are others whom, if they didn't think of me at all, I'd be devastated.

Washington Cube said...

People do drift, 'tis true, but it depends on how much you want or need to sustain this relationship. For some that I've wanted to and was willing to work for, but they weren't, you do have to cut the tie and let them drift off out of your life. I'm notorious for sustaining friendship, but...huge pause here...it takes work. We are living in a society that is more and more inclined to hasten and propel us forward and rob us of that little pot of time we each begin the day with. How much are you willing to give? How much are they willing to give? It's a delicate balance, Mr. Dennis. Good luck in finding your answers.

Matthew said...

I've been on both sides of this. I've dumped a friend, and a friend has dumped me. On both occasions, it turns out that I had the wrong idea about why I had been dumped, and the friend I had dumped had the wrong idea about why they'd been dropped from my life. It's probably best to either have a falling-out, and lay it out there bare for all to see, or to quietly explain why the friendship is ending.

Just my two cents.

Neil Morse said...

I'm one of the ones who just stop making an effort. I do this because I'm a chickenshit about anger and hostility, and avoid it all by just doing nothing and losing friends by attrition.

RetroDragon said...

I just found out the other day that a friend I've known since I was ten had a baby. We kept in touch until a year or so ago, ironically right after I returned to the States. For some reason, we were able to make the effort to stay in touch when we were separated by a few oceans, but when we lived within a Metro ride of one another it all just kind of stopped. It's like we didn't have to try anymore, because, in theory, we could always see one another. Now, it's a year later, she has a baby, and I still haven't e-mailed her. Go figure.

Kate said...

I can't believe this person doesn't read your blog. If she does, she knows how you feel. If she doesn't, then she may really not care what you think or feel anyway.

Just a thought............