Monday, January 09, 2006

The ex-friend

This is my entry for this month's Blogging for Books. Because the guest author is Lani Diane Rich who wrote Ex and the Single Girl , the topic is to write about your Ex, whatever that means to you. I'm happily married to my one and only so I don't have an ex-husband. My ex-boyfriends (as few as there are) didn't stick around long enough and weren't interesting enough to provide good fodder for this entry. So I started thinking about the only ex I have and that's an ex-friend.

An ex-friend is different than a former friend or an old friend. When a friendship ends because of distance or busy, separate lives, a friend becomes a former friend. When a friendship fades for those same reasons but you'd still call the person in a heartbeat if something came up, that friend is an old friend. But an ex-friend results from a friendship that is terminated on bad terms. This doesn't happen often - at least not to me. I have quite a few former and old friends and, in many cases, there's always the possibility that those friendships could be re-ignited under the right circumstances. I have one ex-friend (I'll call her Bev). The strange thing is that I don't for sure know why the friendship ended; I only know that it didn’t end well.

It was really a "couples" friendship - my husband and I became friends with Bev and her husband (I'll call him Doug) when mutual friends got married. Bev and I went to the bachelorette party, Big D and Doug went to the bachelor party and the four of us drove out of state to the wedding together. At the time, we lived one block apart. We were good friends for years - they were the first friends we told when I got pregnant with A Girl. They helped us bring her home from the hospital. We got season tickets to the theater and went on vacation together. Even after they moved to the suburbs, we managed to visit each other fairly regularly. After they had their daughter, we brought them our baby swing and other gear. We emailed, we talked on the phone and we went out to dinner. We were good friends.

And then Big D's mom died. She had a stroke and other serious medical problems. Big D was his family's rock - helping them understand what the doctors were saying, helping them make the difficult decision to let her go. It was agonizing for Big D and all of us who loved his mother.

I called Bev and Doug to tell them about Big D's mom. They were on vacation in Europe but I left a message. They didn't call back. A week or so later, I called again. Bev answered the phone. Before we could barely say hello, she said something like "Tell Big D I'm going to send him a condolence card." "Oh, ok." I said. Then she ended the call. And that was it, I never heard from her. I called and left a few messages. Nothing. A while later we got a condolence card from them. I don't remember what it said but I remember feeling like it had all the warmth of a form letter. It was the kind of card you send an acquaintance, not a good friend.

Big D and I racked our brains trying to figure out what we might have done to piss them off but we couldn't think of anything. For our part, we never called to try to make amends. Mostly because we didn't think we did anything wrong but partly because we were hurt. The only thing we could think of that might have led to the end of the friendship was that Big D and I thought about voting Republican in the 2000 Presidential election between Al Gore and George W. As friends often do, we talked about the election one night at dinner. We told them we were thinking about the possibility of voting for Bush because we weren’t sure we liked Al Gore. In all honesty, it was a lesser of two evils thing. By their reaction, you would have thought we told them that we robbed a liquor store. I thought Bev was going faint into her linguini.

So, it came down to politics. Apparently, they were so put off by the fact that we would even consider voting Republican – ever – that they decided they couldn’t be friends with us anymore. If that’s the case, I feel sorry for them. It must be hard holding onto convictions that are so frail they can’t withstand a little debate. Big D and I have friends from many different cultural, religious and political backgrounds. Hearing their varied points of view expands our knowledge even if we disagree with them. Besides, if we only made friends with people who agree with us on all major issues, we probably wouldn’t have many friends.


The Scarlett said...

I wrote an entry about an ex-friend before. It's sad to think about but it is very cleansing to put it down.

landismom said...

That's interesting. I have a similar problem with the parents of a (now ex-) friend of our daughter--but from the opposite end of the political spectrum. The dad got very upset that we had an anti-war sign on our door in early 2003, and hasn't let his daughter play with our daughter since. It's a bit inconvenient, since she's the only other elementary-school-aged kid on our block, and I keep wondering, what is he trying to teach his daughter through this? That if people disagree, they should just stop speaking to each other? It's odd...

Nothing But Bonfires said...

There's a great book that I keep browsing through at the bookstore -- it's called The One That Got Away, and it's all about ex-friends; have you seen it?

As for Bev and Doug, man, screw them. I know it's cheesy but it's true: you didn't want friends like that anyway. It's sad, I know, and it's strange that they'd just stop speaking to you. Maybe they just didn't know how to act around your husband after his mother died, because the four of you had only shared good times. I mean, not that that's any excuse or anything. But still.

Jessica said...

Wow...that IS sad. I kept reading, waiting for the big reveal of what ticked this lady off and it came down to...a difference in voting?! I'm sorry you had that experience - sounds like your ex-friend's loss.

Jessica said...

Scarlett - That's a sad story about you and Elinor. It's amazing that she would concoct that story about her son!

Landismom - I agree. We want our kids to be open-minded and able to discuss things with anyone, even if they have different opinions. I can't imagine not allowing my kid to play with another kid just because their parents viewed the war differently than I do!

NBB - I haven't seen that book but I'll check it out. You're right - who needs friends that can't stand when you disagree with them. There were other seemingly minor issues as well that probably played into the whole thing and I'm sure they didn't want to deal with our sadness. Which is too bad for them because I think Big D and I are great, fun friends to have!

Jessica - I wish there was some big thing that caused it because grasping at straws and wondering about it really sucked. Really, we're just speculating that our near-Republican experience was the thing because they reacted soooo strongly.

Sheryl said...

De-lurking to say hi. I can't imagine what was up with these people. I probably would have foolishly camped outside their house until they spilled it (or called the cops)

AfricaBleu said...

Some friendships just run their course, I guess. I have friends who were tight when we had babies, but as our kids grew up and we started following different paths, our friendships just sort of faded away. I just figure my new friends in my next phase of life are waiting around the corner for me to discover them.