52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Say something once, why say it again?

On 11th December 2002, I received the following email from Justin (let's call him that, because that is his name), a friend I have known since 1981:

"Okay, here's the thing. Now I was going to send this months ago but I guess I was avoiding it, thinking I wouldn’t have to and now I do.

I just don’t see the point in us being friends anymore. And far from being a weird and immature decision, I think it’s a very adult one. The last year or so that we’ve all met up things have been very strained between us. No one seems that happy to see each other. No one really asks or seems to care how the others really are. Bitterness and envy - I don’t know why - seem to hang in the air, coming from all three of us. The atmosphere is very odd. And there’s bickering and bad looks and bad moods. And I feel all three of us are guilty of this. Just the whole experience isn’t great. It’s not all the time - meeting up with you both, there’s doubtless some good moments over the weekend/whatever but there’s also lots of other things going on and I don’t know why. It’s almost as though none of us really wants to hang out together but we feel we have to. We’re clinging to years of history together. And it doesn’t have to be like that.

I guess another problem is that I never feel this way with any other friends of mine. I always feel they want to see me and that we have a laugh. And that when I leave them I want to see them again and there aren’t any problems. But it’s not like that when I’ve seen you guys. I always feel one of you or me is pissed off. They’re pained experiences. And so I’ve just been wondering why we still do it, why we still meet up. I don’t really think you two are bothered. I’ve got one email from each of you since Glasto. No phone calls. Jon’s was a line asking out of the blue if he could come over. Yours Tim was a massive one this week. That’s it. All other emails have been group jokes/group get-togethers. Nothing personal at all - no how are yous, where are you, what’s wrong. Nothing. I don’t really think any of us want to hang around each other anymore.

BUT I don’t think the blames lays at any one person’s door. I’m not finger pointing and I don’t want any bitter slanging matches. I think for whatever reason we’ve just all grown apart and we’re different people now and we should move on. We’ve had some good laughs and let’s just leave it at that."
As you might imagine, I found this a little upsetting. In fact, nearly 2 years later it still upsets me when I read it.

This was a total bolt out of the blue, and was the last time I ever heard from him directly. At first I was just plain confused - I just had no inkling that this was on the cards. Sure, I hadn't really had a good chat with Justin for a while, but that in itself isn't all that unusual (I have several friends I hardly see, but we just seem to be able to pick up where we left off...) I had left him a message on his answering machine, had sent him a long chatty email a couple of weeks before, and when he hadn't responded to that, had wondered what was up and emailed his girlfriend through her website - it was the day after that I got this. I checked up with a mutual friend in London to make sure he was okay and hadn't gone mental or anything, and was told that he was fine and seemed really happy. I still don't know what brought this on.

I still see a lot of some of the friends we had in common from school - people who are in theory still his friends, but because they are also my friends and John's friends, in practical terms they haven't seen him either. Mik is getting married in a couple of weeks, and Justin won't be there. Des is getting married in January, and I don't know if Justin will be there either....

I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now. It is a bit like being dumped, I think - he's made up his mind and I have no say in the decision. Surely friends just drift apart and eventually lose touch? Why do they need to be dropped? Why do you need this closure?

I'm not 100% sure why I'm posting this up here... it still hurts to read that, and because we have so much history together, I always find myself thinking about him and the things we used to get up to. Stupid things remind me of him, like when Spider-Man came out (Justin is a huge fan), whenever I hear Belle & Sebastian (I used to take the piss out of him for liking them, now I love them), the fact that I live in Nottingham and he is (or at least was) a huge Nottingham Forest fan....

I'm not saying I want him back as a friend (that would be weird - I saw him at Glastonbury in 2003 and he blanked me completely), but I still feel, I don't know, bereaved of our friendship.


  • At 7:51 pm, Blogger The Num Num said…

    Some people just need an act of closure, especially if they've read a book on self-help or been on a course etc. The act just forms a symbolic moment after which they can just move on in life. What he's done is fairly mature in my view (odd, but mature) in that he's realised that he doesn't feel good around certain people, that being with them or the potential thought of having to discourse with them makes him ill, so he's decided to just fess up and move on - clearly stating its nobody's fault and life will go on.
    I feel like that at work sometimes, especially with a recent Sickly Sweet person, just the thought of his actions would make me ill. Still, how we handle things is different.
    You, young man, are very sensitive, and should see this for what it is. A person moving on, in the only way he knows how. Don't get upset, be happy...
    Dr Num Num (talking absolute bollocks as usual)

  • At 8:30 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    You think? You don't think we might have had some sort of conversation about it? I've always thought that the worst part of that email was his assertion that it was the mature thing to do, when it didn't feel like that to me at all. You know, hey... check out how adult I am.

    I'm already glad I posted this up - I've never really thought about it from that point of view before. I still think it was a weird thing to do, but I think the point of view of people who don't really know any of the parties involved will be pretty interesting.

    How would you feel if one of your oldest friends sent you that and then never spoke or corresponded with you again??

  • At 10:35 pm, Blogger JustSue said…

    I fell out with a friend a number of years ago when I was still living in Derby. My fault - I said something I shouldn't have, to the wrong person. I often wondered what she was doing and how things were going.

    Recently I noticed she had joined "FriendsReunited" a UK website. So I immediately messaged her. Several times in fact. And still nothing back, not even an acknowledgement. It hurts - considering the history we shared.

  • At 1:24 am, Blogger Mark said…

    Mature, my arse. It's brave, but there's a thin line between brave and stupid. Sure, I've lost friends, but it was just a case of not seeing each other anymore, or losing phone numbers, it was natural and it was painless. We saw each other less. Then not at all.

    It wasn't like this.

    Fuck him.

    Sure it's upsetting, but in the big scheme of things, it's entirely unecessary. Why hurt when you don't have to? That's not the type of person you want in your life. Trust me, I know.

  • At 3:02 am, Blogger Di Gallagher said…

    How odd. I mean, I kind of understand where he was coming from, but it is a truely odd thing to follow through with and just plain weird. And yeah, just a bit immature.
    A mature person would have just started making excuses not to see you and eventually just dropped out of your life, excepting weddings, funerals and christenings.

  • At 9:11 am, Blogger LB said…


    the first thing I am not sure about is "why" you'd do something like that? Friends do drift apart but I am not sure why you'd feel the necessity to actully formalise this in quite such blunt terms.

    I did think that the definition of a friend was that they stuck by you, were loyal, yes you do fall out but you make up and get on with it. "We've grown apart" is nonsense, if you are true friends then you grow together in spite of differences and changes in your lives that develop and you dont necessarily like or agree with.

    This also strikes me as the result of outside influence. No-one comes to this conclusion on their own, its a course of counselling or lots of self-help manuals that have driven this. Or reading Geri Halliwell's autobiography.

    It is clearly going to bother you (I would be mortified if this happened to me) but stop justifying whether you were responsible for this (er, you clearly weren't) and, as hard as it obviously is, ignore the bugger and stick with your [real] friends.

    I'd delete the e-mail as well. Keeping it is just going to make you fret about the whole thing, he's moved on so I'd be inclined to do the same.

    sigh. I thought it was only your family that gave you this sort of bother.

  • At 9:19 am, Blogger Teresa Bowman said…

    It does seem to me like a very odd thing for him to do.

    I've kind of been in a similar situation with this girl who was a very close friend of mine from when we were about 17 - we used to have lots in common, but in recent years it was a terrible experience meeting up with her again because we had absolutely nothing to talk about and she (not being able to stand the lack of conversation) felt she had to employ lots of sighs and "Wells" and "Heh hehs" to cover up the awkward silence. After the last occasion like that I thought it would probably be pointless meeting up with her again, and she evidently thought the same, as there's been hardly any contact between us for about the last year and a half, apart from a couple of desultory text messages. But I wouldn't dream of sending her a long e-mail setting out in detail all the reasons why we shouldn't ever meet again, and I can't imagine she would do anything like that either. I agree with you - what's the point?

    Seems to me that Mr Num Num is right - sounds like he's read some dreadful self-help book or other which advised him to formally ditch any people in his life that he saw as "unnecessary". Probably called "How To Lose Friends And Alienate People" or something. Huh.

  • At 9:47 am, Blogger The Num Num said…

    After reading the comments I've realised that maybe Mature isn't a good word to use. I thought of it as a differentiator from the 'break up break up never gonna make up' rhymes that kids usually throw at eachother. I did say it was an odd method to close a chapter on a life, but I still think thats what he's done. He's gone for closure in a way he thinks will bring it.

    Agree with the approach that polite excuses to avoid contact would have been better. Its what I'd to to be honest, just slowly get the point across that - sure we had fun, but look I'm busy with other stuff maybe some othertime if we're lucky? - rather than just blank people. I have to admit, I've never blanked a friend, nor broken up with a friend in such a dramatic fashion.

    I totally agree that you should delete the email. I also think that you are not to blame (why am I thinking emotional blackmail here?) Mate, as far as I can see, you are just a sensitive well to do gentleman that cannot comprehend this rather unusual behaviour. My advice, just move on. You've obviously got a lot of great friends (Even if they dress in nurses uniforms and hold the belief that the Aussies are gonna get beat by England ;-)

    Take it easy chap...

  • At 12:09 am, Blogger OLS said…

    di gallagher posted a link to you on her blog and what do you know, the first post I read really resonated with me.

    I've had the same sort of problem that Justin talks about - feeling that a friend just wasn't making the effort to stay friends and wanting closure. The problem from my point of view was that I felt guilty for some reason that our friendship wasn't what it used to be. And I also felt rejected because she was making no effort.

    So I can see why someone would write an email like that. I wanted to, but was talked out of it by a mutual friend. I guess I wanted her to know why I wasn't going to be making the effort anymore. But your commenters are right - it's not mature, it's childish - hurting someone else to make yourself feel better. The mature thing is to let it slide. In my case, I didn't even have to make excuses, I just had to stop trying.

    Since then, she's only contacted me once - wanting to catch up for coffee. I didn't turn her down, but I did postpone her until it was a better time for me. And nothing's come of it since. *shrugs*

    - OLS

  • At 9:10 am, Blogger Aravis said…

    The most telling part of Justin's email I thought was his mention of bitterness, envy, bad looks and bad moods. If you weren't aware of any of this going on, then chances are it was something Justin was feeling and projecting on you. He speaks of how you and your friends didn't call or email him enough. How often did he pick up the phone or contact you? He was obviously stewing about something, and felt neglected in addition. The mature thing would have been to talk to you and your mutual friends about how he was feeling. Instead, it seems to me that he bottled it up and then blew. I think he knew it too, or he wouldn't have felt the need to emphasize his "maturity." Who was he trying to reassure: you or himself?

    It's sad. I've lost friends along the way and never forgotten them. I'm sorry you had to lose this one, in this way.

  • At 1:11 am, Blogger x said…

    Your story rings so true... at this very moment a 13 year friendship I've had is eroding because I guess we're just not that interested in each other's lives anymore, even though we're in the same group of friends. This particular weekend was quite hard because she pulled some surprisingly unfriendly moves and it took all the motivation in the world to confront her... what exactly does confrontation accomplish? Saving a friendship that hasn't really existed in years?

    Basically, it just sucks having a friendship in which people hang out because they are supposed to. I'm not saying that reading Justin's email shouldn't hurt, I'm only being the Devil's advocate. I do believe he should have confronted you in person, but then again, what's the point? He didn't want a response, his decision had been made, unfortunately. You really don't want to be friends with someone who feels differently... I hope that one day you can be close again.

  • At 2:47 pm, Blogger Me said…

    Can't really add much more to what's already been said, but I think this is another weird thing that happens when we reach a certain age. Some people just can't handle the fact that you have a new sphere of people in your life.

    I've got loads of friends I don't see much anymore. Some can cope with it, and we have a great time, and talk about the old times, and it all ends up being a thoroughly nostalgic time, and we think "wasn't life so much better then", and "I must make more effort".

    Then we return to our current lives and become occupied again with the people we see every day, and those special people from the past remain special people from the past who we see occasionally.

    Other people from the past can't handle the fact that life moves on, and that those glorious days of youth will never come back, and can't cope with an occasional nostalgic reunion. They pile on the pressure - "why haven't you been in touch?" etc.

    It seems that Justin is unable to cope with the change in your relationship. Unable to cope with the fact that people move on, but that doesn't mean that you forget about each other.

    I have to say that sending you an email, and not responding to your call and emails is a bit of a cowardly way out. He should have at least called, or spoken to you face to face.

    One of my friends says that "friends are ships that pass in the night." I've always thought that's only true if you can't accept that people move on. If you can accept it, you can also accept that people change their priorities, but that doesn't make them any less special.

    Sorry to hear you're going through this.

  • At 2:36 am, Blogger OLS said…

    Thanks for dropping by my blog SwissToni.

    Re intellectual vs emotional opinions - apparently it's normal for guys to form opinions intellectually, but women are more likely to form opinions emotionally. But then I'm a lawyer, so I think it cancels out - we're trained to form opinions intellectually! ;o)

    You sound like my Dad - he plays devil's advocate as well. And he does it remarkably well.

    - OLS


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