I’ve just read an article by Lionel Shriver about friendship and what I found most fascinating was how totally opposite her attitude is to mine – she seems absolutely comfortable with friendships just dissolving gradually, she talks as though by the time we’ve become adults we shouldn’t need to resort to the drama of ending friendships with a quarrel, whereas for me, a quarrel is so much more helpful for closure, for knowing that this friendship really has ceased to exist, and knowing why. I need reasons, and I need to know where I am. Quarrels can be extremely painful, but at least then I know what happened. I hate not knowing. I hate the sense of possible humiliation because… I don’t know, I guess I feel kind of embarrassed saying “I have a friend who ……….” (e.g. lives in Basingstoke/drives a Ford Fiesta/works in fashion/used to date David Cameron’s younger brother/whatever) and wondering if this person I’m talking about actually still regards me as a friend or not, because I haven’t heard from her in ages.
I guess this connects to insecurities I have as a result of some painful experiences in the past – fear of rejection haunts me, but even more so, fear of being laughed at, being mocked. I won’t start opening up my childhood experiences in this post, I don’t feel there’s a need to get specific here, I’m sure I’m not the only one walking around with these sort of emotional scars that make me more unsure about people wanting to be my friends, and more wary of possible humiliation.
I’ve sometimes thought romantic relationships are in a sense much more straightforward than friendships – not that romantic relationships tend to be very straightforward generally… but in this particular sense I think they are, because they tend to have a beginning and (for those that don’t last forever) a clear ending. They don’t tend to just fizzle out gradually – and even if one side of the relationship is trying to just fade out and avoid having “the talk”, the other side wouldn’t be seen as being unreasonable if she/he said: hey, what’s going on, why haven’t I heard from you for the last week/month/whatever… why aren’t you returning my calls… that sort of thing… Whereas with a friend, you’d worry about sounding like a drama queen, you’d – well, maybe you wouldn’t, but I definitely would worry about seeming very insecure and needy, so I’d dress it up as “just wondering if you’re ok, haven’t heard from you for a while”, and then when I get an email back saying “actually I’ve had a terrible time, my boyfriend left me and I got sacked from work and the radiator in the bathroom leaked all the way down to the kitchen and I’ve had to leave the workmen to fix it whilst I went to see my mother because she’s got pneumonia” I would feel guilty about the sigh of relief: phew, she hasn’t ditched me, she’s just having a nightmare.
So you see why I don’t cope very well with the fizzling-out approach to ending friendships… I’d much rather have a good old row, have a door loudly slammed in my face and then sit in the corner and cry for a while and move on. I like to know where I stand.