Sunday, May 06, 2007

Betty & Veronica Fist-Fight Long Distance


I've been pondering friendship today.

I have an old friend, in fact she is the friend I've known longest, and for that reason I cut her more slack than I might someone newer to my life. Our mothers knew each other, and our daughters are friends. In fact, we know each other because our parents met when her family moved to our town, and my mother volunteered me to introduce her to other kids. It felt like a blind date, something I always avoided, but we hit it off well enough. That was a long time ago. We haven't been 18 in years.

She means well. At least I think she does, but she treats me like a moron. No matter what I do, she criticizes me and demands that I do it her way. For my own good. Of course I ignore her. I have always had a problem with authority figures as I dislike being told what to do. I certainly don't make friends with them. Friendship by definition is a relationship between equals.

She has sometimes been there for me when I needed a friend, but the cost is high. She is bossy and abrasive, and seems to consider herself my self-appointed life coach, while I do not believe that I need one. If I did, I would not choose her for the job. After all, I have survived many hardships and I am still here. I have not lost my compassion for others or my sense of humor. My capacity for joy is alive and well. I have become stronger because I had to, and I like myself better now than I ever have. So why does she persist in treating me as if I'm stupid? She is a Special Ed teacher, but this behavior predates her teaching career by many years.

Strangely, perhaps, we have never had much in common. We have vastly different value systems. She has only been involved with wealthy men because they provided well, regardless of how they got that way. We do not want the same things out of life. I have never liked any of her other friends. Our own relationship survives mainly because of longevity. She does not care for animals. She is the kind of mother who eats her young. And her plants die.

This morning on the phone, she started again. Her voice took on a familiar hard edge as she reminded me that it was stupid for Flip and me to live in San Francisco for reasons I can barely remember. Let's just call them blah, blah, blah, and blah. I told her very calmly that she treats me as if I'm stupid, and I am not. (I saw Flip's head spin around like Linda Blair's, smiling. He has wanted me to address this for years.) She denied that she thinks I'm stupid, but continued to push her superior plan for my life as if it justified her behavior.

I said that she couldn't possibly respect me since she thinks I make poor decisions. I pointed out that I have done quite well in handling most of the crises I've been dealt, and demeaning me does not match my definition of friendship. I know that nothing will change, but I feel better for standing up to her. And I've bought myself a week or two of tranquility while she sulks. I just read a post on Another Tangential Thinker in which CS responds to five interview questions. Here is what she says about friendship in Question 5.

I would like all my friends to be more like her.

43 comments:

EsLocura said...

My friend Liz passed away recently and it was I who was there until the end. We had a running joke "I'll back you up even if you become a lumber jack or have wild sex with one". I didn't do either of those,but she backed me up,always, it was uncontional love and respect despite differences, and we were as different as night and day.

Lee said...

This friend sounds more like an old habit than a friendship.

In my experience, insecurity is often the reason one person tries to project their own ways of life onto another. I might hazard to guess that this person is not quite sure of herself but thinks if she yells about it enough, it will make it so.

thailandchani said...

I agree with CS's definition of friendship to a large degree. :) Of course, my answer would require a whole blog post in itself!

As for your person this morning, there is just no way I could have a friend like that, longevity or not. Acceptance of who I am is too essential to any friendship I have.

And I of course offer the same.


Peace,

~Chani

Bob said...

One thing I have learned is that you can't change your friends. You have to accept them as they are. Sometimes there is that certain undefinable something that keeps the friendship alive.

Then again, Lee could easily be right. She's a habit that you may need to break.

la cubana gringa said...

It's difficult to be friends with someone who continually drains your energy...you did the right thing by standing up for yourself.

I've come to believe that true friends who really care will change if you let them know that something they're doing hurts you...so you shouldn't need to change your friends, they should be able to willingly change for you.

furiousBall said...

People like that are just emotional vampires, any time I'm around someone like that, I feel so tired and very glad they're gone. People that spout off how smart they are constantly tend to be the stupidest in the herd, and if I was the Cheetah, I'd totally go after their, ne'er do well asses first. raaaar.

Ian Lidster said...

Isn't it just such a natural that your 'friend' should be a special ed teacher? Honestly, I detest people like that. You captured my thoughts almost exactly, in fact my recent blog is about that same sort of patronizing attitude one gets from some.
Of course, the obvious is that your friend is very unhappy with her life and envies yours. Good, she deserves to be unhappy.
Ian

Pendullum said...

My oldest friend is dying now,she came to me a few months ago with the news...
She has always done everything right... and I was always doing things wrong... and for 35 years it has been like this...
and where I have stood up for my self in the past and where i used to think how, how can we still be friends???when we are like oil and water???
We have our history, we have out past... and alas, the future we have now, is just reminding each other that it indeed mattered...

meno said...

What Lee said about a habit.

It's hard to break a tie that goes so far back into your past, and only you can decide if you want to break it, but today you have done something to loosen that tie.

Feels good huh?

riseoutofme said...

Hope you don't mind me commenting ... found you through mollybawn chronicles.

Doesn't sound like any kind of a friend to me.

Sounds like shes eating your soul.

Be careless, lose her.

Molly said...

I think you need to lose your friend's phone number , and change yours! With friends like that....you know the saying. Loved reading your link's words on friendship. I'll drink to that....

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Eslocura,

There is an Aztec proverb, "A true friend is better than a necklace of fine pearls around your neck."

I'm so sorry about the loss of your true friend.

Lee,

I think you're right on all counts.

Chani,

I have no doubt that I would agree with your answer.

You raise a valid point. I think that I have been accepting because it is my way, without examining closely enough that I am not accepted.

Bob,

Or maybe she is my Purple Cow:

"I never saw a purple cow,
I never hope to see one,
But this I will say anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one."

La Cubana,

I don't think she even realizes that she is putting me down. I suspect that she doesn't do this with her other friends because they are all wealthy. She has really bad values.

I'm just realizing that it's another form of abuse.

Furious,

I've referred to her for years as an energy vampire. You're one pretty smart cheetah, ain'tcha?

Ian,

I'll go and read your post as soon as I'm done here.

I hadn't thought of it, but you may be right that she envies me in some way, going wayyy back to when we were very young.

She has gone through her life with a sense of entitlement, and is bitter that it hasn't panned out for her.

Pendullum,

I'm really sorry about your friend.

I don't think that being different is a deal breaker, and in fact, it can keep a friendship fresh. What matters to me is similar values, respect and acceptance.

I think Lee is right about habit being a big factor.

Meno,

I know that she will never change, so it's up to me to accept all the warts or not.

And yet, if I hadn't known her nearly all my life, it would be a no-brainer.

Riseout,

I'm happy you've come by, and I love your comments.

"It sounds like she's eating your soul" and "Be careless, lose her."

Such great advice! Thank you.

Molly,

Who needs an enemy indeed?

Actually, I rarely call her. She doesn't seem to notice. I think her eyes turn inward.

Cece said...

I'm proud of you, too, for standing up for yourself! Way to go!

Ian Lidster said...

By the way, I was always enchanted and aroused by the 'Veronicas' of the world until I actually married one -- be careful of what you wish for, etc. Big mistake. Scary big mistake.

Ian

PS thank you for your compliment on my blog

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Cece,

Awww, thank you. I don't think it should have been necessary, though.

Ian,

At least you learned. Archie never did. I'm so glad you're happy now. Wendy sounds very lovely.

And I only said those nice things because they were true.

Christina_the_wench said...

It doesn't sound like she is telling you how to run your life out of love. And I agree with lee. It sounds like a habit not a friendship. Pity for her. You'd be a wonderful friend in real life I imagine. =)

Island Spice said...

Howdy Heart, long time no comment. Good for u that u stood up to your friend.. let her know there are lots of people who like u just fine .. even tho some have never met u. Me for one :)

Kevin Charnas said...

Right on. Good for you. Truly.

I ditched a "friend" of 23 years, 3 years ago. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. There are certain attributes about her that I miss terribly. But over all, I did the right thing.

I realized that it was the right thing to do when it was her that was losing a friend, not me.

Jay said...

She sounds like she's not much of a friend - you can't be getting very much out of this relationship.

Probably she treats everyone this way though, so don't take it too personally. It's probably her way of feeling a bit superior.

Open Grove Claudia said...

Boy that's hard. I have been in that position.

I admire your willingness to believe that things might be different. And you are a hell-a courageous gal to just put it out there. I'm standing on my chair applauding you!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Christina,

You know, you're right. I am a supportive friend.

And I don't think anybody is pushy out of love, but out of a need to control others, perhaps because their own lives are out of control.

Spice,

I've missed you! Speaking up was an idea whose time had come.

Kevin,

Thanks for understanding. It is hard to take a stand after so many years. There are very few people who knew me when I was that young.

But every time I think the relationship has died of attrition, she calls or visits.

Big lessons for me here, obviously. And your friend is much the poorer for losing you.

Jay,

You could be right. It's really sad when someone has to resort to such tactics to feel better about herself. I don't grasp the joy of feeling superior, either. The concept does nothing for me.

Claudia,

It's further complicated by the fact that her daughter, who I'm fond of, is my daughter's friend.

I'm not that courageous, though. I really dislike confrontation, but if pushed hard enough, I can do it.

Michael C said...

I have a very good friend who may be a little more 'book smart' than I am and can be very condescending towards me. I really had just tuned it out until my wife noticed and said something to me.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Michael,

I don't think it has anything to do with intelligence, but with control.

Sometimes I have to admire her perseverance, though. Nobody has ever found controlling me easy, yet she keeps trying.

urban-urchin said...

Good for you!!!

I think Lee might be on to something. Sometimes we outgrow friends.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Urchin,

I also think Lee nailed it.

And you are right about outgrowing friendships, especially those with whom we were never really on the same wave length anyway.

CS said...

Wow, thanks so much for that!I'll treasure it.

I recently had a friend (of 18 years) who has always been supportive but has been hounding me relentlesly with cruel questions and advice about my divorce (a sample: "Have you considered how this will affect your children." Oh, shit, I have chilren?? I completely forgot!) and I tried several ways to ask her to stop - very directly. She would not and I finally told her I was done, that she was not being a friend to me. It's hard to do, but sometimes necessary for sanity.

(Oh and this: "She is the kind of mother who eats her young." That cracked me up.)

flutter said...

good for you, seriously.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Cs,

I may have to steal your words when we have the breakup speech.

And you're very welcome. I thank YOU for your most thoughtful and thought-provoking laundry list of qualities you require in a friend. You helped so much to put some things in perspective for me, and I appreciate the validation of things I was feeling, but not openly expressing to myself.

Flutter,

Thank you. Even such a small accomplishment as standing up for myself was hard because I was raised not to.

This is a tremendous disadvantage to carry into adult life where there are always more aggressive people who will use friendship to vent their own frustrations in the name of "helping."

Parlancheq said...

The old saying, 'With friends like that, who needs enemies?' comes to mind...

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Parlancheq,

Not I, said the Little Red Hen.

Odat said...

Good for you....I find too like CS, there comes a time in some
"friendships" when it's got to end.
I mean why bother with her at all anymore? You don't need it.
Peace

MsLittlePea said...

That's good for you, sticking up for yourself. It takes a lot of nerve to do that, especially if the norm is to just suck it up and say nothing. She really needs to understand that when you care about someone, you don't try to change them or do something you KNOW hurts their feelings. Hopefully she'll rethink how she treats you in the future.

My Reflecting Pool said...

I have a Long Time friend who I have tried losing a couple times unsuccessfully. There is something comforting in not having to explain how you became who you are with someone. I've had to address the issues over time and once I lost interest in whether we went forward as friends, she turned things in a more positive direction. You took a big first step and I hope it works out well for you.

Jocelyn said...

I'm so glad you shut down her berating. If she sulks for more than a few weeks, that's probably okay (I agree with Lee, about what you two have being a habit).

You get to make choices about who's in your life. You only need people who lift you up in your life. Ergo, you may not need this "friendship" anymore.

goodthomas said...

Sometimes old friends are not the best friends.

While I feel like the same person I have always been, I know that I have changed. Who I was at 18 or even 25 is not the same person I am now, and I know it is silly to hang on to some relationships. I have absolutely nothing in common with my childhood friends anymore, beside a great deal of wonderful memories.

It doesn't sound like an equal relationship, especially when you don't have much in common, that you both have "vastly different value systems."

Betty was always the hottest, anyway.

(Thanks for the link to Another Tangential Thinker -- her words were very wise. Wonderful.)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Odat,

I don't. I've known this for, well, forever. We have really never had much in common, and her world view has always offended me.

Sweet Pea,

No, I don't think she will. She is out of control. My children all detest her, with good reason.

It's wonderfully liberating to realize that there is no earthly reason to roll with punches or to have to defend my life to anyone.

Reflective,

It will certainly turn out well for me because I really don't have much riding on this emotionally. I have simply allowed myself to be the sought-after one in the relationship out of inertia, sentimentality and probably timidity.

But I have much more important things and people to think about. The energy simply isn't there anymore.

Jocelyn,

Truer words were never spoken. My normal yardstick is to avoid those who bring me down because negativity is contagious.

Thomas,

On top of all that, she bores me. (Do you think I'll be struck dead for saying that?)

I have long suspected that she enjoys hardships that befall me, when they do, because they make her feel better about her own life, which is prosperous but empty.

Why do you think that I am Betty and not Veronica? I was blond when I was younger, but my hair is much darker now with a few white strands, while her originally black hair is now Liz Taylor reddish-blond.

Cursed Tea said...

OK this post felt really spooky to me. I too had a friend that I'd know for forever, Lynn. In fact our fathers went to school together, ended up working in the same town and so we met at the age of 1. She bit me, I wailed, so she bit me again.

Our relationship continued in much the same vain until my father died when I was 12 and we became friends. Or so I thought. The whole time she would put me down, make me feel useless - but always in a "sarcastic" humour sort of way. I put up with this until I was 21. She was supposed to be my friend but when my Mum asked Lynn to ask my friends at Uni if they would like to come to my *surprise* 21st birthday party she said she would then didn't. Eventually my Mum had to tell me about the party so I could invite my friends.

this was the final straw. I called her up, told her not to come to the party and that friends don't treat friends the way she treated me and I wiped my hands of her. It was the best move I ever made! My life has been better ever since. My only contact was when she sent me a card for my wedding (handed to me on my wedding day I became suspiscious and my bridesmaid kept it for me until the next day when I opened it - nothing mean thank god). Lynn's life has become more twisted and her morals have sank lower and lower (I know people who know her and my sister even had a friend who found out she was sharing a boyfriend with her - Lynn knew, my sister's friend didn't). Its sad for her but our "friendship" was poisonous for me.

I've gone off - I hope you keep standning up for yourself - Flip is more than likely correct!!

Best Wishes
cursed (sip) tea

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Hi Kirsty,

That's quite a story. You're well rid of Lynn. The 21st birthday story is just horrible.

And I don't even know why this has become such a situation for me because I've never really been that comfortable with her. As Lee and others have said, some people just become a habit.

Habits can be broken. I bit my nails throughout my childhood and quit as soon as I went away to college.

It's true that some people are toxic, and I really do not want them in my life.

Flip is usually correct when it comes to common sense. He's very honorable and centered, and has no time for pretentious people.

thethinker said...

Disliking those who try to talk down to us as if we're too stupid to understand their "superior" way of thinking is something we have in common. Good for you for standing up to her.

(By the way, for some odd reason, I've always wanted to live in San Francisco.)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Thinker,

I always hoped to live here, too. In fact, I wanted to attend college in the Bay area, but wasn't allowed to.

Don't let anybody talk down to you. You have a very fine mind and a beautiful spirit. Those who would put you down are surely jealous of you and instead of trying to be more like you, they would rather cut you down to their level.

The sooner you realize that, the sooner you will be able to fully own all the great qualities that make you YOU.

velvet girl said...

Friends should support you in whatever decision you make, not try to make your decisions for you. That's not friendship at all. Maybe she doesn't know the difference.

My heart runneth over... said...

My oldest friend and I have had pleanty of ups and downs... but were so unlinke and than unalike at the same time....

It wasn't until an argument... we had that I told her how i actually felt did our relationship get better!

Now were back to BFF! I am so happy about this.. everyone needs a BFF.

M

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Velvet,

That's my point. Big difference. Thanks for understanding.

Maria,

I'm glad it worked out for you. I think there are certain areas in which friends should not be too different, like their values. As for the rest, differences can be more interesting than sameness. I don't need a friend exactly like me because I already have me.