Best Friends Forever

Reader Q&A: Achieving closure after being dumped by a friend at work

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QUESTION

 

Dear Irene,

I’ve read many of your posts regarding the breakup of female friendships and I am going thru one myself as we speak. Anna and I met two years ago at graduate school. A little over a year ago, I helped get her a job at my company and we become inseparable. We did everything together from going to dinner, the movies, and jogging at the park. Also, we spent a lot of time texting and instant messaging everyday at work.  

About three months ago, Anna had met a new friend, "Lisa," and I felt replaced. Little by little, I felt pushed aside and believe that Lisa had put a rift in the friendship between Anna and me. All of the sudden, Anna and I spent less and less time together as she made for time for Lisa. The two of them would go bar hopping, swimming, and yoga together...all of the activities that I do not enjoy but Anna likes.

So, one day after I dropped Anna off home from lunch, I texted her saying that maybe we should give our friendship a break because she and I have gotten into many small arguments within the last couple of months. I said that friendship is a two-way street and I was tired of working doing all of the work. So, she texted me back saying, "Fine and take care."

The next day, I felt badly about what I said and texted Anna saying that I was very sorry and hope that she could forgive for the angry outburst. Anna texted back saying, "There is no need for you to be sorry.” She was and had always been a b$$ch to me. She said that I needed a friend that could be there for me constantly, someone to listen to me, and someone to keep me company." Anna said that she feels badly but she cannot be that kind of friend to me and for me to take care. However, she still would like to be a work acquaintance. Nevertheless, this took place over 6 weeks ago and Anna and I have not spoken since. We often avoid each other at the office because things feel so awkward.

I’ve texted Anna several times since then, asking for a face-to-face meeting. I told her that I have and will always continue to value her friendship and would like to work things out with her. Last week, she answered back saying that our friendship just doesn’t work anymore and for me to move on with my life. She said that she has nothing to say to me. 

However, despite her response, I still feel the need to have one last face-to-face meeting. The break-up of our friendship clearly had more to do than just that one text and I want real closure. So, should I try to reach out to Anna one last time or should I just let her go? Seeing her every day at work and not speaking to one another makes it very painful for me.  I still want to reconnect with her and be friends once more.

Marcie 

 

ANSWER 

Hi Marcie:

What a painful and difficult situation! In addition to losing a close friend with whom you once spent a lot of time, you still have to face her (and her new best friend) at work. That really has to hurt!

You are correct---the friendship didn’t break up solely because of the text message (although texting generally isn’t a good way to handle sensitive discussions, as I’m sure you are now aware). But you were already seeing red flags that something was wrong: You were arguing with each other more and she was choosing to spend her time with Lisa rather than you. If Anna had wanted to, she could have brought you into their circle. She chose not to without any explanation or apology, even when pressed for one.

It’s infuriating when a decision to end a friendship is unilateral---and you aren’t the one who makes the decision. It is natural to feel hurt and angry, and to want some closure. Unfortunately, it looks like Anna isn’t ready to talk or discuss what happened. Anna may be more close-mouthed than you, in general, and have less of an interest in intimate relationships than you do. Whatever the reasons, she has made it clear that she doesn’t want to talk about your split and while you may have been close at one time, given what has happened, it doesn’t appear like you will be able to get over this rift.

You definitely need to back off at this point and involve yourself with other friends at work and outside work. There may be some truth to Anna’s accusation that you are too needy or perhaps you are only too needy for her. You need to dig deep into yourself and think about what you asked of Anna in the past to determine whether you need to set boundaries for your future friendships.

You will be able to achieve closure when you assume control of your circumstances. When you accept that the relationship is over, you’ll feel better about the situation and about yourself. As brutal as it sounds, this isn’t the first time a good friend has been dumped and won’t be the last. You deserve someone who will appreciate your kindness and sincerity, and whose personality and interests are in better balance with yours.

Focus on your work and maintaining a professional demeanor in the office. And try to forget about Anna’s relationship with Lisa: that will probably become history, too. It’s going to take some time but I promise, you will get over this trauma.

Let us know how it goes.

My best,

Irene

 

The company we keep: Do our BFFs define us?

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Two more celebrity pairings this week reinforce the notion that people define us by the company we keep.

CNN quoted former President Bill Clinton saying that Hillary is a close friend of Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

"She and John McCain are very close," Clinton said in Spartanburg, SC. "They always laugh that if they wound up being the nominees of their party, it would be the most civilized election in American history, and they're afraid they'd put the voters to sleep because they like and respect each other."

What was Bill thinking? Does this unusual pairing suggest that Hillary is moving towards the middle of the political spectrum? That she is a conciliatory person? That she is capable of befriending and working closely with the boys? Honestly, could they really be BFFs?

Equally interesting is the TMZ TV buzz linking pregnant superstar J Lo (Jennifer Lopez) as a BFF with the Queens of the King of Queens, Leah Remini. Leah is a self-proclaimed scientologist, which caused immediate speculation that she might be recruiting J Lo as a convert.

Something to think about…

 

Staying Alive

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What a wonderful milestone it is to reach a 95th birthday---but imagine the added pleasure of being able to share your cake with someone you’ve known for 90 years!

Edith Brook and Una Kilner were born two days apart in 1917, met on their first day of school at Longley Hall five years later, and have stayed connected ever since. Well, almost. There was a brief period when they lost touch with one another as they raised their respective families.

According to an article in today’s UK Telegraph, the two women have vowed never to let that happen again. The article quotes Mrs. Kilner: "We meet every fortnight to catch up. We always phone each other and we'll stick together through thick and thin."

Some say that the pair’s friendship is the oldest one across the pond.

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Diana, has a memory like an elephant. I’m always amazed (and sometimes embarrassed) that she can recount vivid details of things that happened to the two of us several decades ago. She even remembers events I told her about that never directly involved her!

As we age, friendships become more dear---especially old ones. Knowing someone who knew you then is almost like taking a journey back to your youth. Friends can help us retrieve old memories and understand the characters and context of our lives better than anyone else.

 

Blood sisters: A contemporary look

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A recent article in the Beaufort (Georgia) Gazette caught my eye. Seems like the ancient rite of teenage girls becoming blood sisters isn’t exactly dead….although it almost turned deadly.

The news report told a tale of two drunken girls, ages 16 and 17, from Hilton Head, who tried “to consecrate their newfound friendship by becoming blood sisters.” One of them ended up in the local emergency room with a deep gash on her hand that was bleeding profusely. Apparently, the girls used a knife to seal the deal and “miscalculated.” With the threat of HIV and hepatitis these days, I wouldn’t recommend the practice even if they were sober!

Admittedly---In the days of innocence, before BFF necklaces and BFF bracelets, my buddy and next-door neighbor Anita Klansky and I wanted to signal our status as best friends. I was an only-child at the time and Anita only had a brother. So one day after school, we borrowed a needle from my mom’s sewing basket and each pricked our pointer fingers. Then we pressed the tips with traces of bright red blood up against one another and promised to be blood sisters forever. We were---until Anita’s dad got a job out-of-state a few years later and she moved away.

The rite is somewhat akin to its male counterpart, blood brothers: Two males, unrelated by birth, who swear loyalty to one another in a blood oath that involves the co-mingling of blood. The roots of the blood oath can be traced back to a Norse myth called Orvar-Odd’s saga, which also later was adopted in different forms by Asian and Native American tribal cultures.

WikiHow prescribes a more contemporary and non-invasive approach to the ritual for young girls:

  1. Decide your soul color (the color that matches your personality).
  2. Buy markers that are similar (or the same) as your soul color.
  3. Quickly mark your finger with your soul color.
  4. Have your soon-to-be sis color her finger with her soul color.
  5. Press fingers together and say "I pledge to be your sister forevermore".

Another alternative for grown-up women as we herald in the New Year: Invite your Bestie (or Besties) to share a champagne toast and tell her how much her friendship means to you.

 

 

2007: The Year of BFF

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If you ask me, 2007 was the year that the term Best Friends Forever (BFF) was so over-used and inappropriately-used by the media that its meaning became trivialized and misunderstood.

A few memorable examples:

Hillary Clinton and Katie Couric were labeled BFFs on the basis of posing for a photograph together at a fundraiser for children’s mental health. (See my earlier blog entry)

Onstar and General Motors were declared former BFFs because GM introduced Bluetooth to its line of cars

Parents who bought their children tickets to the Hannah Montana concert in Cincinnatti were called BFFs

A column headline by NY Times opinion columnist Gail Collins called presidential-candidate Rudy and his infamous friend Bernie BFFs

An unforgettable and over-played commercial for Cingular cell phones mocked the iconic term, showed a granny named Rose texting her BFF.

A Spongebob episode showed Spongebob and Patrick pledging to be BFFs

A quick peek on Amazon lists board books, craft books, and Holly Hobbie paperbacks--all named BFF---aimed at little girls as young as four-years-old!

Here are my suggestions for bringing restored meaning and legitimacy to the term in 2008:

  • Don’t use BFF when you speak about inanimate objects or corporations [unless you are using proper acronyms for the Bhubaneswar Film Festival (BFF) or the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF)]
  • Don’t inappropriately use the term BFF to convey exclusivity. You can actually have more than one BFF and many women do.
  • Be careful using BFF with little girls. Little girls are more likely to have a best friend of the moment. As women age, their commitment to their BFFs becomes stronger.
  • Little girls and big ones need to realize that most friendships aren’t always forever. Even a close friendship that feels like a BFF today is likely to be fleeting more often than not.

Everyone has a best friend during each stage of life but only a precious few have the same one. – Author unknown

May you find and nurture warm and close female friendships in 2008 and may some of them turn into long-lasting ones!

 

Hillary + Katie = BFF?

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Use of the term BFF (Best Friends Forever) is becoming ubiquitous. The new online gossip page of the New York Post recently captured a picture of Hillary and Katie (no last names required) when both of them attended a children’s mental health benefit for the NYU Child Study Center held in New York City earlier this week. The Post headline read: Hillary + Katie = BFF.

I have no knowledge about their relationship but I can virtually guarantee that these two bright, accomplished women aren’t best friends---nor are they BFFs. People, not only the media, use the term so loosely that it has become meaningless. Generally, the term BFF implies a special type of connection between two or more women that is enduring. Does that even exist? Not often.


While there isn't a universally agreed upon definition of a bestie, sociologist and friendship expert Dr. Lillian Rubin (author of Just Friends: The Role of Friendship in Our Lives (Harper & Row, 1985) explains that a best friend is someone who embodies “the best of all the important relationships in our lives---kin, mate, and friend.” It is someone whom we trust, on whom we can depend, and with whom we can share our innermost fears and foibles. Do Hillary and Katie share that emotional connection? Give me a station break.

In terms of longevity, a snapshot of a news anchor and Presidential candidate smiling together captures a point in time and doesn’t necessarily speak volumes for the future of their relationship. I really would have liked the headline to read---Hillary and Katie: Two Great Friends of Children’s Mental Health!

 

Baffled by Bratz & Biffles

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Besides the letter “L”---what’s the difference between a BFFL (best friend for life) and a BFF (best friend forever)?

When Nathalia Ramos, 15, the actress who plays Yasmin (one of the Mattel dolls that is brought to life in Bratz, the movie) was interviewed by a reporter from the Washington Post she said:

There are biffles and BFFs…A biffle (as in BFFL, or best friend for life) is a fun friend that you phone. A BFF is a best friend forever that you love.

Whether close friendships are for life or forever (let’s not nitpick), the story line of the movie is banal; it’s about four friends of different cultural backgrounds and interests who drift apart during high school, as best friends often do, and come together again (which is less likely to happen).

One critic disses the film (that opened last summer and will be released as a DVD over Thanksgiving) as an “excruciatingly inane high-school comedy inspired by a line of sexually suggestive dolls aimed at 9-year-old girls.”

While the overarching theme of this PG movie is the feel-good and exceedingly important topic of friendship, it’s unfortunate that the film perpetuates myths and stereotypes about young women---casting them as shallow, obsessed with guys, and materialistic---and that it is targeted towards younger girls who are looking for role models.

What miffs me most is that the film helps perpetuate the myth of BFF for another generation.

 

BFFs: Rudy and Bernie?

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Guilty as charged: The term BFF has morphed into a meaningless platitude due to extreme overuse. Now, the term is even being used to hurl an insult.

The evidence: The headline of a recent op-ed in the New York Times read, Rudy and Bernie: B.F.F.’s? The popular acronym “best friends forever” (typically used with gushing insincerity) was being used to criticize the blind loyalty that presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani displays towards his friend, Bernie Kerik. A former NYC police commissioner under the Mayor, Kerik was indicted last week on counts of tax fraud, corruption and conspiracy. Many critics believe that in their relationship, loyalty and friendship have trumped integrity.

What caught my eye---as a friendship blogger---is that the acronym wasn’t being used, as it typically is, as a term of endearment. The headline writer was using it pejoratively to describe a relationship that logically should have long since ended.

And the big news: Its appearance in the venerable Gray Lady suggests that the term BFF has moved from an IM shortcut to the accepted lexicon of language and print.

“Whenever you read that a candidate ‘values loyalty above all else’ — run for the hills,” wrote Times columnist Gail Collins. “Loyalty is a terribly important consideration if you’re choosing a pet, but not a cabinet member.”

Which again raises the question, should we maintain friendships and keep friends whatever the cost?

 

Breaking up is hard to do

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I read a fascinating thread called Breaking Up with a Friend on the balancing work/life forum of the Chronicle of Higher Education. The poster told about ending a friendship with a female friend who was overly critical and judgmental. (In its telling, the relationship sounded toxic to me.)

In a last-ditch effort to salvage the friendship, the poster communicated her discomfort honestly with her friend. After that difficult conversation, she never heard from her once-friend again. While she felt guilty, she knew she had done the right thing for her. Others on the forum expressed different opinions about whether she was right or wrong.

Many people ask me about the protocol of ending a friendship when you realize that it’s time (or past time) to let go. Here are a few thoughts---

 

Just for Fun: Facebook Top Friends

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No surprise. People on Facebook are consumed with friendship, BFFs, besties, and like to rank their friends. Hmmm….wonder how I got there?

An article in this week’s Australian PC World ranks Top Friends (developed by Slide) as the top Facebook application. Among 46 million active users on the site, more than 3 million have signed on to Top Friends as daily users. (That’s about 15% of the total Facebook user base)...
 
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