DAME’s Friendkeeper sheds light on a bestie’s negativity, and gets real about why you should think twice about “ghosting” a pal.
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My best friend has a track record of saying negative things about whatever creative project I happen to be pursuing at the time. If I mention, even in passing, that I’m struggling with a project or dreaming up a new one, she always seems to see the fault in it, or criticizes me for making up my own problems. I know I shouldn’t go to her expecting gold stars for my work, but it hurts that she doesn’t think I have a chance to succeed at doing things like writing a book, or getting a fellowship, etc. I guess you could say I have an approval problem: I want her to tell me I’m doing a good job—she’s my best bud and I want her in my corner. But lately it seems like she’s just not interested in my interests or goals. I guess my question is, for myself and for you: Can we still be best friends if she doesn’t “get” what I’m trying to do with my life?
Don’t Bring Me Down
As I was reading your letter I remembered this time I was telling my sister, Hannah, about this idea I had to start a catering company with my friend April. I could see by the expression on her face that she wasn’t supporting me and was not going to lend me the money I needed. In fact, she completely took the wind out of my sails. Then I remembered I don’t have a sister, I was thinking of Hannah and her sister Holly (Dianne Wiest) but I saw the movie so many times I kind of feel like it was me. Not Hannah, I am no Hannah. Much more a Holly. Not anymore, but for most of the early years of my life. Though, in fairness to the people who were not supporting me, my job ideas were idiotic (I wanted to be a bellhop, police detective, and a paleontologist and that was all in May of 1991). ANYWAY, I remember vividly when I decided to write my first book. I was walking with a friend of mine who had always been the sort to say, “Why can’t we do great things?” (I.e. she lumped me in with her lack of everything.) And I said, “I think I want to write a memoir.” And she said, “YOU CAN’T JUST WRITE A BOOK! Etc…” She had worked in publishing so part of me believed her, and part of me said, Wait a minute. I may not have had the skills or degrees to be a bellhop, but I can write and I have a story to tell.
The thing is, I believe in every creative venture there’s a time when, unless you’re Tom Cruise talking to your director of production, you need to keep your ideas to yourself or tell only your cheerleading squad. Because the main thing you need to do to get it done is feel like you can get it done. And I believe many of us actually self-sabotage by allowing someone else to crush the idea before it takes flight. Once you do it, it’s like having a suit of armor and those barbs can’t get through.
Your friend may think she is protecting you from an unrealistic expectation. Or she, like my friend, wants to keep you where she can see you, and she may not even know it. I think though your friend may be lacking in the support category, you need to show some success to change her view. Most of the people who used to think I was a loser (Holly’s word) or that I could never finish anything, don’t see me that way anymore, but I needed a few successes under my belt to get them there and a big part of that was shutting up my ideas until they were in the can. I think you need to do that. Think of it as self-protection. Eventually you’ll feel more steady and can talk about it.
I “ghosted” a friend and I’m starting to feel guilty about it. The last straw broke when this friend didn’t come to my book launch (a very big deal for a writer!) because it happened to also be her daughter’s second birthday. She wasn’t having a party for the kid or anything, and we live in the same city—it seems like she could’ve taken an hour to stop by. Which I’m sure she would’ve done if I’d been, I don’t know, getting married or something. In that respect I cleared my calendar to attend a bridal shower, a bachelorette party, and two—TWO!—separate wedding ceremonies for this friend (all of which demanded the purchase of plane tickets). I realize many people will not think that these events are on par with a measly ol’ book launch, but why do the women who get married and have babies foster expectations about the lengths their friends should go to in order to support them, while those of us who work tirelessly to achieve milestone career accomplishments get none of that platonic fanfare? Was I wrong to drop her like a bad kid-obsessed habit?
When I was getting married, one of my best friends could not make it to the rehearsal dinner because she had to work. The fact was, she didn’t feel like my wedding was the Geneva Convention I thought it was. Years later, another friend of mine had a giant first birthday party for her first child—it was catered and there was entertainment. I was invited, but I didn’t go. I didn’t have a kid and I thought the one-year-olds I was familiar with hardly knew they had toes, let alone birthdays. And guess what, the friend with the one-year-old missed my first book launch (but not my kid’s first birthday, which by the way, my kid hated, so I was right!).
What I’m trying to say here is that frequently people who aren’t in a specific world, don’t know what is important. Like, I don’t know any train engineers but maybe it’s customary on their first solo journey to give them a Champagne toast. Maybe you are supposed to eat shrimp cocktails with a plastic surgeon after their tenth nose job. Sometimes, we need to tell our friends how important something is to us. This reminds me of when a good friend of mine was due to give birth in Manhattan and her husband was supposed to speak at a conference in Philly. She had to say, “No, you, cannot go.” I admired that because some of us kind of like to be martyrs. We like to feel let down and sometimes we like to give people who we may harbor a very deep-seated resentment for, rope to hang themselves. I myself have enjoyed that very role.
All of the things you wrote about your friend are more than 100 percent valid. I would tell her exactly what you wrote here (minus the “why do women with children not value us other types”). Since you’ve already ghosted her, there’s nothing to lose, except the 72 virgins….
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.
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