I am 50 years old today and I can’t stop thinking about the day I turned 49.
Last year on my birthday, everything had gone well until I was on my way out to dinner with my family. As we were leaving our apartment building, I stopped to check the mail and found what appeared to be a birthday card. The envelope was addressed in an unfamiliar hand and bore no return address. This peaked my curiosity, so I opened it right away.
Inside was a beautiful birthday card from someone who had called me her best friend for years and claimed to love me. Printed on the card itself, was a lovely message that made me smile. Inside the card was a two-page, scathing letter which basically outlined what a terrible friend, mother, and person I am, characterized me as generally dishonest and told me that our friendship was over. Ironically, this was in response to a very honest attempt on my part to establish some personal boundaries and space.
I could have written back with a scathing letter of my own, outlining her every passive-aggressive, judgmental statement, as well as her convoluted train of logic, but I ultimately decided that it wouldn’t make any difference because she seemed desperate to convince herself that she is right and pure and perfectly forthcoming in every way and that I am wrong, phony, and generally dishonest.
As part of her character assassination on me, she pointed out that there had been a few deeply personal things that I had only revealed to her when I found myself at a fork in the road, having to choose between telling her or ending our friendship. Despite the fact that I had chosen to reveal some very painful events from my past rather than walk away from her; things that I felt embarrassed or ashamed of and feared might be deal-breakers that could cost me my best friend, even that was used against me in a flailing attempt to cast me as a bad person and friend.
I believe that in any relationship, having boundaries is a good and healthy thing. Having a “best friend” does not mean that I must forfeit my own personal space, or that I have to report every minute detail of my life and the lives of my husband and son, or that I am not entitled to set appropriate boundaries. Mike — my husband — and I don’t even require that of each other; we respect one another’s boundaries and allow each other a private zone.
Wanting or needing personal space, reasonable boundaries, and a little privacy for myself and my family does NOT equate to dishonesty. Anyone who thinks that it does is far too controlling for my comfort, so I suppose getting dumped wasn’t a complete loss, even if it was cunningly orchestrated so as to blindside me on my birthday.
But who does that? Who does that to their “best friend”, and then accuses that friend of being the bad one?
Maybe someone who is so convinced of her own righteousness and moral superiority that she feels justified in putting everyone she knows under her own personal microscope of analysis and scrutiny? Someone who feels entitled to know the details of every move her friends make, and to judge and critique them and their family members, including their children? Someone who is so utterly convinced of what she would do in a given situation despite having absolutely no first-hand experience or frame of reference on which to base her ill-informed, sanctimonious convictions? Or perhaps someone who obsessively hyper-focuses on other people’s mistakes and shortcomings to avoid having to take an honest look in the mirror and ask herself why her “best friend” might not be comfortable telling her certain things or what her own role in that might be? Someone who would choose to dump her “best friend” on her birthday rather than take responsibility for her own shitty behavior, or even admit that just maybe there’s the teeniest possibility that perhaps she might not be right about every goddamned thing?
I don’t know what kind of person does that, but I do know that it’s not the kind of person I need or want in my life.
I don’t need “friends” who look down on me for choosing my own path instead of the one they think I should follow. I don’t need “friends” who feel entitled to intrude on my marriage or my parenting. I don’t need “friends” who think that helping me through hard times means that, in return, I should quietly tolerate abuse, and that I’m ungrateful if I don’t. I don’t need “friends” who would invite someone into their home, secretly hoping that they won’t accept, just so that said “friend” can appear kind and charitable without having to actually do anything — and then treat their guests like a burden when they do accept. I don’t need “friends” who think that my need for boundaries equates to dishonesty, or that wanting some privacy must mean that I’m hiding something sinister. Because maybe all that means is that I’d like to have one molecule of my life that goes unexamined by said “friend”.
Being judged 24 hours a day is exhausting, suffocating, and demoralizing, especially when the scrutiny comes from someone who refuses to examine herself and admit when she’s been a jerk or hurt someone, much less apologize for it! When someone you love or call your friend lets you know that you’ve hurt them, that is not the time to dig your heels in, insist that you did nothing wrong and that your friend’s feelings are somehow incorrect. Unless, of course, saving face is such a priority that you’re willing to resort to emotional abuse and manipulation to do so, in which case, don’t let the door hit you in the ass.
It’s odd to me how those who claim some level of “enlightenment” often seem to possess very little self-awareness. They even seem to think that their personal tastes and preference are objectively superior or “correct”, allowing absolutely no room for individuality in their “friends” and associates.
A few points in closing:
1.) Fed Up and Finished had nothing to do with you or our friendship. I was clearing out a bunch of old drafts which I had always password protected so that I didn’t accidentally publish rough drafts and notes. Fed Up and Finished was a very old draft from ’08 or ’09 that I meant to delete but hit “publish” by mistake. I had food on the stove and laundry in the dryer, so I didn’t notice right away which is why it remained on my Home page for a few hours. But, hey… Great job not jumping to the worst possible conclusion. Again. You could have given me the benefit of the doubt, but you chose to judge me in the worst possible light. Again. Or, I don’t know… Maybe you were just looking for an excuse to end our friendship and jumped at the first thing that came along that you could rationalize in a way that let you off the hook while, yet again, making me the “bad guy” and allowing you to maintain your pose of superiority. It’s not like you’ve always been perfectly forthcoming with your friends and family regarding how you really feel about them, and it fits your modus operandi, so it’s plausible.
2.) I sent your keys back to you along with my letter to spare you the awkwardness of having to make up a lie to get them back like you did the last time we had a serious disagreement — instead of being forthcoming about the real reason which was that you can’t handle hearing anything about yourself which suggests that you might be less than fucking perfect.
3.) Anytime you would like to compare notes on who between us is the least forthcoming, or whose family members treat other people the worst versus who is the kindest and most thoughtful toward others, I welcome it with next year’s salary on the table!
You want unbridled honesty? Careful what you wish for.