Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

May 9, 2009

"I"s and "We"s - Part I

I knew there was trouble when she stopped using the word “I.” You know, that all-important word that represents the individual in us all. The word that is so important that it must be capitalized. Well, when Blonde Wife had her baby, that word ceased to exist.

“How are you doing?” I would ask.

“Oh, we’re doing really great,” she’d reply.

Uh, OK. Try again.

“What have you been up to lately?”

“Oh, lots. First we went to the park. Then we went to the local pool and signed up for swim lessons. You have to get on the waiting list at least two years ahead you know.”

No. I didn’t know that.

I was a bridesmaid in her wedding a few years ago. We must still have something in common.

“So how are you feeling?”

“Well, Blonde Baby vomited yesterday. But I think it was just a little gas. We’re feeling much better today. I don’t think it was anything serious.”

I knew I’d lost her. Blonde Wife was gone. Blonde Mom was here to stay.

But I still didn’t care. I thought the world of this person. I’d met her in grad school and immediately knew she was one of those rare women who I absolutely, totally admired. She was beautiful. Humble. Funny as shit. Intelligent and interested in subjects far deeper than the latest celebrity scandal. But she wasn’t above a good poop joke either. She had a wonderful relationship with her soon-to-be-husband that I hoped to someday emulate, and, best of all, she seemed to “get me” -- and liked me anyway. When she asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, I was so honored I couldn’t get to the dreaded David’s Bridal fast enough.

So when I realized she was letting this wonderful “I” individual go and replacing her with a “We” I didn’t quite understand, I was let down.

I had no problem with her first, subtler “We,” transition when she met, dated, moved in with, and then married her husband. But there was still plenty of room left over for the woman I treasured as a friend. Plus, I liked the man she chose to spend her life with.

But Blonde Baby changed everything. First they moved to the northern suburban outskirts of town. That’s fine. I’ve got plenty of mom friends who moved to the boonies with their babies. No biggie. If you are important enough to my life, I will make the effort. Hell, I’ve got a calendar. Let’s get it on the books.

So Blonde Mom and I would schedule plans – dinner at her place with the family – about a month ahead of time. The Blonde Family is very busy after all with the various in-laws and rigorous baby schedule. But when the day would arrive, she would cancel via email with some seemingly heartfelt excuse. Of course I understood.

So we’d go for round two and plan another dinner a few weeks down the road. I wanted them to meet and get to know Wine Guy. Blonde Wife had met him once, only briefly, and I felt that people who are so important to me should get the chance to bond in a more meaningful way. I told her this.

She canceled again.

So we go one more round.

When she canceled the third time, I finally threw up my hands up and said “OK, ball’s in your court.” Of course, by this time (six+ months later) Wine Guy didn’t understand why I cared so much. I mean, who the hell are these people anyway? Obviously they can’t be that important to me if we’ve been together over a year and they’ve barely even met.

No matter how much I tried to argue him on the matter, I knew he was right. It was about time I started to take the hint. Especially after I learned, via a Facebook status update, that Blonde Wife was pregnant with Blonde Baby #2. I dutifully submitted my public “Congratulations” wall post. No response.

Then I learn through yet another Facebook status update that it’s a boy. A perfect balance to their now three-year-old girl. I gave my public “Congratulations” wall post. No response.

The I learn through a Facebook wall post that Blonde Wife made on a mutual friend’s wall that there were complications with the pregnancy that sounded pretty serious.

Suddenly it hit me. A sad fact I figured out a few friends-with-first-babies ago that I somehow always manage to forget all over again. Just because I consider someone part of my family, doesn’t mean I’m a part of theirs.

And just to clarify in case some of you moms are wondering, I love kids - including hers -- and was/am always willing to make Blonde Baby #1 part of whatever plans we made together and spent plenty of time talking about all things baby with her before she bailed on me.

But I’m not one of those people who go quietly into the night – especially when it comes to a friend I really trust and believe in. So I decided I had nothing to lose but ask her straight out – are we friends or what?

Wine Guy was strongly against this maneuver. He urged me to just “get over it" (quite possibly the most infuriating advice ever given). Plus, he didn’t know her like I did. We were FRIENDS. I considered myself a savvy friend-picker at this point, and I was 100% sure that there was something I was missing here. Something about our friendship that could be fixed.

So I wrote her an email that said,
“…without Facebook I wouldn't know that you are A) pregnant B) having a boy and C) having complications, surgeries and mandatory bed rest (I'm sorry about everything in C). Are we friends or what?.. it's very hard to be just "Facebook friends" with someone I felt so close to not long ago. Especially when you are going through big life moments - good and bad….Did I do something? Do I just not fit into your world now?... I don't know....I've been through many scenarios in my head and finally just said 'screw it' - and thought I'd actually just ask you.”

In the closing (not included above) I tried very hard not to push too hard and to let her know that my thoughts are with her during what I assume is a tough time (but don't know the details since she hasn't talked to me in months). I asked her to get back to me when and if she felt ready.

Overall it was a sincere attempt to be honest and straightforward. If you know me at all (and she does), you'd know I meant it.

The Blonde Wife I knew would have responded with a real answer. Of course, this is assuming she hadn’t morphed into some sort of alien “We.” You be the judge – here’s her response word for word.

“Thank you for your words of concern about my health. It's been a very scary time for us. However, as you might imagine, I am nowhere near being able to respond to the rest of your message. I'm feeling "kicked while I am down," by it quite frankly. Right now my priorities are to focus on being well enough to be here for Blonde Baby#1 and not to lose this baby [Blonde Baby #2].”

Ouch. Much worse than I ever anticipated. I certainly wasn't intending to jeopardize her baby's by asking about our friendship. I just wanted to be included in her life.

Two weeks later I see another Facebook post she made about her family's upcoming vacation to Hawaii. You tell me. If you are well enough to fly six hours to an island vacation destination, don’t you think you could – at the very least – reply to an email from one of your three freakin’ bridesmaids who just wants to be your friend?

This vacation announcement hurt more than her original response to me. So I decided to spare myself further pain by "unfriending" her from Facebook to avoid any more updates about her ultra active “We” life. Shortly thereafter I took Wine Guy’s advice and emotionally gave up on our friendship -- probably about eight months after she did.

This all took place in January 2009, and the exchange kicked off a massive depression for me. Mostly because it felt like a confirmation of my deepest, darkest fears that I always hoped were entirely delusional; that as a single, childless woman, I am thoroughly insignificant in the eyes of a woman with a husband and child(ren).

And I don’t mean this to sound as self-deprecating as it does. I don’t even take it all that personally, really. How could I when there is absolutely NOTHING I can think of to justify why Blonde Wife would do this except for the fact that she is totally and completely immersed in her new role as Mom? She moved to a Mom neighborhood. She made all new Mom friends who do all sorts of Mom activities together. And she just simply doesn’t have room for my silly little dating/job/dog life anymore.

This thought hurt me more than if she had replied with, “You are a total bitch. I hate it when you _____ and I never want to talk to you again.” Then at least I would have a reason. Something to improve upon. Or at least something to tell her to go fuck herself over.

But this? This is just….life. People move on. I totally get that. But I just thought our friendship was a bit deeper than that. Like the handful of other women I adore who have had children and haven’t flicked me off their lapel like piece of worthless lint.

Granted, many of them have moved on or evolved past the "I" stage. But there’s that certain few who, even if we don't speak for six months at a time, when we do connect it’s like not a moment has passed. And nobody’s mad at anyone for disappearing for awhile.And when we do finally get together, I don’t mind if we spend the day with their kids, talking about their kids, while sitting poolside at their kid’s swim lesson. As long as we know that we are important to each other – that’s all I ask.

But you just can’t avoid the inevitable. Along with that baby comes a wall that keeps the “I”s and “We”s just a little bit separated. It’s nothing personal. But it doesn’t mean there aren’t casualties – usually on the “I” side.

…..To Be Continued…



Melissa said...

For some reason, your story reminds me of adultery. I have a firm belief that when a husband cheats, it's not the "other woman's" fault, and in a way, it isn't the husband's fault either. It's just that the marriage wasn't as strong as everyone had hoped it was.

I think maybe this is how it is with your old friend. It's not really motherhood that is the problem as much as she (sadly) probably wasn't as good a friend as you'd hoped she was. I understand how you may feel sad for losing a friend, but I think WG is right to encourage you to move on -- grieve first -- then move on.

Life On Edge. said...

aww man I understand so much it hurts :( It is so painful to see friends become distant, even more so when the reason is not obvious.

I saw my sister go from the "I" to the "we" step when she had kids. I was young and I didn't like it at all. She's back now, many years later (the third kid is 12). I think not every mother goes through that though (certainly mine did not hahah ok not funny).

I probably also lost myself in my relationship at first, for a few months... so I am guilty of the same thing. I am back too. I don't think I would have said something as insensitive as your friend did, but who knows? Maybe we are very blind in times like these...

I know I hurt some of my friends a lot. I had to work hard to gain their trust back. They hurt me in return. Now finally it feels good again. Things take time but when real friendship once existed, it can come back.

All this very long comment (sorry) to say: if your friendship was strong, it will flourish again. In the meanwhile, heal your soul and live your life as happily as you can... is there anything we can ever do?

Anonymous said...

Had a similar thing happen with a close friend before the days of Facebook.

We used to work together, and then go home and call each other and still manage to have things to say after seeing each other all day.

She was married and we managed to keep the friendship even after she had a baby and eventually moved to another state. We were friends through the next baby and her going back to school to get a masters degree.

But when she went back to work I jokingly said "It was nice knowing you" because I knew her life was going to become so busy between the long commute, the kids, and everything else. She just laughed it off.

Well, guess what, the calls became less frequent, then months apart. I think she was the last one to phone, but I wasn't home. Then even more months go by and she sends an e-mail that had a tone of trying to reconnect. I answer and don't get an answer back.

So I eventually send an e-mail questioning if she got my earlier e-mail and she answers back saying she hasn't been a very good friend these days.

Then she sends one of those funny e-mails people forward to their friends. I send a reply and . . . nothing. I try again. Still nothing.

Just like that, it's over. In the meantime, she was building a new house and with the total halt in communication, I now have no idea of her address or home e-mail. All I have is a work e-mail and I'll be damned if I am going to send e-mails to a person who can't even respond with a sentence.

Never saw this coming. It's been years now.

Anonymous said...

DT, you are hyper-emotional, which is what I like about you, but to be fair, let's look at things from the other side.

I am going only by what you wrote, which I am sure omits a lot.

As far as the plans: Maybe she felt overwhelmed to host you two. Did you volunteer to bring Chinese food or pizza, or was the plan that they would make or buy dinner? Maybe the house was a mess and she was embarrassed. Maybe she cancels all her plans that involve anything but the baby. Maybe she is exhausted every night and wants to just sleep.

Facebook: To expect her to reply to a wall post -- well, that is an awfully low bar. Whether or not she does reply is not significant. Facebook is a collective thing anyway. A wall post was not a private communication between you two that she didn't respond to. It is an internet etiquette issue, not a diss. It's more of a diss if she doesn't reply to your phone calls than if she doesn't reply to a wall post. Clearly, she is responding to other people's wall posts, but so what. In some ways, it is less important to respond to you personally because she knows you already heard the news via facebook.

Pregnancy complications: She is dealing with a serious health issue (hey, you are familiar with that, hip girl) and your reaction is not "what a terrible ordeal" but "me, me, me -- she should be thinking about me and telling me her news before telling anyone else." Maybe in fact posting on facebook is her way of being able to spread the news more indirectly instead of having to confront it personally with everyone she knows. I know someone whose baby died in an accident, and she didn't want to talk to anyone. She actually preferred to just post stuff on her website and not answer individual e-mails.

Your note: It is extremely accusatory toward her. It would have been much more caring had you said you heard her bad pregnancy news, you were sorry you were unable to connect through dinner, you really want to see her when she is feeling well enough and you will do whatever you can to help. From her reply, she seems to feel you were accusing her of things that were not true from her viewpoint.

This is really telling: You perceive yourself as a single, childless woman. You are NOT single! You are living with a man! If you are living with a man and consider yourself single, then that is a whole separate issue and, frankly, a real head-scratcher.

I think it is common to get tied up with the microdetails and minutiae of our lives and then suddenly time passes in huge chunks. But I think you are overanalyzing this. Remember, I have only what you wrote to go on -- I do not have Blonde Wife's side of the story.

DT, I also have had friends dump me, and it does not feel good. And although I think you are overreacting, I don't mean to insinuate you are not entitled to your feelings. But reading this posting, I was surprised at your lack of insight. Could you be blinded by the distress coming from the fact that you so want a baby, and WG is not moving in that direction?

I say this all to be helpful toward you, not to be mean, because it really seems that you could use some more objective views that let you envision some alternate realities from those that exist in your own head. Sometimes my own head is not the nicest place to dwell, so I myself like to hear alternate views, which sometimes even make sense.

Be well, JAC

Dating Trooper said...

Thanks guys for taking the time to read this lengthy dissertation.

JAC - Though I don't agree with some of your observations, a few really hit a soft spot - always a sign that there is some truth there.

This post hit on two issues - my sadness over losing a friendship, and my frustration at not being at the mommy stage myself. And that is a bit of a head scratcher to me (and my mother) as well. But I don't plan on being in this no-man's-land forever. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

I am also the anonymous "nudge" commenter from two posts down. I forgot to sign my name!

If you haven't discovered it already, I suggest reading the happiness project blog.

The good thing about it is that the writer, Gretchen, is very analytical (as are we all) and also perceives herself as somewhat snappish and quick to anger. So her advice is helpful to those who are frustrated by outside forces. It's also very easy to read.

One piece of her advice is "let it go." This is not unlike "get over it." The advice seems infuriating when someone tells it to you, but reasonable when you tell it to someone else.

Be well and take care of that hip!

mimi of 'sexagenarian and the city' said...

dt,i'm late reading this post [well, late in terms of blog time], but i wanted to say how TOTALLY i sympathize with you. ABSOLUTELY TOTALLY. i don't have any wisdom to add, but perhaps it will help just to know that i've been in similar situations many times. i don't think i've ever been the 'blonde' to anyone else. i just know exactly how irritating and painful and difficult this kind of situation is.

and i remain really really glad you have WG in yr life...

Anonymous said...


Dating Trooper said...

News for you anon,
the world
write a
the point.
Go read
a history
book or

Anonymous said...

I think perhaps what the first anonymous commenter might have meant was that, in your real life (off blog) you might be approaching these friendships/relationships a little self-centeredly (not sure if that's a word). After your email exchange with your friend it is not surprising if she doesn't want to follow up with you - i'd frankly never want to speak to you again. I'm sure there are many things we don't know about your relationship and history with your friend, but it's hard to be all that sympathetic with your situation after seeing how you handled this.

Dating Trooper said...

Previous Anonymous commenter,
Though I certainly didn't intend it, perhaps my behavior with my friend was self-centered. But for those who know me well, as this woman does, this is not who I am deep down. Perhaps I made a mistake. We all do - I'm only human and completely fallible. But a true friend (at least in my world) doesn't just stop speaking to someone when they take a misstep. If there is a true connection between friends, you talk to them, tell them how they hurt you, and give them a chance to apologize and, if necessary, make amends. Then if they continue to disappoint, you have more of a reason to give up.

Blonde Mom never once gave me that chance. One, looking back, I believe I would have taken.

I've thought a lot about this and, having read comments from people who passionately agree and disagree with how I handled this situation, I think the answer lies with the very first comment from Melissa - the friendship just wasn't what I thought it was. We were on different pages. It happens and no one is the bad guy - at least at heart.