In honor of Women's History Month I'm dedicating various posts to the ten different women who I've called my "best friend" at different times in my life, as well as the dozens of other women who are my close friends as well. Who've been there for me. Who have even saved my life. This one goes out to two women I'm not friends with anymore because fighting is not a way of life for me:
There wasn't a follow up conversation when I decided it was over.
No negotiations. No back and forth. No drawn out accusations. It was just over. In email form. Two years of intense friendship cracked under the pressure of one person too aggressive and another too passive aggressive.
I was the passive aggressive one.
While for some people anger is power, anger makes me feel physically ill. My stomach hurts. I start crying uncontrollably. I can't talk at times. The rage comes as quickly as it goes and is followed by intense guilt, often with me apologizing.
But I didn't apologize when I yelled at her to back off because she deserved it. She's finally broke me out of my passive aggressive reaction to her flying off at the handle over any and every thing, her insecurities, her paranoia, her need to control every situation even those that were not controllable. I was tired of having to "prove" I was a good friend since, for her, nothing I did would ever be enough. Besides, I'd begun taking my frustrations out on her by shutting her out of things, being generally lethargic towards her, and, lastly, avoiding her.
It hadn't always been that way. Originally she'd been a savoir to me. Me, who'd been in a shell, depressed for so many years, she was an outlet, someone I could talk to for hours online. And we talked every day. And she helped me so much with this web site and connected me to people. She was very giving. There was only one problem, what she wanted in return for her giving was my complete and constant, unfailing gratitude and fealty. I was fine with being a friend. I was fine with saying thank you. I was even fine with celebrating her publicly for all her help. But friendships are supposed to be equal and she wanted something decidedly unequal. She wanted me indebted to her so she could guilt me into never leaving.
The beginning of the end was after I started coming out of my shell and being healthier. My mood stabilized. I was more productive. I didn't "need" her to do things for me anymore as I could easily do them myself. But instead of her response being a happy one like that of my family and 99 percent of my other friends, for her, it was disappointment. She told me I should have thought of her and her feelings when I became more independent. She had preferred me the other way. This horrified me as I had not preferred being a near comatose with fear, anxiety-riddled mess. I liked my old confident self. But she had bonded with a sick imposter, not the real me who was out-going, focused and driven.
The friendship still lasted for more than six months past this incident though, but the more I progressed, no matter what I did to reassure her, she became more erratic. And that was when I retreated into passive aggression. She would yell at me in the car in a fiery rage over me being late, then yell at me for complaining about being cold when she'd been complaining about anything and everything all day. She'd scream at me with jealousy over my new friends I was making in Washington, D.C. I'd get so upset I couldn't enjoy things. I spent one what should have been a happy week (the first time I came to cover the Congressional Black Caucus for this site) fraught with anxiety and sadness. I ended up not doing as much as I planned because I was too busy in a fetal position at a friend's house crying over how I'd "hurt" her, even though I didn't understand what I'd done wrong.
But I did know what I did wrong. We were supposed to be besties, but because of her temper (and me not wanting to confront her about it) I stayed at another friend's house she didn't like for CBC, who she had clashed with before. Typically when I visited D.C. I stayed with her, but I couldn't do it. Not when at any moment she could get furious. (Not that this prevented that.) Then I refused to stop being friends with several of my friends who she didn't like and did not like her, even taking their sides on ridiculous, pointless fights she had with them, even if she was in the right. I was embarrassed that she'd started yet another argument in public over nothing, losing her temper. I stopped including her in things I did with friends she'd introduced me to. I stopped telling her things about my life. I paid her back every dime I owed her so she couldn't hold that debt over my head. I withdrew. And as I withdrew her rage only grew worse.
So the day a boring conversation about nothing turned into another screaming fit I finally yelled back. Which made her yell more because I'd stood up to her. I hung up the phone. Called up a mutual friend. Bawled my eyes out and decided to cut my loses.
Being that passive-aggression is my choice form of aggression our falling out was very final for me. It wasn't that I never cared about her. I truly did. And I truly enjoyed our time together and considered her a friend. I loved her as a sister. But that wasn't enough. She wanted more and I couldn't give her that. She wanted control -- whether she realized that or not. She wanted me to accept her abuse, complaining that people who complained about her temper were "weak" and not strong enough to love her.
When you equate someone loving you with a challenge, that's a red flag.
So I stopped talking to her altogether. I wouldn't respond to calls. Emails were often met with short, legalese sounding replies. I walked away from projects I cared about that we'd both developed. I became a pillar of silence who could not be moved by anything -- not tears, not threats, not protestations, not even apologies. I wanted it to be over and when I want something to be over, it ends.
I'd been in one psychologically abusive relationship before. I had no desire to act all that out again with a female friend.
I still think about her sometimes though. Not because I necessarily miss the friendship, but she was one of the people responsible for getting me back out in the world and for that, I'll be forever grateful. I owe her thanks for that. It was a beautiful act of friendship. But in the end, we simply weren't compatible. She was too loud and it made me too quiet, until, finally, silence was the last sound ever heard.
For "In celebration of ...," I'm writing about friendship in honor of every woman I've ever been friends with, especially my"besties." Whether we were friends forever, grew up and apart or fell out tragically:Yolanda, Erica, Marla, Tiffany, Brandy, Christina, Michelle, Dorothy, Toya and Yesha -- this one is for you.