Saturday, August 7, 2010

These Are The Friends That Hate Me

A very funny character that happened upon my path well over a decade ago and became a friend to my children, (he was a year younger than my son). He was explaining his relationship to a small group of boys that lived in the neighborhood. We were fairly new to this particular neighborhood and welcomed any input or advice we came upon. "Those are the friends that hate me," he explained with no sign of malice or sarcasm. This young man was explaining a group of boys that were cliquish. Sometimes they allowed him to play and sometimes not depending on the whim of the leader of the group. His value was not based on anything he could control or for that matter even determine. This phrase has become a vernacular family term.

I think it may derive from the innocence that children view the world from. Every child a potential friend for a brief, but joyful time of life. As you make your way through dialogue and non-verbal cues, you decide if these are the "friends" that like you or the "friends" that hate you. My husband and I still laugh at this expression and use it to describe how a connection may go sour, or an interaction may start off from a place of unknown angst or hostility without any visible signs or perhaps some masked background knowledge or pre-interaction gossip founded or not on anything deeper than input from another friend that hates me.

Over the last year as I was catapulted into the second phase of the emptying of the nest, (3 children = 3 phases) I have come across a few friends that hate me, but more importantly a few more friends that don't. Perhaps in my effort to back-fill the nest and add some new "eggs" to it, I have let my guard down a bit too much and allowed some of the friends that hate me to enter, and do some brief but seemingly, serious damage. I have attempted to be open and loving and tolerant or at least I tried to convince myself of this. I have looked past some of the tell-tale signs of instability and qualifying friendship traits and suffered for it. I have also learned from the experience. And been reminded of a few stinging truths. 1) Not everyone is going to like me. 2) If a friend hates you, they probably are not your friend- a redux on "if someone treats you that way they probably weren't your friend to begin with" 3) You can't make everyone happy.

The stinging truth that not everyone likes me is an easy one. I don't like everyone. It balances out. It's sad when someone I think I might like, isn't very friendly or interested in my quirkily likable self. "They may come along at a later point", and "Oh well, their loss", get me through this eventually.

The couple of friends that hated me last year were real-people pleasers. I say this with a bit of disdain but there are residual hurt feelings. People-pleasers are typically insecure. (This is something learned in middle school to get you through all of those friendships that come and go and come and stay and go and so-on.) Believing that someone is insecure is supposed to lessen the pain and allow for us to be free from our own insecurities. But, let's look a little at the insecurity anyway. If you believe that people can be pleased by you and you get something good from this behavior, you may keep pleasing people. You may forget what pleases you though, and eventually pleasing someone will call for letting someone else down. Inevitably we all get into this situation where we accepted an invitation or requested someone's presence and something better came along. We must make a decision. If we operate from this pleasure giving mode, we can't exactly be honest because that will hurt and disappoint someone, so we lie, or avoid. A few too many of these activities and someone is ultimately going to be a friend that is being hated. Knowing how pleasing we are, we generally blame the other person for being so needy or pathetic, or what have you. We don't have to deal with our own behavior and there are so many more people to please. Up with people, because there are people wherever you go!

We humans have so many useful tools to promote the avoidance of growth. Do you think the queen of the ant colony needs to play around with the neighboring colony royals this way? "Sorry, I did want to come to your colony but I have an appointment that I forgot." Why can't we just be direct with one another, "Oh, the carcass at Pearl's colony is so much bigger, can we reschedule?" Some honesty can be downplayed, "I know we had plans, but if I go to the Smith's party, I will get to do some networking for my new business, or I won't get the chance to see so and so for another year because they are leaving town works a lot better than: I want to see that movie with you but the Smith's have the best parties, even if they never invite you.....

Directness hurts too. Is there polite directness? Would I make a friend that likes me or a friend that hates me if I said, "I understand that it's important for you to please everyone, or feel like everyone likes you, but believing that I will be more understanding when you hurt me isn't working for me." I imagine it might make one less friend, but it would give me dignity and ownership in the ending of the relationship. It might even take the friendship to a deeper, more meaningful level.

We seem to all get a little bit caught up in these ideas or beliefs about our own worthiness and value. We seem to take the cues from outside rather than gaining an understanding of our own worth and then allowing for the possibilities of friendship to come because we are all worthy. I am definitely not everyone's cup of tea. I am ok with that for the most part. Sadly, however, I have given a little too much energy into the why's of preferred tea flavors instead of staying true to my own preferences.

The friends that turned out to hate me? They weren't exactly the type of people I would really call friends. They were fun to be with and I sometimes have a difficult time determining the difference between a true friend and a fun neighbor or colleague. They were more of a diversion from my empty nest phase. They were fun at times, but I was more concerned with filling time and space than developing the friendship or discerning that we were not really suited for a deep, meaningful friendship. I am learning to recognize some people are fun to be with and I don't need to stake a claim to much more than that.

My recent group of friends that like me are fun to be with and much, much more. They offer support, a good laugh, a late night phone call when no one else seems to understand, or a very early text message. They are not afraid to be direct and get to an issue or area of concern that might cause scary feelings of vulnerability. They are also open to the same from me. We are not all always on the same page or in agreement but we like each other just the same. Friends are so important throughout the lifespan. I'm going to stick with friends that like me. I may even lighten up and not look so deeply for friendship where there is only fun. Fun definitely fills a lovely niche.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Methinks I am a "people-pleaser" but hopefully not a "hater." In my often awkward way, I hope I share the love with you, my friend. Because, to put it simply, you are fun adn I like you, friend. :-) JP