On Not Talking To Someone Anymore
I have been the one who stops talking to someone and I have been the someone
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I have a friend who is not a best friend but is a good friend, and I saw them maybe six years ago, on a visit to the city where they live. We had fun. They were just about to have a big birthday party and they had mentioned inviting me. But I never got an invitation. Every time I was in town I texted them to see if they wanted to get together. I never heard back.
As months of their not responding to anything became a year, and then many years, I was forced to conclude that this person was actively not talking to me.
A few weeks ago I wrote them: “Is there some reason you do not talk to me anymore? I’ve written you a few times and not heard back. Anyway… this is my last attempt! I hope you’re good!”
A few minutes later, I got a response. I will not quote them as I quoted myself. The gist of it was soon after the last time I saw them, they’d been making a major life change, and when I found out, I wrote them a bunch of messages that they felt, and I will quote here, were “callously off the mark.”
They didn’t mean to end a friendship, they said, but they didn’t know how to explain, how on one level it wasn't a big deal and in retrospect maybe even felt silly, but that at the time they did feel hurt and offended.
Also the messages were on Facebook and they hated Facebook.
I was relieved to finally know what had happened, relieved that they were willing to see me again one day, but mostly relieved I no longer have Facebook and can’t see what I said. I am sure I thought I was being hilarious and did not mean to be awful, but I must have been so awful.
I myself have stopped talking to many people. I have stopped talking to someone because she complained about how fat she was all the time and she is half my size. I stopped talking to someone because I felt like they were carelessly sharing details of my life with strangers. I stopped talking to someone because she told me that I was “being a victim” 24 hours after an event in which I was, I’m sorry to report, a victim. I stopped talking to someone because she wrote me an email accusing me of being a terrible person and even though I know I can be awful, I am confident that I am not terrible.
My friend from the above story is just one in a medium-sized line of people who have stopped talking to me. I could tell you what I think the reasons were: basic negligence, embarrassing jealousy, drinking someone else’s drink (this did not happen to me but a friend of mine had someone stop talking to her because she thought my friend drank her drink). But the truth is you often don’t know what did the trick, and wondering is the best punishment.
A friend of mine (who speaks to me and everything) asked if maybe people have stopped talking to me “not because you suck” but because they “just can’t handle having to be honest the way you expect.” This is nice of her but a fantasy. She said I should have used this story as an opportunity to be meaner about people who stopped talking to me. But I’m not mad. I’m jealous! When do I get to stop talking to me?
No longer talking to someone can feel euphoric. But what does this euphoria consist of? I recently saw someone I had cut off for years. Even though this person is not perfect I have to admit that it’s very possible that part of the reason I cut them off was because I loved them so much and knew that we would never be in the same place again or as close as we once were, so was it maybe easier to have a reason, which seemed really good at the time, to make a break?
When I walked away from her and got on the subway after the first time we’d hung out in ages, I was overwhelmed with conflicting emotions. Tears seeped out of my eyes, but I was also hyped up, on edge. I felt like I was melting and hardening all at once. I was happy to have seen her; regretful at not having seen her sooner; but also defiant, full of pride for having built this wall, even as I was taking it down, and at once replete with the warmth of reconciliation and encased in a cold surety that I remain capable of cruelty when it is called for. I can’t say which sensation I preferred.
A few years ago, I was walking down a street in Brooklyn Heights when I was surprised by a familiar voice calling “Sarah? Is that you?” It was the friend I stopped talking to because she was always complaining that she was fat. It had been almost 20 years. She came right up to me, her eyes were damp, she was as thin as ever. “Oh, Sarah,” she said. “My friend. I’ve missed you so much!” I remembered that she had a vulnerable directness I’d never encountered in anyone else, and that sometimes she was so interesting she made me feel like I was on drugs.
“Why did you stop talking to me?” she asked. I told her, and she said “Reeeaaally?” and started laughing, and then I started to laugh too. She was picking up her teenage daughters at school and when they showed up, they eyed me with uncertainty. “Girls, this is Sarah,” my friend called out to them, holding on to my shoulder with one hand, pointing at me with the other. “Girls. Listen! Sarah and I are, old, old, old friends.”