Friday, October 10, 2008

Friendquake

I've mentioned before that I belong to a playgroup. There are about a dozen of us, and we all have kids within three months of each other. It's a pretty random group of mostly stay-at-home moms who met at a hospital seminar, and I'll admit I'm shocked at how these dozen random women have become incredibly important to me.

In my mind, playgroup is one of the most unexpected and wonderful things that motherhood has brought me. We moved down here when I was six months pregnant with M, and I didn't have a job, a social network, or any real way of meeting people. I signed up for our hospital's new-mom program just as a way to get out of the house after M was born, and found myself with a dozen new friends. Over the almost three years that we've known each other, the women of my playgroup have been my sounding boards, supporters, confidantes and playmates. I'm eternally grateful for their presence in my life.

This is not to say that things are all sunshine and roses. With so many people, there are bound to be some personalities that mesh better than others, and I'd be lying if I said each and every woman in the group in my absolute bosom buddy. And I've certainly had moments of pique with some members of the group (and talked about it here as recently as last week). Still, I feel pretty fortunate to know all of them, and would proudly call each of them my friends.

Which is why I'm upset about what happened this morning. In the course of discussing options for an upcoming get-together, one of the women sent an email that rubbed me the wrong way. She had basically stated an opinion on a nearby kid-friendly place (perfectly fine and valid), then stated that the only way she could imagine someone feeling differently than her was if that person had never been there and therefore didn't know what they were talking about (not fine, not valid). I sent her a private email telling her that I did, in fact, disagree with her, and that I found it condescending that she'd imply that any opinion contrary to hers must be based on ignorance.

I freely admit that I shouldn't have sent that email. I knew that nothing I said would change her opinion, and I probably should have ignored the parts I didn't like and moved on. Really, I know this. I don't have an excuse for sending it anyway. It was not one of my best moments, judgment-wise.

But holy heck, was I shocked at what she sent me in return! A profanity-laced rant on how my email was the last straw (I had no idea there was even a first straw!). In the next several sentences, she castigated me on everything from the size of my home to my opinions on the Disney Princesses to my feminism to the kind of grass I have in my yard (wtf?) to the cost of preschool to the fact that I don't know what it's like to be poor (this I'll cop to, though I was homeless for a brief period in my life) to her perception of my opinions on whether women should be in the workforce, to my alleged opinions on the usefulness of doctoral dissertations (again, wtf?). And then she sent an email to the group pulling out of the event. (as I type this, I just received an email that she's pulled out of the playgroup altogether).

This is not good. When it was just a problem between me and her, it was bad enough. But now that she's no longer even in the group, it's way, way worse. I think maybe a face-to-face (or at least telephone) conversation is in order. I like this woman (not to mention her kids). I don't always agree with her opinions or how she expresses them, but absolute lock-step agreement has never been one of my criteria (criterion?) for friendship. I'm shocked and saddened that there's an underlying current of resentment in our friendship that I didn't even notice. Most importantly, our playgroup has been such a lifeline for me that I can't stand the idea of being the cause of someone else leaving the group and losing its presence in her life.

But where do I even start such a conversation? If she's willing to leave the group over an insignificant issue, then I have to believe that there's more going on here than a curt email or two. Even I'm not so self-centered as to think I'm the only reason she'd take so drastic a step. But the fact remains that I was a catalyst at the very least, and I need to to something to make it right.

So, I will call her. I'll apologize for sending her an email instead of taking up the issue face to face (there is nothing in the email that I would have hesitated to say if we were talking in person). But then what? I can't honestly apologize for calling her out on her attitude, because I stand by what I said. And I won't apologize for my lifestyle (I happen to like the size of my house) or my opinions, even where her perception of my opinions is incorrect. Besides, I think a point-for-point refutation of her email would be counterproductive.

I know I sound like a 12-year-old here. The truth is, I've never done this before. As a kid, I didn't have many friends -- my family situation ensured that all of my friendships were relatively shallow and largely confined to school hours. As an adult, I've mostly made friend in a work setting or within an easy context like school. But this is the first time in my life I've had real, close friends I didn't meet at work or school. And I've never had a friendship end with this kind of bang.

Should I suck it up and offer an insincere apology in service of the greater good? Should I just let the situation go and hope that she'll return to the group once she cools down? Both options seem kind of weaselly and childish. I know this blog isn't exactly a hotbed of commentary (though I am extremely grateful for those who do comment regularly), but I'm hoping there are at least a few lurkers out there who are willing to offer their opinions. Tell me how to (at least try to) save this friendship!

4 comments:

Katrina said...

I would ask if there was something else I did to contribute to her anger that you might not be aware of. Maybe apologize for sending an email instead of calling, but not for what you said. It really stinks that this blew up, it's happened to me before as well.

I hope that she doesn't take such a hard line on the phone as she did in the email. I bet a nickel she won't. I hope the playgroup doesn't break up, as its so important to have a network of women friends.

Hang in there!

Paranoid said...

Thank you. I'll be calling her on Monday (to give us both time to cool off)

insanelybusymomma said...

I agree with Katrina. Sometimes there are other things that will contribute to a blow up like PMS, financial issues, the cat getting ran over, a really crappy day, all of the above. I'd probably try to gently stress that conflicting opinions aren't a bad thing either, in fact they are what make relationships interesting and dynamic. If there's something really going on with her, she might need someone to open up to just to listen. Maybe somehow she's gotten the idea that you don't like her as well. Who knows?

Give her a call, I'm sure you'll both at least feel better even if you don't make up right away. Maybe after given some time to digest a phone conversation she'll see what your friendship means to you. It could be that she realizes what an ass she sounded like in that email and is afraid to call or email you to apologize or explain.

Good luck with it Paranoid.

Joonie said...

This is a tough one. But I agree with everyone else, that she probably has something else going on in her life that has caused her to overreact to your e-mail. Try not to take it to heart, give her a call and feel her out and see what she's up to. Even if things don't work out, you'll know that you gave it your best shot.

Good Luck!