Have you ever had a “misery loves company” friend who turns on you when you’re, well, not quite as miserable anymore? As Jane Hodges explains in “Collateral Damage,” in those cases, sometimes it’s okay to let a friendship go…
“At first I felt bad about not inviting you to my wedding last summer. But as time has passed, I’ve become more comfortable with that decision–and what the decision really concerns, which is this: After twenty years, we are no longer friends. You bailed on me. For most of the time we’ve known one another, I’ve held love relationships in higher esteem than you have. Dating was always an important but impossible goal for me, something I knew I needed to do to grow as a person, something that I knew would be hard for me (crazy family, hello) but necessary. But as you know, until 2004 the men I tried dating were like a rare species of bird that I briefly spotted and held on my arm before they sank their claws in to get lift-off, resuming their migration toward women who mattered more to them than I ever would. They were lessons about my insignificance to the people whose approval I most wanted, tests of self-esteem I was no stranger to. Comments like ‘You know I don’t love you’ and ‘My therapist says I’m just sleeping with you to get back at my ex-wife’ and, my personal favorite, ‘I haven’t been very nice to you, and you haven’t gotten upset enough about it–I really think you need to go to a therapist.’ But that didn’t make me turn my back on relationships with men. It wasn’t that I felt that relationships were impossible. They just weren’t possible with the men I’d chosen thus far. You always seemed amused by my dating stories, supportive but firm in your position as conscientious objector to the whole energy-sucking, insecurity-generating business of attempted couple-dom. You didn’t judge my interest in finding love, sex, companionship, or some mix of the three. You just thought it was a funny affliction that I, an otherwise sensible woman, indulged. Maybe I never noticed that as long as I was failing at love, my investments in the acts surrounding it were okay with you. I guess I should have realized that my arrival at the doorstep of a good relationship would bother you. So as I began planning my wedding, thinking about a passage in my life and who I wanted around me–who is there for me and why, who isn’t and why–I stepped back and asked a different question about you and your disappearance. I stopped questioning why you had stopped talking to me and what I might have done to cause that, and I began asking myself why I cared…”
JANE HODGES is a freelance writer in Seattle. Her fiction has appeared in The Brooklyn Review, and she has published essays in Single State of the Union: Single Women Speak Out on Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness (Seal Press, 2007) and The Seattle Weekly. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Business 2.0, on msnbc.com and The Seattle Times, and many other print and online publications. She feels guilty every day about her unfinished novel and the loans she took out for an MFA in creative writing, and when she’s not reading fiction or a day-old newspaper, she’s reading friends’ tarot cards. She’s a loyal friend–but nobody puts Baby in a corner. Visit her at www.janehodges.net.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For those in the Pacific Northwest area, Jane will be reading at both the Portland and Seattle bookstore events, woo hoo (and this editor is mighty interested in perhaps putting those tarot cards to use during our respective house-guesting visits for just such events–do I dare?)
Read the rest of Jane’s letter, and 35 others, in P.S. What I Didn’t Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends, now available on Amazon!