When you’re a bad friend

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Something happens when you’re older, aside from the obvious weight gain and memory loss.

You sort of forget what it means to be a friend.

Or maybe your definition of a friend changes.

Whichever. I feel like that’s what’s happened to me lately.

In high school it was easy. Friends were the people you hung out with every morning before class or after school. They were the people you called late at night to cry about a breakup or gush about a new crush. You brought an embarrassing amount of flowers and helium balloons to school on their birthdays and wrote them letters, neatly folded into origami-like forms, when you were in class.

Friendship got trickier in college. Most of us had to juggle full class schedules, extracurricular activities and part-time jobs. I didn’t have as much time as I did in high school to hang with my friends — most of my spare time was spent working or studying — and I didn’t see them as often during the day, either. We all took different classes, had different breaks, or weren’t even on the same island anymore. We wrote letters every now and again — yes, this was before e-mail — and called on the weekends. But it wasn’t the same.

And now fast forward nearly 20 years and I can’t even remember to take the laundry out of the dryer much less post, “Happy Birthday!” on someone’s Facebook wall.

I don’t know what happened to me — or if friendships change over time and there’s not much I can do about it

I’m a firm believer, though, that all relationships — and that includes friendships — need to be nurtured and require attention. You should call, you should check in, you should be there when they need you. But as we get older, the face-to-face time gets harder and harder, and you suddenly realize you haven’t talked to or seen your bestie in months.

Lately, I think I’ve been a bad friend. Despite my social nature, I tend to hide out a lot. I like to be alone, spend time with my dogs, hang with my family, watch whatever’s on Bravo. As most of my close friends can attest, it’s hard to get me to go out these days. Party invites and tweetup RSVPs sit untouched in my inbox for weeks. I dread going to events where there will be more than 10 people in attendance. I do it and I almost always have fun while I’m there — it’s just hard getting me there.

That’s not an indicator of a friend gone bad. It is, though, when I can’t meet friends for lunch or text them on their birthdays or send thank-you cards.

I used to be better about it. I don’t know what happened.

I had a conversation about this with another super-busy blogger type and she said friendships shouldn’t be overly complicated. If she doesn’t see you or hear from you in weeks, fine. But when she needs you, she expects you’ll be there. I guess that makes it simpler.

And people can be bad friends but great acquaintances. And maybe we should determine what the nature of the friendship is before getting our feelings intertwined and ultimately hurt.

I feel badly for all the friends who might have felt dismissed in recent years, displaced by my dogs or my sick sister or my big move from Aina Haina. I really don’t have any excuse. It was never intentional; my life got in the way. But it’s always good — not matter how much it hurts — to get reminded of that every once in a while.

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13 Responses to “When you’re a bad friend”

  1. Tania March 20, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    Hey Cat, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s a normal phase many of us go through. I’m about ten years older than you, I think (I do remember you when you first started out with your column for the paper talking about topics other than food like it was yesterday including reality tv discussion/relationship stuff but I digress.)

    I didn’t keep up my chick relationships in my late 20s through 30s and as I headed into my 40s, we picked up where we left off. I have one friend in particular who I didn’t see for 15 years and now she is such a support for me and is someone I regularly eat ono grindz with, like weekly, make that several times a week. Social media does make it a lot easier now to not completely lose track/touch with someone. I see my friends on a regular basis now but went through a period like yours. I am an introvert that needs alone time too plus the writing/blogging/social media stuff and my friends get that. A former partier, I no longer enjoy doing the late night thing but will make an exception occasionally to go dancing with friends. Your blogger friend was right, be there when they need you and the rest will take care of itself. Also maybe say yes at least once a month to an invite (or however many times works for you). Like you I usually have a good time once I get out but it is that step of getting out.

    Also it helps to manage expectations of relationships. I’ve got friends I’ll divulge my deepest darkest too and others are just fun to play tennis or grab a bite to eat with. That is totally ok too. I hope you are doing better healthwise too.

  2. Dennis March 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    You are so right on it! It gets worst when you reach 70. I look at the obituary ever day to make sure I don’t miss any friend’s passing. I will make an effort to say hello to those that still alive and not dwell on those that have passed on. Good blog!

  3. M March 20, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

    Hello Cat,
    I find it hard to believe that you like to be alone and hard to get you to go out. You are always out eating and going to all these events and going to the other islands.
    As far as friends goes you are my friend on your blog and FB. :>)

  4. Rich March 20, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    Kat, a good friend told me years ago and it’s still this simple today, “the only way to have a friend is to be a friend.”

    It simplifies everything when you be the friend.

  5. turkfontaine March 20, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    sometimes i think you’re a lot like me.

    it’s hard work to be big, bold, clever, social. it’s hard work to be entertaining, inspiring, to be a leader, to be always ‘on’, always ‘up’, always ready with an answer, an opinion, a chuck under a chin.

    it wears on you over the years. the realization dawns that being in a crowd is like a workout at the gym. you leave the party exhausted.

    eventually the balance shifts and time alone is the most valued. then you find out that all the work was to push away and overcome the thing about you that nobody would ever have guessed, you most of all. you discover that you are an introvert.

    i don’t know if this is you. i did find out it was me. but it took 30 years, the second half of my life thus far.

  6. Lynnell March 20, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    Yes, from what you wrote, you are a bad friend. Instead of “blogging” about it, what are you going to do about it?

  7. EdW March 20, 2014 at 11:51 pm #

    I find that after the years keeping in touch is much harder. Like Dennis I find myself browsing the obits more. Sometimes the only contact is Christmas cards but I find myself trying harder to keep in touch, It’s spring now so most of my friends will be back from southern climes and reopening their shops and businesses. Hopefully I’ll be able to get out on the golf course now that some of the health issues are being solved. It’s all part of getting older, life seems to get in the way a lot. We just try to do things and go places the few times we go out that will bring us into contact with old pals.

  8. 808pooh March 21, 2014 at 12:39 am #

    Cat-
    I think it seems you are going through a lot right now or your plate seems to be heaping but all in all i think you are pretty happy to wake up each day to beautiful hawaii sunrises and sunsets that you can never get elsewhere. Can you imagine if you were still living on the mainland and feeling this way? Or even being stuck inside your home because it’s too cold to do anything? I could be wrong but I bet you are still a true friend to all those people around you. With all the different blogs that you written that i read i cannot see you being that mean/not so nice person. But i look forward to reading your daily blogs and all your social postings!

  9. Betty March 21, 2014 at 12:45 am #

    Cat, you will find if a friend is good and true and mostly get along with you. I found it many years ago on a trip to L.A. and Disneyland. She was so selfish and childish and a moma girl. She did not want to share a bed in motel with me want own bed to herself. Everybody share. She want Chinese food everynight yet we are Chinese want to try other kind of food.
    She won’t give in we told her drop her in Chinese restaurant and come back for her when done. No! afraid to go alone so she have no way but to dine what other like.

    In Disneyland she been to before trying to people not to ride this and that rides due to she did not like it. Only Small World the one she like. Boring! all like fast and scary rides and that got her good. She have to join in on it or sit and wait. Everybody wish she never came on trip for she did ruin it for all.

  10. Croxie March 21, 2014 at 5:02 am #

    Dearest Cat ….
    There’s a clichė that I heard a while back …. “Good Friends are hard to find”.

    Great friends are even harder to find, but in spite of our failures to be even good friends to others, there will always be good friends in our lives. They are the ones that don’t demand huge amounts of time, but will dish out a plate of affection on demand. They don’t require a weekly nod, or even a monthly touch… they are just there when we need them.

    Sending you some early morning good vibe!

  11. bumper March 22, 2014 at 12:22 am #

    Life definitely gets busier and more complicated as we get older. Personally, though, I’ve found that not everyone has realistic or fair ideas about what a “good friend” ought to do. Single gals gripe about their married friends going MIA or their married-with-kids friends selling out and just living for the children. Yet, many of those judgmental tunes change once circumstances evolve and the friends are again in similar places in life. Then they “get it,” and friends are friends again.

    I don’t know your situation exactly, and we all do make mistakes, but considering what you’ve been through this past year, I would hope that your friends are empathetic and understanding about any unintentional slip ups. Women, especially, can be so judgmental and self-centered, even to our nearest and dearest. I hope you all can work it out and come to a place of mutual respect and shared understanding.

  12. A.T. March 23, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    For me the truest of friends are those that you grew up with from elementary through high school. The ones you smoked your first cigarette with, the ones you drank your first beer with, the ones you double dated to a Loggins and Messina concert with, you get my point. Altough I haven’t kept in touch with them, they are the ones that would drop whatever they were doing if I called for their help. They are the ones that would understand that if I called for help it must really be important. Sometimes I feel guilty because these are the same guys that I wouldn’t socialize with on a normal basis. I don’t know if we just out grew our priorities in life over time. Then there are acquaintances that you’ve known longer than your high school friends, that you have fun with but would not call if you were in a bind. I try not to think about it too much but it is comforting to know that the home boys will alway be there when you need them.

  13. Melissa March 30, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

    :)

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