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Passing Thoughts

Last night, I watched the Grammys with my eyes closed, so I got to imagine what Nicki Minaj’s dance looked like and sometimes I had no clue who was presenting.  Actually, I only half-listened.  I was thinking about how Foo Fighters will probably still be at the Grammys ten years from now, and Lady Gaga may be at the Grammys ten years from now, but many other artists in that room most definitely would not be at the Grammys ten years from now if history is any indicator of the future.  Maybe that’s why I was watching it with my eyes closed — I always get a little squeamish about award shows for that reason.  They come with enormous highs that inevitably lead in the future (for most musicians) to enormous lows.

For instance, I was so happy for Adele.  She deserves every one of those six Grammys. (Actually, I can’t say that because I only caught the last two Grammys that she won and I have no idea if she was deserving of the first four, but let’s go with that assumption.)  Last night must have felt incredible.  And for awhile, she will be able to ride the excitement as people give her opportunities through the media to keep reliving it.  But at some point, the attention will peter out, and then she will be faced with millions of eyes staring at her with the unspoken expectation of “what are you going to do next?”  Or, even worse, no expectant eyes on her at all because they’re all focused on the next shiny thing, and she will need to wiggle into the center of the room again by producing something equally noteworthy.  Which is very difficult to do.

I went to a panel last year at BlogHer on viral posts.  The speakers were asked if it was difficult to return to 20 hits after receiving 20,000 hits, and while none particularly wanted the emotional turmoil or time suckage that accompanies a viral post, most voiced that it was a bit of a letdown to go from that level of excitement to the now seemingly-mundane 20 hits.  Whereas before it happened, they were fairly content with their 20 hits.  That’s what I was thinking about last night as Adele won — that human craving that comes once we receive good attention to want more good attention, to want the good feeling to continue or come back again.


I knew a girl when I was much younger whose parents would never let her do anything, though her two brothers were involved in all sorts of activities.  One day, we were playing in her front yard by running around a tree — this was the sort of excitement we could have at her house — and I asked her why she wasn’t allowed to ride horses with the rest of us.  I grew up in a very horsey area, and it was unusual to meet someone who had never been on a horse.

She told me that it was because her parents only had one girl but they had two boys.  If anything happened to one of her brothers, they would still have a son.  But if something happened to her, they wouldn’t have a daughter.  In my ten-year-old mind, this sounded stupid and I told her so as we ran around the tree.  I said that if she died, they’d be devastated because they had lost their child, and the same would go for one of her brothers.  They wouldn’t be okay with a death just because of the sex of the deceased child.  She just shrugged and told me to ask her dad about it, which I told her I would do and then didn’t because he was sort of a formidable man.

When I was a child, I chalked it up to the simple sexism you saw all over the place where boys were signed up for sports while the girls watched on the sidelines.  Now I wonder if there was another story there, something my friend didn’t know, something her parents never told her.  Why were they so scared that something would happen to her?  What was the story behind the story I could see, the one that made them hold their daughter so close?


I realized over the weekend how much I had drifted apart from an old friend and became incredibly sad about it, though my instinct wasn’t to reach out and drag her close again.  I was complaining to Josh about it, and in doing so, realized that she was never a very good friend at all.  She was the sort who was always there when she needed you, but only returned the support when it was convenient/mindless to do so.  She was never someone I particularly trusted, and when I started to think about the sorts of things I told her, they were things I wouldn’t mind telling the cashier at the grocery store.  I didn’t confide in her, and that — for me — is the biggest sign of how deeply I need the friendship.  Nor did I do any activity with her that I don’t still do now with other people.  Nor did I have more fun when she was around.

So it was sort of crazy to be this upset over realizing that we were no longer friends.

Is it really a loss if the person wasn’t that good a friend to begin with?  If I couldn’t count on her to be there for me?  What am I mourning?


1 It Is What It Is { 02.13.12 at 10:17 am }

I think each friend we have is unique in what their friendship provides for us and, regardless of how ‘deep’ the relationship is, when they are no longer in our lives, it is a loss. However, I also think that when friendships/relationships end and as our experience of them is further and further away, we mourn the ‘idea’ of what that friend meant to us. And, it is easier to idealize someone when someone else hasn’t filled the void.

2 HereWeGoAJen { 02.13.12 at 10:25 am }

I am afraid of losing Elizabeth still. It’s why she goes just about everywhere with me and I’ve never hired a babysitter. I suspect I would be the same about both boys though, if I had two boys as well, like your story.

I lost a friend once that had never been a friend. And it took me a very long time to get over it, even though I was the one who did the breaking up.

3 m. { 02.13.12 at 11:55 am }

I think when we lose a friend, even if they didn’t live up to the idea we had of them in our minds, its easy to wonder, how did I fall short here? What did I do to not foster that relationship? Why wasn’t this person what I wanted them to be to/for me? I think it brings up questions of self-worth. Of course we can’t be loved by everyone, or be all things for all people, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be.

At the same time, I think its natural, and sometimes a really good thing, that people drift in and out of our circles in life. The person I was best friends with in 6th grade would not be a good fit for me now (she probably wasn’t then, but we somehow found ourselves tightly wrapped around each other, fulfilling the needs we had of each other at that time.) It happens. But I think a period of mourning is totally ok. It is something lost, no matter how small.

4 Jem { 02.13.12 at 12:36 pm }

With most friendships, they are not 50/50. I have found that I have to make a larger effort to keep in touch, to create intimacy. It doesn’t mean that my friend doesn’t love me or value time with me. It mostly means she’s as busy (or busier) than me.

As for loss of friendship, I think we have stages in life when we need different people for different roles.

What pops into my mind is how I’ve experienced reading the Lord of the Rings books at various times in my life. I always cry my eyes out when human access to the world and magic of the Elves is lost. It has represented different things for me at the different times in my life… in my teens, it was the innocence of childhood, in my 30s, the loss of some possibilities (roads not taken). With dealing with IF, well, that would be a whole post unto itself and is pretty self-explanatory.

Losses need to be mourned, whether it’s the loss of a real thing, or just what we imagined them to be.

5 Cherish { 02.13.12 at 2:25 pm }

I think somehow you’re seeing it as a personal failure. You didn’t work hard enough to maintain the friendship. You weren’t interesting enough to hold her attention. You couldn’t connect properly with her. NOT that I’m saying any of that is true, just the insecurities that would run through my head and maybe are in yours.

6 Rachel { 02.13.12 at 2:25 pm }

I’m in the same place with my “best” friend of ten years. We haven’t spoken in months, and what I really miss? Who we were 5 years ago. Not who we are now. It’s hard to get past that, you know?

7 JustHeather { 02.13.12 at 2:27 pm }

I like how It Is What It Is said it. I totally agree. (And that’s all I have to say.)

8 Queenie { 02.13.12 at 3:05 pm }

I’ve never hired a babysitter either! I have the same fears, so we have a “no strangers” rule with our daughter.

Ah, the friend situation. I am going through the same thing now. I think part of it is letting go of whatever you had. There must’ve been something there. But even though a part of you intellectually knows that the person added nothing to your life, there was a reason that you were friends, and your heart has a hard time just letting go, I think. At least that’s true for me. I have a friend that I was very close to during a time that we were experiencing together that was very difficult for both of us. But now that we’ve both moved past that, I find that we situationally bonded, and she’s not at all there for me when I need her. Plus, I’ve realized that she is kind of wacky and/or going through the worst mid-life crisis I’ve ever seen, and I don’t really need the drama. Still, having been through so much together, it’s hard to let go, although in hindsight, she’s never really been a good friend to me.

9 a { 02.13.12 at 5:07 pm }

I lost a friend through attrition – she’s the wife of a coworker, and our kids are the same age, but that’s about all we had in common. We had some play dates, but when I went back to work, it just got too hard to get together. So we didn’t.

I can’t imagine the let down when all that attention no longer happens – I suspect that’s part of what happened in Whitney Houston’s life.

10 Esperanza { 02.13.12 at 5:09 pm }

What an interesting story that girl told you, not only that her parents felt that way but that she somehow knew it (they had told her this before)? I also wonder what the story you couldn’t see was. And this is where I admit that one of the reasons I really want to have three kids (even thought we absolutely cannot afford three kids and I’m supposed to leave this dream in the dust with some many others) is that if I have three kids, and something happens to one of them, the other two will have each other. I think it would be somehow less tragic for a child to go from being one of three to one of two and still having a sibling to grow into adulthood with than having a sibling and then becoming an only child. That would be such a horrible fate. I couldn’t imagine it. Also, selfishly, I would be very sad to only have one child. It’s such a monstrous thing to say out loud, but it’s true. One of the reasons I want to have three kids is kind of an insurance policy against loss. For some reason I think it would absolutely tame my overzealous anxieties about losing a child (I realize both are totally irrational – as are all of my really intense anxieties). Of course I could always lose two kids and then where would I be? And I recently read a horror story of a woman who lost all three of her girls in a car accident while her SIL was driving. I truly cannot imagine that kind of loss.

So yeah, I just admitted that. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone that before. It feels good to get it out though. And feel free to judge me for it, god knows I judge myself.

As for the friend thing, I’m not so sure why we mourn some friendships. I had a “very good friend” who also wasn’t all that great of a friend, not when I really thought about it. Distancing myself from her was a long and sordid affair, fraught with many nights of me crying on my partner’s shoulder, both bitching about her and lamenting the fact that we were slipping away from each other. I wish I could tell you friends are such emotionally charged issues, I even read books on the topic but never really understood the dynamics that drive certain friendships. All I can say is that now I try really hard to make sure that all my friendships are productive for me. And while I still see that friend every once in a while, I’ve finally disentangled myself from her controlling shit and I actually enjoy my time with her better than I used to, because I just don’t care what she thinks anymore. And funnily enough, I think she can sense that I think she likes me better for it, in a lot of ways. Who knows, ours was a very dysfunctional friendship…

11 Dresden { 02.13.12 at 5:13 pm }

It’s also really hard to lose a friend and have no idea why. Really hard.

12 Still Hoping { 02.13.12 at 8:12 pm }

I just posted a similar thought about a long-lost friend on Sunday… and her every growing family. It’s hard because we remember the good times and the way things once were. Although sometimes I wonder if our memories are fonder than the actual experience.

I think I’m getting to a point with this friend that we can have a relationship that is “friendly” but yet I don’t really miss what we used to have. We’ve outgrown each other and our lives have taken different paths. But no matter what the circumstances, it’s an awkward thing to go through.

13 Geochick { 02.13.12 at 10:29 pm }

Anytime I lose a friend (and I did recently, although it was a conflict rather than a drifting apart, a conflict she doesn’t want to resolve I might add) I feel like a failure.

Maybe that is the crux of feeling bad. That and realizing you’re going through changes. No matter how positive, changes are always stressful. At least I think so.

14 Jo { 02.14.12 at 8:36 pm }

While I’ve never won a grammy or had a blog post go viral, I was lucky enough to have someone highlight a post of mine, and yes. It was hard to go back to ten hits or so (and three comments) after seeing that number spike into the hundreds (with lots of comments). 🙂 Funny how what once was fine is now kind of sad.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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