I just spent all day writing a long piece on the end of a friendship.
I decided not to post it.
Because I realize that after 1500 words, what I wanted to say wasn’t there.
Here is a short version.
A year ago, a friend ghosted me.
She broke dates, stopped calling, stopped returning my calls. I blamed it on the Pandemic.
We were not soulmates. But I don’t believe much in soulmates anyway. I know from decades of family, friendships, and marriage, that even those closest to you don’t always understand you. And that dear friends can get on your nerves as easily (if not easier) than strangers.
But I also believe that you don’t need to be soulmates to be friends. That sometimes friendship is a matter of proximity and convenience – and that there’s nothing wrong with that. Just think back to childhood when your best buddies were the kids who lived on your block. You played with them because they were THERE. And not only was that okay, it was probably good for you. You learned to appreciate people because you needed a friend, and they were right there, ready to accept you too.
I appreciated this friend’s accessibility. We had some things in common and some things not in common. But she was there.
I am also confused and hurt.
Because she “ghosted” me.
One day, I went to her Facebook page, and all her posts had disappeared. She had not “unfriended” me. But there were no posts to see except her cover photo.
It took me another month to realize that she hadn’t deleted her Facebook posts. She had excluded me. With Facebook, you can “unfriend” someone, and you can “block” them (which is worse). But you can also “restrict” them. You don’t have to unfriend them. You can just exclude them from seeing anything you post. That’s what my friend did.
After writing all day about what I may have done wrong or what she may have done wrong, I realize that it doesn’t matter.
Because what I keep thinking about – all these months later – is how sad it is to be excluded.
Ghosting is a cowardly thing. The ghosters never explain why. They just disappear.
I am 70 years old. I have learned over these many years that not everyone will like me. I want to be liked. I sometimes crave approval. But I also know that it won’t kill me if I don’t get it.
I want to grow. I strive to become a better person, no matter how old I am. But I also have come to like myself as I am. It’s no small accomplishment.
Ghosting haunts me, though. (I like the word “haunts” with “ghosting,” by the way. It’s perfect.)
I keep thinking about teenagers. People who aren’t 70. Who don’t love themselves yet.
If ghosting hurts me, when I am in that stage of my life when I have achieved some level of self-assurance and self-love, how does it hurt those young people who are so filled with self-doubt? I think about this because I know that ghosting is a common tactic for young people.
My audience is not young people. I have no way of reaching out to them. I want to reassure them that exclusion is survivable.
I can perhaps reach a few of their parents. I need to tell them this about ghosting:
It’s awful. Exclusion is awful.
Don’t minimize it to your kids. Don’t tell them it’s nothing. Don’t say it doesn’t matter. It’s silent bullying and it hurts.
Maybe you can tell them this: That you know an old lady who got ghosted and she says it sucks. You can’t fix it, but you can acknowledge it.
Someone asked me if I ghosted my ghoster back. I did not. I refuse to use that weapon.
Start young. Make sure your little ones send Valentine cards to everyone. Make sure they bring enough cupcakes on their birthday. Make sure they invite the lonely kid to sit with them at lunch.
For a whole year now, I have felt like everyone got a Valentine’s card but me.