Welcome to Friendzone, Jezebel's column devoted to dealing with the valuable people in your life who you're not humping. Got an issue and looking for guidance? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been told by a close friend that I don't seem very supportive or encouraging when I email her. I actually haven't seen this friend in person for over two years because of physical distance, but we have kept up a regular email correspondence for years. When something is going wrong in her life, she claims that all I say is "Sorry to hear about that" and then I move on to talk about my own life. I didn't even realize that I came across as uncaring. How can I be more supportive of my friend so that she knows I care about her life?
Look, I don't want you to get the nervous shits every time you send your friend an email, worried that she'll judge you harshly. What this gal wants is more genuine, loving attention, so let's give it to her. Devote at least half of each email to her: her wants, her needs, her interests, her family, her job, her life. Here's an example:
Hey lady, what's up? I really miss you. I was just thinking the other day about that time we went to the hair salon and you got your hair done by that satyr. I remember you saying you later switched to the centaur because at least he didn't hit on you all the time. What color is your hair these days, anyway? Still red like the apple of Paris, or dark as the smoke from Hephaestus' forge? Send pics!
As for me, same old, same old. Married to Hephaestus, boning Ares on the side. Can you blame me? You know I've always been into bad boys, especially ones with major daddy issues. My therapist says it has to do with being born of seafoam, but who the fuck knows.
LMK when you've got time to talk on the phone or Skype! I'd love to meet you up on Olympus when we can grab a few days to ourselves.
I imagine your emails with your friend are rather longer than the one between Athena and Aphrodite (which I took directly from Homer, obvs), but try to keep the same proportions. Always open by asking about her life and commenting on shared memories or personal references. This way she'll feel loved and acknowledged right off the bat. Then get into your own stuff — which, remember, is still important!
And don't waste time feeling bad about yourself. You simply didn't realize you were being distant or insensitive, and she was brave enough to point it out. That's evidence of a friendship worth saving, in my opinion.
Should I stay friends with my ex? We had a really nasty break up about 10 years ago, and later on, he told his new girlfriend about it. He and I have since reconnected as friends but the girlfriend HATES me, to the point that he can only talk to me when she's not around or she flips out.
You haven't done anything wrong! However, this friendship with him seems to cause anxiety for everybody concerned, yourself included. And I don't hear you saying that he's your BFF or an integral part of your social support system, so what's really the point of maintaining the friendship? I think he's likely forgiven you for anything you may have done in the past that hurt him, and it seems that you've forgiven him for any of his misdeeds. That's nice! Let's quit while we're ahead, shall we? I'd keep it to occasional pleasantries from now on. Tell him you really dig him but you don't think it's appropriate to maintain a friendship that has to be a super-dark secret from his live-in lovaaaaaah. I've been in your position, your ex's position, and his girlfriend's position, and I just don't think it's worth the stress.
Since I moved from the city to the suburbs to live with my boyfriend, I've found I barely see my old friends anymore. I still work in the city and could easily meet them for dinner, but none of them seem able to do anything before late night. On the weekends I go into the city for their parties and shows, yet no one seems to be making the effort for me. This has made me feel like I shouldn't bother trying. I mean, I'm only a 20 minute drive from the city! What do I do? I know you'll say "make new friends," but that's nearly impossible when you're in your late 20s, I've found.
Let me share a story with you, as I feel a certain kinship with you on this one. I recently moved across the country from one cesspool of filth and sin to another, sunnier one. I found that while most of my old friends stayed in touch to one extent or another, a couple "friends" in particular have ceased communicating with me altogether. After trying in vain to revive their interest in me, I've realized that they just weren't the close, loving buddies I thought they were. So I gave up, and put that energy into growing new relationships here in my new city.
You've only moved 20 minutes away from your old home, but the effect is the same. For some folks, out of sight is out of mind. It's time to figure out who in your old friendship group is genuinely interested in staying pals, and who was just a friend of convenience.
My friend Baratunde once did a very smart thing (well, he does lots of smart things all the time, but this one in particular stuck with me.) He was visiting a city for a short period of time and knew that he didn't have the time to see all his friends individually. So he held "open office hours" at a coffee shop all day long, and folks drifted in and out, spending time with him as they were able. He even posted it on Facebook so that all his friends would know about it (you could just send an email if you wanted). Those who couldn't make it just couldn't make it — no hard feelings.
What if you adapted Baratunde's idea for yourself and held "open office hours" at a favorite brunch spot one Sunday a month? Let your pals know in advance that you're going to be at Bougie's Café du Hubris or whatever, and that they can drop by anytime between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. You'll be enjoying the newspaper, a leisurely meal, and some coffee (perhaps in the company of your boyfriend), and they are more than welcome to come hang out for a minute or the whole damn time. A boozier version of the brunch idea would be to hold open office hours at everyone's most sacred and beloved bar.
As for them coming to visit you — well, this is a dream that may never be realized. Some city folks are just allergic to leaving their familiar environs for the wilds of the country. Keep in touch via email, Skype, phone, IM, etc.
Also, I know you said it's hard to make new friends in your late twenties, but believe me, it can be done. Get involved with your new community –- volunteering, yoga classes, anything –- and you'll eventually meet some cool, new people.
Image by Jim Cooke.