Sunday, January 23, 2011

...and boom goes the dynamite

(small disclaimer: this was written several months ago, I'd just saved it somewhere else)

So here it is: the demise of a friendship

I lost a friend this week. She's still alive just not my friend anymore. Part of it was my fault, I don't censor myself. Part of it was small things that I'd seen coming and instead of pretending everything was fine, I asked what was wrong. It was as if I'd held a grenade in my hand. The whole thing blew up and I was left shattered and in pieces.

It all began with opinions. Everyone has an opinion on things. I just don't hesitate to share mine when asked. I always tell people not to ask for my opinion if you really don't want to hear it. See? Fair warning, right? Well, this particular friend was fine with it until she wasn't. She has her own life going on and she found herself in a situation she wasn't ready for or 100 percent expecting to be in. She came to me and told me her situation and I'd supported her no matter what the outcome. She asked my opinion on what to do. It's not a fair question because I'm not her, not in her marriage and can't make the choice for her. But according to her I "pushed" my opinion down her throat. She had asked, I had told her. I guess in her mind it was push.

She grew distant, I asked her about it. She'd accused me of bullying her with my opinions and trying to control her life with my demands to know what was wrong. I'm too overwhelming for her, apparently.

The truth of the matter is, everyone has opinions. Some people keep them to themselves and parrot someone else's opinion when asked for their own, because it seems nicer. I'm what some call "brutally honest" or, as my grandmother likes to say "rough around the edges". When asked my opinion, I'll honestly tell you on just about any subject. You take what you get with me. I'm used to people getting offended after I answer. It still hurts from time-to-time, but I get used to it.

I have good reasons for speaking up. Well, I see them as good reasons. I blanket myself with these reasons and its why, sometimes, being my friend is a chore. Gone are the days I apologize for being myself though.

I grew up in an abusive home. I watched my father cheat on my mother (not actually watch the physical relations happen, but the mistress was a regular guest in my childhood home). I watched my mother lie to herself and her children about the affair. I was only twelve and I knew something wasn't right. My mother's response when I'd said something about the subject was "keep your opinions to yourself". Even worse was, when I finally did get someone to listen to me, the end result was a year apart from my sister and my parents while they worked to repair their marriage. My father became a raging alcoholic and my mother was a superb liar and an expert in denial. My family never fixed anything. We never spoke about things, never addressed the past and, once again, my opinion went unheard. I'd asked family members for help and they'd all said it wasn't their place. Years later, so many of them have apologized after learning how bad things really were at home for me.

Its that unopinionated non-involvement of the adults in my life that had led me to be as opinionated as I am today. Especially in regards to issues about the safety of children and domestic violence. These are two topics I have the strongest opinions about and I'm especially vocal about them. These are also two topics that eventually led to the demise of my friendship.

At lunch one day, while talking about an acquaintance, the conversation became about a fight the couple had. Our acquaintance had admitted to beating her husband during an argument. I was appalled as this friend laughed at the violence. She was laughing because the wife was much smaller than her husband and the thought of him cowering to her was humorous. She asked what I thought. I was honest. I felt instead of laughing she should have suggest anger management or therapy (at the least) and asked if he was seriously injured. I voiced that she also should have asked where the young child of this couple's was at the time of the beating. She told me I was over reacting and it wasn't that big of a deal, since he didn't call the police everything was fine. I'd asked her not to mention this acquaintance to me again, because I was very sensitive to domestic violence situations. She told me I was censoring her because I didn't like that one particular person. I apologized for not seeing the humor in domestic violence and not joining in the giggle fest she'd had at the expense of this one couple's martial issues.

Another issue that everyone has opinions on, is parenting. Everyone wants to raise their children their own way. But some things are legally required in raising children. A very simple example is the placement of a car seat: forward facing versus rear facing. A young mom had turned her 5 month old to a forward facing position, which is 7months too soon, not to mention he wasn't over the 20 pound minimum weight requirement. When asked about my own son's car seat placement I'd said he was still rear facing because he was happy like that. Also, at 12 months he was still a shade under 20 pounds. I did take the time to explain legally she had to keep her own son rear facing for 7 more months, as well as the risks to forward face him too soon. This young mom felt I was telling her how to raise her son and she'd complained to my friend. I was told (only recently) I was being a bully and was overbearingly blunt with my opinions. But it wasn't an opinion. Its the law!

I let the friendship go. In the end, the hurtful things coming out, that she'd thought about for months and finally felt the need to vocalize them all to me, was too much. I've never hid my opinions. I've always told people close to me, not to ask for an opinion if they didn't really want to hear my opinion. I was actually told "just once it'd be nice if you weren't so honest". That's the problem isn't it? As a society, we site honesty as an important value in any friendship or relationship. But when the opinion isn't the same as your own or the honesty is too honest, we tend to wish we were lied to instead. I don't kill people with honesty, but i will give you an honest opinion when asked for it.

Some opinions are simple and subjective: favorite color; time of day; favorite season; best football team. Not one of those is a true friendship buster, because not everyone will ever feel the some about the small details. The opinions are expected to be different from person to person and most friendships survive. But when you introduce bigger opinions and factor in different life experiences, you get the friendship killing opinions. I could have simply kept my opinions to myself when asked, but would I have been being true to myself or putting more value a friendship with no true base of honesty? In the end, being myself is all I can bring to any friendship. As friendships grow with new people I meet, I slowly introduce my opinions. I don't go "balls to the wall" straight out of the gate. Even I'm not that foolish.

Deep down inside, everyone has an opinion. If ever some says they have no opinion, what they really mean is; they have an opinion but they'll keep it to themselves.

There you have it. A secret, squirreled away entry now released for your viewing pleasure. All 1-3 of you who actually read this thing.

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