Sunday, February 03, 2008

Foul weather friend

A Sunday Scribblings blog

It wasn't Lydia's finest moment. She lost her cool and snapped at Gail.

Gail hadn't done anything to warrant the wrath. She just happened to be the unfortunate rabbit that happened into Lydia's crosshairs at that precise moment. Gail, face flushed and tears welling up, abruptly turned and made a beeline to the ladies' room.

Sigh. Lydia went through a quick mental checklist: Should she follow and offer apologies? Let Gail have a good cry first, then apologize later (Lydia was not good at there, there pat on the back hugging consolation)? Just let it go and allow everyone think she's a bitch (which some did anyways).

Rats! She headed to the ladies' room. Inside, she found Gail in front of the mirror delicately dabbing smudges of eye makeup on her lower lids.

Lydia barely finished her opening line of, "I'm sorry. It wasn't anything you did" before Gail interjected and said it was okay. She understood perfectly: Lydia had been under a lot of strain lately, so many deadlines, so many demands on her time, and everyone knew about her man problems. No need to apologize.

Lydia hadn't expected this. Before she knew it, she was telling Gail everything shitty that had been going on in her life for the past few weeks. Egad, confiding in her! Next thing Lydia remembered was Gail's arms around her shoulders, hand pat-pat-patting her on the back and saying they should get together for coffee sometime.

Over the next couple of weeks, they got together for coffee, then lunches and a couple of dinners. Each time, Gail was there - supportive, ever-listening and attentive. They were becoming good friends. At the end of the month, things were easing up at work. She'd received a small bonus on her last project, her relationship with John had resolved (dissolved was a better word) itself and she was heading off on vacation.

Gail saw her off at the airport and said she'd pick her up on the return.

While in Hawaii, Lydia kept in touch via email and gushed about the fabulous time she was having. She felt rejuvenated and happy. Two days before her return home, she received an email from Gail saying, sorry, but she couldn't pick her up at the airport, would she mind taking a taxi. Not a problem, they would get together later.

When she got back, she found out Gail had been transferred out of her department. Funny, Gail hadn't mentioned it. During the next week, Lydia left numerous voice messages asking when they could get together for lunch. When Gail finally responded, she apologized and said she was swamped with work – maybe another time.

They eventually met two weeks later for lunch at Cardero's. Lydia was bubbling over recounting her amazing vacation and telling Gail about the man she'd met (also from Vancouver). They'd already been on one lunch date and one dinner date. It was too early to tell, but they really seemed to get along.

During lunch, Gail was strangely subdued and distracted. At times, not seeming to listen at all and responding with an occasional sounds nice comment equivalent to the "that's lovely dear" comments from absent-minded Aunt Tillie.

It was obvious over the next weeks, that their friendship had lost its lustre. She stopped trying to contact Gail.

The last time Lydia saw Gail was at the café across from the park. Gail was with Jane, an older co-worker from the office who had just been given her pink slip and would be joining the ranks of the unemployed in two weeks. Jane was in tears and there was Gail, ever-attentive and sympathetic-looking, holding and pat-pat-patting her hand.

A foul weather friend in action.

From Best or Worst Times?:

We've all heard of fair-weather friends, those vapid souls who adore us when we are thin, rich, and healthy, but suddenly disappear the minute that illness, divorce, or job loss threatens to wreck their buzz. Less discussed -- but no less prevalent -- are foul-weather friends. These are the friends who are extremely supportive when you've lost your job or split up with your man, but become cold and distant when you start to get your life back together.

"Good friends will offer you support during hard times, but a foul-weather friend is drawn to your pain," says Judith Sills, PhD, a psychologist and author of If the Horse Is Dead, Get Off! Creating Change When You're Stuck in Your Comfort Zone (Viking, 2004)


Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful post and really says a lot. I think I'm going to be giving a lot of thought to it. Thanks!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kay.

Re-reading this, I could have used a good editor over my shoulder - but I think it gets the point across anyways.

Anonymous said...

What an interesting take on friendship. I've never (luckily) had a friend like that.