Posted on August 21, 2013
How Do Friend? A Socially-Awkward Blogger Begs For Help
I have always been really bad at making friends. My mom likes to recall a story from my childhood, in which I stand at the curb, quietly and sadly watching a group of kids playing; I clearly wanted to join, but I was waiting for an invitation, too shy to just barge on in. I’m sure I was afraid they would tell me they didn’t want to play with me—after all, that’s how I feel nowadays about groups of people I want to join!
The internet has helped in a way. I can dip my toe into the group a little more cautiously, and if they don’t respond to me, at least they’re not in my face telling me I’m not cool. I can just slink away like I was never there. (And, really, most of the time people are happy to make friends and some people actually think I am cool. Weirdos.) It’s still been an effort for me to reach out to people, though. I’ve done better the last couple years, both online and in real life.
But now I get to experience this other form of rejection, in which someone I think I’ve successfully made friends with sort of just…disappears. It happens online, but at least there I can write it off as a person simply not being online as much, or finding other places to hang out. The problem, for me, is when it happens in real life, since it’s always been with co-workers. So I still see these people, and it’s very clear that they are simply just not interested in me anymore.
It’s most recently happened with a co-worker who started here at the beginning of the year. She’s very outgoing and personable, and after a couple months we began to talk more and hang out a bit outside of work, too. We’d go take potty breaks and fill up our water bottles together, and if we ever were alone and not with the other, we’d probably get asked where the other one was. I really loved it. I’d never had a real friend at work, and it made me feel good about myself.
Then…then I got busy. It was a ridiculous month end, and I couldn’t take my bathroom/water breaks at the normal times, so she’d go when she needed to. And y’know, that’s cool. I get that. But she also basically…dropped me entirely. She stopped talking to me. If I’d point out that we rarely saw each other anymore (at work or outside it), she’d sort of just brush it off. I felt like if I wanted this friendship, I was going to have to do all the work for little return. And while maybe at one point in my life I’d put that effort in, but I’ve learned that a true friend will put in the equal effort, and I don’t want to slide backwards.
It sucks, though, you know? Because I still want to hang out with her. I really enjoyed having a life for a few months! I want to gossip and have someone to actually talk to about stuff, not just friends I type to. So I keep trying to figure out what went wrong. I have it narrowed down to:
- She realized she didn’t enjoy spending time with me, period. Probably not much I can do about that.
- The fact that I’m gay/she’s straight and that we’d gotten “paired” in some co-workers minds freaked her out. I can reassure her that I’m not into her that way, but ultimately that’s something she’d have to get over.
- She thinks I’m the one who stopped trying and thus decided she would, too. I’d be a little flabbergasted, but if that became clear, I’d be willing to put the effort back into it if she does, too.
- She does want to be friends but doesn’t have the time or ability to put in the effort right now. A little communication goes a long way, and if I know what’s going on so I don’t have to think up ridiculous theories, I can shoulder the effort for a while.
The problem with all of these reasons, though, is that to find out if any are true, I have to, uh, talk to her. That communication thing has to come from me, too, I know.
But if I ask her, she might think I’m nuts for seeing any issues. She might see me as too clingy or creepy for not just letting go. And maybe she was just being polite by backing off, but not she has to flat-out reject me. (Yes, yes. I know that she might also be glad I said something because she didn’t know I felt that way and she totally still wants to be friends, let’s do lunch or dinner or drinks or a movie or go shopping or whatever. I know that, but that doesn’t stop the bad reactions from taking over in my mind. That’s why I’m so bad at this!)
Also, if I get up the guts to ask, how do I do it? Asking at work is super awkward. Inviting her out for drinks or something may be problematic if she was trying to dump me as a friend.
I guess the point of this post is…what’s your advice to this socially-awkward blogger? Got any suggestions that I may not be thinking of? Should I just give up on this person and move on with my life? Have you had a similar situation (co-worker or other real life friend) that you successfully sorted out? GIVE ME YOUR SECRETS.
Given the situation, it’s probably best to find a natural situation in which you are alone and can casually ask, “Hey, we used to spend a lot of time together, what happened?” Maybe offer her an out if you want and add, “Did we just fall out of habit?” A question like that can allow her to avoid the confrontation, but can also set you up for getting back in contact. You might have to read her actions a little, though. If she hedges, yeah, she probably doesn’t want to hang out, but if she does want to hang out, she might offer up her new habit (e.g., going to get water at a different time of day), and you might be able to adjust and get back into the habit.
Finding the “natural situation” could be tricky, though, especially at work. You don’t necessarily want her to feel cornered (no following into the bathroom, lol), so you might have to wait for the end of the day and try to catch her heading out the door. If you work more closely together, maybe you can talk to her about something work related and segue into something more personal?
I think you are dead on in your thoughts, though. To find out what happened—and to maybe even reconnect—you have to communicate. It is scary, especially if you are shy, but I have a lot of faith in you, brave little toaster. I’ve seen you surmount other things that seemed unmountable, so I’m sure you can handle this.