I have a cautionary tale for you about the perils of using instant messenger or text messaging, those convenient communication tools that make reading emotions, intent, and sarcasm difficult in our modern age. You see, it all started a year ago, when my best friend, who I’ve known since we were 4 years old, IM’d me to ask my opinion about a cropped jacket. Yes, a cropped jacket.
I’m not a fan of most cropped jackets and I don’t think my opinion on them will ever change, even as they go in and out of style, because I don’t think they’re particularly flattering. My friend happens to have a pear shape, so I told her that I thought the jacket would make her hips look big. It was my mistake to think that she wanted an honest opinion, but it was her mistake to think that I was trying to hurt her feelings. I would have said the same thing to anyone with her shape who asked for my opinion. Heck, I think a cropped jacket would make my hips look big and my figure is what you might consider boyish. Again, I’m just not a fan!
My friend didn’t write anything else after I made that statement. I thought she’d become busy at work and even texted something random to her later that night. All I got were crickets. Again, I didn’t think anything was wrong because since my friend had moved to Atlanta, our conversations had become few and far between and we rarely discussed anything in depth. Our convos generally went something like this usually: “Hi. How are you? How’s work? What are you doing this weekend? OK, talk to you later.”
The next day, she IM’ed me again, this time to tell me that I didn’t value her or what she has to say. Apparently, she’d felt this way for a long time. This was news to me. I responded, saying that I definitely valued our friendship, but didn’t want to discuss an issue this big over IM, especially while we were at work. We’d agreed to talk over the phone that night. I called twice and she never picked up. We didn’t end up speaking until a few days later.
Now, for a little background info. When my friend and I were in junior high, she was the class clown. In fact, she was a clown everywhere we went because she always wanted to be liked. People, including her mother and sister, routinely told her she was stupid. But I knew better. I always tried not to say hurtful things and to take her seriously, despite her comedic antics. Of course, like in any friendship, we had our ups and downs, and there were whole years when we didn’t speak. Either she had dumped me for someone “cooler” or I was hanging with more like-minded friends. We had, however, become quite close again before she moved to Atlanta.
When we finally talked on the phone about “cropped jacket-gate,” I brought up our history and how I’d always tried to be sensitive to her. No one likes to hear from a friend that she’s been offending her for several years and I was defensive and upset that this was something that she was only bringing up now. I pressed her for instances in which I could have made her feel undervalued, and the two examples she presented were either silly (that I didn’t think a diet she was interested in trying was healthy) or, I thought, long ago resolved. Apparently not, and this latest incident wasn’t resolved either.
Over a year has passed since that IM from my best friend popped up on my computer screen. Though I sent her a card when she and her fiance bought a house, we’re barely on speaking terms and I’m fine with that. Honestly, I can’t say I’ve missed the friendship because we are in different stages of our lives. And I don’t think I can be close friends with someone who didn’t tell me about a major flaw in our relationship for several years and then finally broke the news over IM.
Now, I only use IM to speak to work folks. I’d like to think that had my friend and I been shopping together and she asked my opinion about the cropped jacket that I would have been able to convey my issue was with the jacket, not her body. Maybe she would have been able to read my intentions and emotions better and I would have been able to tell if she was feeling sensitive about it. But I also wonder whether our friendship was bound to fall apart anyway. I guess I’ll never know.