Last weekend I went to visit New York to see a play. During this visit I ran into a friend, who pulled me aside for a small heart to heart that I haven’t been able to get out of my head.
She apologized for not being a good friend. She said that I make her feel inferior. Last year I had gone on morning jogs with her boyfriend–runs which she had always been invited to join. I had cooked her dinner whenever she happened to be at my apartment. Sometimes I was already cooking for my roommate and myself. Sometimes, I was having a group over to celebrate life’s milestones.
Saturday, she told me that the fact that I could keep up with her boyfriend on runs, and she could not, made her feel inferior. I feed my friends, because I like to entertain, particularly those people who are my closest friends. The fact that I cooked well made her feel inferior. She thinks I’m funnier than her, which also, shocker, made her feel inferior (I’m not that funny, for the record).
I had absolutely no idea, and it’s still bothering me that I made someone feel that way, and that I never noticed.
As a freshman in college, I had a roommate who suddenly moved out. Afterward, I found out that she had been having issues with multiple people in the dorm, as well as with the school generally. I never noticed. From my perspective she was doing better than I was, at least socially.
Later in college, I had a friend from high school who suddenly disappeared, and ghosted every friend we had in common. Just before she did this, she had called up our mutual friend to ask her why everyone spoke to me when they needed help or had a secret they needed to share. Why did everyone trust me to give advice, and avoid telling her anything? I again did not see this coming. It’s been six years since that phone call, and she still hasn’t reached out to any of us since then.
Since these incidents, I hoped that I had grown, hoped that I was more aware of things, that I was better at anticipating problems like this, and better at avoiding them. I’m only two years from 30, and I’m really annoyed and hurt that this happened again. I am glad that this girl chose to talk to me, rather than letting it stew and ghosting me. We’re most definitely still friends, and I very much appreciate and value her candor, but I’m still at a loss as to how I managed not to notice anything amiss… again.
We can’t know everything and we can’t fully account for how everyone is going to react to us. Even so, I wish I had noticed that my behavior was causing distress to a friend I really care about, rather than her finding it necessary to pull me aside to apologize.
I act like things come more easily than they do, and I usually avoid showing people the things I’m in the process of trying to master, because I have a lot of pride. I don’t make dishes for friends anymore that I know won’t be successful to, first of all, save myself the embarrassment, but, more importantly, to save them the trouble of having to pretend they’re enjoying something disgusting.
If I can’t add to a conversation, I don’t say anything. Honestly, I enjoy being clever. Lastly, I would never have dared to run with anyone if I hadn’t already been running half and full marathons for over two years. I used to be as slow as dirt.
As Ben Franklin said, “In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had compleatly overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”
Every trait that made her feel inferior had been carefully selected and worked on by me, because as much as I genuinely enjoy them, they’re also things I want to be able to share with other people. If I’m not good at them, it makes me feel inferior. So I work at them, because I don’t enjoy feeling that way. In the end, however, I guess it can be turned around Do I not want to be inferior? Or have I inadvertently begun to strive towards being superior? Fuck, I hope not.