Part II: Sometimes Hitting the “Ignore” Button Seems a Little Too Simplistic

You see, I kind of shot myself in the foot with regard to this post.

It appears that I built up some sort of anticipation about this story.

You know you’ve got some impatient tingly feelings going on and you’re all, “Spill it, Tara.  Gimme the goods.”

You see, the thing is . . . a lot of this friendship drama took place YEARS ago.  Like, 3 years ago, I’m thinking.

What if my memory for specific events isn’t accurate?  What if I tell a story and only about 37% of it is true?  What if everyone gets all pissed at me and I’m all, “Geesh, THAT wasn’t worth it.”

I guess I’ll start at yesterday.  As far as I can tell, my memory is good enough to remember yesterday’s events.

Okay, so I’m going to call this “friend” Maxine.  Because I can’t keep writing the word “friend” in quotes.  It’s lame and it takes a long time.

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First of all, I need to tell you one main thing about me:  I don’t do adult drama.

Period.

Secondly, understand that once I decided to become a Blogger instead of just a blogger, I decided that I’m cool with friending nearly anyone on Facebook.  I mean, I don’t write anything on my Facebook page that I wouldn’t write here and this blog is open to everyone, obviously.  I appreciate it when readers friend me on Facebook, because its a way for me to get to know readers who are not commenters.

It also makes me feel pretty and popular, which is super important to me in light of the whole debacle that was high school.

However, as much as I appreciate readers friending me, I also understand that they’re probably hitting “like” in an off-handed way, not because they have any particular interest in me beyond, “Hey, I wonder if Tara’s Facebook page says anything funny on it.”

Yesterday I get a friend request on Facebook from Maxine.  Now, she’s requested to be my friend several times, and I typically just hit “ignore” and think no more about it.  But this was the first friend request I’ve received from her since I developed my open door policy about friending on Facebook.

Also included in the friend request was a friendly little note to the effect of “let’s let bygones be bygones”.

So, as soon as my cursor landed on the “ignore” button, I was like, “Wait.  You friend everyone else.  Can you not friend her too?”

I mulled that over for a while.

It just . . . didn’t sit right.

Then I realized that I strongly suspected that she wouldn’t be able to be “passive” Facebook friends with me.  Like, she wouldn’t spend 97% of her time ignoring me, like most of us do with our Facebook friends.

I almost felt felt as though I’d be leading her on.

She’d think that I had “forgiven” her, and that we were going to move on to Stage 2 of our friendship.

Yikes.

She doesn’t understand that me not wanting to be friends with her is not about me “forgiving” her.

Did she do terrible things? Yes.

She ruined the sanctity of our forum.  She preyed on the weakest member of our group, Brittany, by starting a “secret thread” (a post that this member didn’t know existed) and beginning to write horribly judgmental things about her life choices.  She became a Mean Girl.

Sadly, Brittany was the member who needed us most.

I don’t think motherhood had ever been role-modeled appropriately for Brittany.  I don’t think she had ever been praised for her effort, had her uniqueness celebrated, or received comfort without the words, “I told you so” accompanying it.  She had fallen through the cracks.  She had fallen for the wrong sort of man.

And she had also, according to Maxine, fallen from grace.

Because, you see, Maxine was a “Christian”.  No, not the type of Christian I’ve come to appreciate since I moved to the south.  The Christian who chooses not to simply read their Bible, but to live it.  The Christian who prays for you for you to make the right choice for you, rather than the same choice as them.  The Christian who shares their faith through example, rather than through tools like shame and blame.

Call me old fashioned, but I expect people who profess themselves to be “Christian” to be, um, christian-ly.  At minimum, I expect them to be more christian-ly than me.  Someone who is completely unfamiliar with religion.

And despite the fact that I don’t have any reason to believe that Brittany suspected the existence of that “secret post”, I think Brittany came to the realization that our group had begun to repeat the pattern of disapproval and rejection that she had found in every other aspect of her life up to that point.

So Brittany left the forum.

The frustrating thing was that we suspect that Brittany never understood that Maxine was the catalyst.  I think she left thinking that Maxine was her friend. And worse, her only friend.

And from what little we’ve gathered here and there, life continues to be very hard for Brittany.

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And then there was the Other Situation.

You see, shortly after our group had formed, Maxine respectfully asked if she could invite her “real-life best friend” to join the group.  Like the rest of us, Nikki was expected to have a baby in July 2007.

Well, we welcomed Nikki.  She was a positive addition, for sure.

Then, months after the babies were born, Nikki confided in us that she had been the victim of domestic abuse.  In fact, the evening before her revelation her husband had choked her and thrown her out of her own house.

With her infant and toddler inside.

I tell you this detail so you understand that there was no ambiguity to the situation. It wasn’t a question of “Hmmmm, was that really domestic abuse?”

In my psychologist world, the proper response to learning about the abuse of a friend is, “I love you, I want you to be safe, what can I do to help you?  Please let me help you.”

Not something along the lines of, “The Bible says that the only real reason to ever leave or divorce your husband is if he is unfaithful.”

Oh, there were words between Maxine and I. They started out as respectfully written words, via the forum, which were then deleted by Maxine.

Erased.

Then words were exchanged in a private message.  There, her words took on an ugliness that I couldn’t even comprehend.

Suddenly, the forum didn’t appear to be as accepting or as safe anymore.

It seemed more like a dictatorship.  Or maybe like someone was playing God.

Maxine was asked to leave.

Nikki left of her own accord.

Nikki eventually left her husband.

Husband got custody of the baby boy that had been born in July 2007.

Husband allegedly killed that baby boy in February 2010.  He was two and a half years old.

Husband is now charged with capital murder.

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Unexpectedly, Maxine emailed me shortly after the death of the baby, asking me to reach out to Nikki.  A woman to whom I had not spoken in nearly two years.  A woman who now had a new husband and, I’d like to think, a posse of people who could ensure that she received the emotional and medical support she needed.  I clarified that my qualifications are as a school psychologist, not as a grief counselor or a counselor experienced in domestic violence.  My serving as any kind of counselor would have been outside the scope of my training, and therefore, unethical.

She asked me to set aside our difference in a mutual quest to help Nikki.

I assured her that I would never make a decision about a person based on the status of my friendship with Maxine.

Round and round we went.

I concluded that her communication attempts were intended to be manipulative.  Very little of her dialogue was even about Nikki.  In fact, I asked her to try writing me one email without using the word “I” in every sentence. Or the word “me”.  Or, you know, just refrain from telling me a long-winded story about how your life’s ills trump those of the woman with the deceased baby.

She couldn’t do it.

I don’t think she even understood what I was asking.

Do I blame Maxine for the death of that baby?  Absolutely not.  Not even a little.  The only person to blame is the man who killed him.

But when I think of how the women in my internet family have enhanced my life over the past four years, I can’t help but believe that Nikki would have benefited from their love and support during such a tragic time.  And we would have appreciated the chance to mourn him with her.  Even after not communicating with Nikki for two years, we all wept for weeks over the loss of that baby boy.

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So yes, from my perspective, she did some really terrible things.

Ironically, in her quest to isolate Brittany, all that was accomplished was her own isolation.  Basically, the past three years have been one long secret post, as she hasn’t been privy to our close-knit group for years.

It’s a classic case of the self-inflicted punishment being punishment enough.

But every few months, she sends out friend requests on Facebook.  She asks for forgiveness.  She asks to come back to the forum.

I always feel like a Mean Girl when I hit “ignore”.

But I don’t feel mean because I’m not friending her.

I feel mean because I’m not friending her and I know she doesn’t understand why.

She doesn’t get it.

In my mind, it’s not a question of forgiveness.  I’m not angry at her.  Except for that day that she resorted to quoting the Bible rather than helping Nikki, I have never been angry at her.

To me, friending her, even in a superficial Facebook way, would be disavowing the impact that she had on our internet family.

It would be implying that it was her behavior that was the issue, not her character.

And I just don’t think I can live with that.

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So please understand when I tell you that I will be hitting the “ignore” button once again.  Hopefully it will be the last time.