I have spent most of my life observing other people, trying to understand why they act the way they do and how I’m supposed to respond to them. When I was a teen, I started reading self-help books about social skills, communication skills, and even etiquette. When I was in counseling in my thirties, my counselor and I would role-play different social scenarios where I would practice what to say and how to respond.
But people, being what they are, inevitably go off-script. And then I get thrown for a loop. If it’s someone else who’s awkward like me, I don’t worry about it as much, but when it’s someone who seems popular and confident, it really confuses me. I expect those types to be predictable, but I guess I still need to get it through my head that no human being is ever completely predictable.
That’s why the situation with my long-time friend not inviting me to her wedding, but then sending a Christmas gift, confused me. It didn’t seem to follow any pattern I have familiarized myself with, so I wasn’t sure how to respond.
What I ended up doing was texting her to thank her for the gift. Then I said, “Sorry, I am not on the ball this year at all, but check your e-mail on Christmas Day.” We went on to have a very nice text conversation where the subject of her wedding was just completely ignored, but enough was said on her end to let me know that she still considers me a close friend.
On Christmas Eve I sent her an Amazon gift card by e-mail in roughly the same amount that I estimated her gifts to me totaled. Yes, I know that’s a very cold way to think about gift-giving, and it’s not typical for me, but I was so confused by that point that I felt I had to do it that way. Obviously when my emotions and instincts aren’t serving me well, convention and etiquette have to fill in.
So I guess now we just carry on as before, pretending the whole her-not-inviting-me-to-her-wedding thing never happened. I don’t think I know how to do anything different.
I kind of suspect that what happened is that her husband didn’t want me at the wedding, and she understandably didn’t want to tell me that. My mom says something like that happened when she married my dad. She had a close friend at the time whom she wanted to invite to the wedding, but my dad insisted he didn’t like her and didn’t want her there, so my mom complied with my dad’s wishes, which seemed to make sense at the time as he was the one my mom was committing herself to. That was the end of the friendship and my mom has regretted it in the 44 years since. But my mom’s friend was the type to hold a grudge, and I’m not. I don’t have the emotional energy for grudges or hard feelings. I will inevitably still obsess over the whole thing for a while, but only for the sake of figuring it all out, not for the sake of nursing any hard feelings or resentment.