White people, how are you taking care of your friends of color? Straight people, how are you taking care of your queer friends? Men, how are you taking care of your women friends? How are we taking care of our trans friends, our Black friends, our Indigenous friends, our immigrant friends, our Muslim friends, our friends with disabilities? How are we taking care of our friends who are hurting the most right now?
Yesterday, someone told me that, after 10 years, they didn't want to be friends anymore because they hadn't heard from me much the last few months, and that when they did, my responses were "lukewarm." I was going to vaguebook about it because their last message to me was mostly insults, that I didn't have any friends left (uh hi I have some of the greatest friends in the world, everyone else could only be so lucky), but then I realized I was forcing myself to pretend I wasn't hurt by this interaction when I was. I wasn't hurt by their insults because I didn't believe them, and in unpacking what it was that did hurt me, I decided to share this story.
I told this person that the last few months have been hard for me because of personal things that have happened (as in, in my life and the lives of a few other people), and the things happening in the country and the world, the things that particularly impact me as a queer woman of color, and the things that impact so many people I know and I care about and even more people I don't know and I care about.
This person responded that they wanted me to know they didn't hold me to any expectations as a friend - but wait - hadn't they just held me to expectations? Hadn't they just said I failed to meet their expectations in regards to frequency and enthusiasm in my communication, and held me to these expectations by deciding to disconnect from our friendship?
It's relevant to share with you that this person is a white, cis, straight woman from an affluent background and an affluent community. I think this contributes to why, as I ended up telling this person, when I became distant and uncommunicative, her response was to center herself and be hurt by it rather than to be concerned about her friend of 10 years.
I don't think this person meant ill. I don't think they realized they were centering themselves instead of caring for their friend. Her feelings are valid and real, and these feelings were rooted in internal influences (her own needs, her own insecurities) whereas my feelings, the ones she was reacting to, were rooted in external influences and the horrific things happening to marginalized people right now, especially at an institutional level.
My personal reaction to these things has been a lot less communication and a lot less happiness in that communication. As I said to her, it's difficult to talk to people about your life when your life is very difficult - it's not fun for me and it's less fun for the people who have to listen to it. Interactions take more energy than they have before, and the stakes in these interactions are sometimes higher than they've been before. I've heard from some queer friends and friends of color that they are having similar reactions, and I've heard from some friends that they are having different reactions. The point is that while many marginalized people are not surprised by what's going on, things are very different for us, and so it only follows that we might be acting differently. If you are a friend for whom your world is not so different now or you are not so personally at risk or impacted, how are you reacting when you notice your friends acting differently? Is your reaction about how their sadness or anger or denial or whatever it is makes you feel? Or is your reaction about what they need and how you can take care of them?
How are you taking care of your friends?
Here are some bonus puppy friends taking care of each other; incidentally, my best friend sent me this picture.