I spoke with friends the other day who brought up an interesting conundrum.
When do you strike out someone from your life? And how do you do it?
I’m talking about the people you really don’t want to see any more but don’t quite know how to tell. The friend you’ve grown out of, the acquaintance with whom you really have nothing in common, or the hairdresser you visit out of loyalty rather than satisfaction.
One friend astonished me with a tale of how he recently culled his address book. After a particularly booze-filled night he and his wife grabbed the dog-eared book by the phone (yes, some of us still have them) while his wife armed herself with both their iPhones, and into the cull they launched with the gusto of mercinaries-for-hire.
He scrawled thick red lines through names in the book, while she launched an attack commando-style on the phones, feverishly deleting names and numbers they no longer cared about.
But that wouldn’t necessarily stop those just banished from contacting them, and therein, I thought, lies the problem.
Not so for my friend.
He and his wife drafted a farewell note kindly telling the people they didn’t want to see any more that although they had really enjoyed their shared experiences in the past, busy lives now meant their time would be reserved for their immediate family and very close friends. Their hit list inlcluded a family they’d met on holidays which kept wanting to “catch up”. “What’s the point?” my friend asked.
“Our lives away from the Pina Coladas by the pool have nothing in common, and every time we meet they go on a trip down memory lane about the one fortnight we shared in a holiday resort. I’m over it.”
I wasn’t sure to be overwhelmed with admiration that they had the courage to do this, or completely horrified.
Undoubtedly, much of his reasoning made sense. Obviously my friend had moved on from that holiday and didn’t want his new besties tagging along for the rest of his life.
It’s true that as you get older the dynamics change and friends tend to be more about quality rather than quantity, and it’s hard enough finding time to see the people you like, let alone being lumbered with those you feel bound to by one shred experience.
We have our keepers, our mates for life, and are buoyed by the transients we meet along the way. But every now and then we are weighed down by those who latch on and just won’t let go. Our impact on their lives was clearly greater than theirs on ours, and no matter how much you duck and weave they’re on the phone, at your doorstep, or emailing you asking you where you’ve been.
Inspired by this friend I came home from my lunch and got out the old address book, the one from which I had already transferred all the numbers I wanted into my phone. It was the others I studied, the numbers I thought I should retain, despite the fact I may not have used them in years.
Looking at them with fresh eyes I got out the red pen.
Out went the very dreary man I met at the singles’ night, the second cousin I barely knew and the girl at the dog park who always showed up – without the dog. They definitely didn’t fit into my future. But although I drew a line through their names, I drew the line at writing them a farewell note.
Call me a coward, but I’ll still take their calls, make polite conversation and provide lame excuses as to why we can’t catch up.
I think I’ll rely on Hallmark to give me a solution. After all, they have divorce cards for couples, surely it won’t be long before they market “I want to terminate this friendship” cards. I’ll wait until then.
How do you gently terminate people from your life?