Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Recently, I went through a conflict with Small Town Guy that caused me to question our friendship.

A few weeks ago, many of my friends in Small Town went to a play in a larger city nearby. They spent several days talking excitedly about the excursion and about how they were going to get all dressed up for it. Apparently, Small Town Guy organized the whole thing. But I was not invited.

I know that even though we're friends, he's not obligated to invite me to everything. But it did sting to hear everyone talking about it and to know that practically everyone else in our social circle (including New Girl, who has a new boyfriend, and it's not Small Town Guy, BTW) was invited.

It also didn't help that I saw the posts on Facebook after the play about how much fun they'd had. It made me wish that I could turn into Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, where I'd swoop in on the gathering and then put a curse on them. (Not that I was bitter or anything.)


I texted Small Town Guy the next day to ask why I hadn't been invited and to say that I felt left out. He never texted back.

I was willing to bet that not inviting me to the play hadn't been a deliberate act on his part and was probably just a mistake or an oversight. But what made me want to buy a voodoo doll and stick a picture of his face on it was the fact that he never responded to my text about how left out I felt. That was deliberate.

A few days later, he did briefly try to talk to me, but I was on my way to work and couldn't talk. I didn't talk to him for the rest of the week, until we saw each other at a birthday party for a mutual friend that was being held at a local restaurant. A large group of us were sitting at several tables pushed up next to each other. Small Town Guy sat next to me, but he kept his back turned away from me almost the whole time, so that he could talk to New Girl, who was sitting on the other side of him. It felt like he was ignoring me or that he didn't care that he hurt my feelings, which hurt even more.

A few months ago, I had a minor disagreement with Guy Friend. I texted him about it, and he responded right away. We had a good conversation about it, and he apologized for hurting my feelings. That made me feel better, and it's been fine between him and me ever since.

I truly value the friendships I've made in Small Town. They're important to me, especially after all those years in Chicago where I was a social outcast in grad school and most of my college friends had moved on to other jobs in other states or to family life in the suburbs. Small Town Guy was the first friend I had here, but his behavior towards me made me wonder if he valued my friendship. If he had sent me a text like the one I sent him, I would have definitely talked to him about it. And I guarantee that if New Girl had texted him (for any reason), he would have responded right away.

I finally confronted him a few days after the party. He didn't really explain why I hadn't been invited, though he did apologize for never responding to my text. He said that he'd been waiting to talk to me in person. But I said that all he had to do was text back, "I think we should talk about this in person. Let's talk later," which would have made all the difference, rather than just not respond at all and make me think that he didn't care about hurting my feelings. It was the first time I was completely honest with him, and things have been a little awkward between us ever since.

But if I hadn't said something, I would have kept stewing over it, until I exploded at the wrong time. I tried talking to a couple other friends about it, but they defended Small Town Guy and didn't fully understand why I felt hurt. One of them pointed out that I shouldn't have gotten upset with just him, because none of the others thought to invite me to the play either. But that just made me feel even worse. One other friend, however, did understand how I felt, which made me feel a little better.

That's why I've been focusing more on my work and distancing myself from all of them lately, declining their social invitations (though I haven't said why). I still want to be friends with them, of course, but I think I just need my space for a while.

What about you? Have you ever had a disagreement with one of your friends?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Reading to Strangers

Apparently there's a big poetry scene in some of the bigger towns and cities nearby (but not in Small Town, unfortunately), and there are a lot of poetry readings and open mic nights hosted by local coffee shops and bars.

I heard about a monthly open mic night at a bar in a big city that's a considerable driving distance away from Small Town, but at this event people can read whatever they want, not just poetry. I've never been really good at poems. If I wrote a poem, it'd be like this: Roses are red, violets are blue. Donald Trump is destroying this country, and I blame you. (And then I'd make copies and tape them to the doors of all the Trump supporters.)

I decided to drive out to the big city and read a flash fiction piece I wrote a few years ago that I've always been proud of but has never been published. I've never read my work in front of anyone, except in writing classes.

Part of me wished that I'd brought at least a few of my friends from Small Town with me, but somehow it felt like it might be easier to read in front of strangers rather than people I knew. My writing is very personal to me, and it's something I keep secret from most people, whereas reading in front of strangers is different because then I never have to see them again if they don't like it. On the other hand, I was afraid of negative reactions from the audience that night, and I was tempted to turn back and drive home. But I kept driving forward.

The bar turned out to be a brewery, so that it looked like one big warehouse with just a small section cordoned off for the bar. When I came in, there were several rough-looking older guys playing pool and drinking beer but no women there, and they all looked at me curiously as I came in. I wasn't sure if I had the right place at first, though I had arrived early for the reading. Being there in an unfamiliar place with a bunch of men I'd never met made me wish I could say, "If any of you come near me, I will not hesitate to kick you in the crotch." (You may call me paranoid, but I did just spend the past several years living in a big city where people tried to mug or attack me on a regular basis.)

But none of the guys tried to hurt me, and soon, more people (including women) arrived. Most of the people attending the reading looked like they were hipsters, the kind of people who would groan and kick me (though their skinny jeans might cause them to trip and fall down instead of kick me) if they knew how many Britney Spears playlists are on my iPod (and yes, I have more than one, and I'm "sorry not sorry" because she's FABULOUS).

I signed up to read my story, though a part of me still wanted to run out of there before it was too late. When the host called out my name, my hands shook as I looked down at the pages I'd written.

As I read my story, people smiled and laughed at several points, which was exactly the response I was hoping for. When I finished reading and sat back down, the host of the reading said, "Duuude! You need to freakin' come BACK to the next reading, seriously!" Afterwards, several people, including other writers who also read their work, approached me to tell me that they were impressed by my writing and that I did a good job.

I felt relieved that I had finally done what I'd been wanting to do for a long time. I felt pleased that other people liked my story, and I felt happy to be around other writers who were reading their work. I felt excited to go home and write another story. And another one, and another one...

What about you? Do you feel more comfortable at the idea of sharing your work with strangers or with people you know?