Birthdays, unexpected gifts and killed-off care


A big drama swirled up last year around this time (that fully ended sometime around Christmas). Someone who had been a close friend celebrates a birthday around this time of year, and while we no longer had frequent contact, I am one of those people who sends birthday greetings pretty much forever (as long as I have contact with the person in one way or another). I was informed that I could not say happy birthday, could not send cards or gifts or anything else because it was causing too much domestic strife. Fair enough.

The next month, it was my birthday. The same friend said he would not send a card or anything because that too would create problems at home. Maybe that should have tipped me off that he was not the person I thought he was. He had always seemed so resolute, decisive and stubborn – a man of his own mind and decisions. Perhaps worn down by arguing about things that really do not matter (there was frankly no real reason for us to continue wishing each other happy birthday), he started compromising (or at least that's the way he framed it), which meant that if we were going to have any kind of a friendship at all, its terms would basically be dictated by someone else.

But the thing is – I am not going to be told HOW I can be friends with someone. It's either I can send my birthday cards and gifts (and be a friend the way I want to be a friend) or not. If a third party dictates how I am a friend to someone, then I am not really being true to myself. That said, as someone who is a friend and who cares about the well-being and happiness of my friend, I declared at the time that it was fine, but because we really did not have much contact anyway, I felt that it would be easier for everyone involved if we stopped being friends, cut all contact, etc. He would be above reproach; his partner would have nothing to complain about with regard to his continuing this friendship; I would save myself the little hurt that came to stab me every time a piece of the friendship was taken away.

In the ensuing months, though, the "absolute silence, we'll see how you like it" approach was muddied a few times – by him. I did not mind, though, because I missed him. Then I stupidly crossed the line and sent him a Christmas gift – to his work address so as not to stir up trouble in his home life. No such luck! Incomprehensibly, he took the envelope from the gift home with him, and this stirred up a whole fresh fight.

By this point though it was clear that on some level he must have liked this stupid drama. The whole thing could so easily have been avoided. Maybe it was monumentally stupid of me to send a gift (it was just a pen), but it was ten times more careless to take home the envelope.

The unexpected gift, though, is that I felt I saw a truth I had never recognized or seen about this friend. Consciously or not, he orchestrated a dramatic situation. I sort of expect his partner to act crazy and jealous about nothing and to go on insane tirades about what a loser I am (for the record, she does not know me, has never met me, and according to him, has only the choicest of insults for me – which is sort of sad, immature and pathetic. I have nothing against her – especially if she makes him happy in life, I can only wish her the best). But I never expected him to participate in it. After this incident, though, he seemed to delight in telling me the cruel things she had to say. Sure, that's her prerogative and sort of her modus operandi. But it was, as I told him, twisted of him to pass her sentiments on. It was a passive-aggressive way for him to show that he was pissed at me for lighting the fuse on the ticking time-bomb. And yet he could keep his hands clean by passing off the responsibility for all the cruel stuff to someone else, "Sorry, I am just the messenger." But why give me messages I don't need that are just casual cruelty, really? Did it make him feel better?

We have never spoken again, and unlike the last time I cut off contact, I don't feel bad about it. I don't feel a sad longing about wanting to share funny things or baby animal pictures or whatever innocuous and silly things we used to share. Strange as it sounds, the gift is that all last vestiges of care were actually killed off.

And this year, as his birthday approaches, for the first time in a decade, I don't feel at all like baking a lemon cake or wishing him a happy birthday. (Of course writing a whole blog post about that is sort of antithetical and proves that the thought has been in my mind – but mostly only because I realized that the urge just isn't there.)

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