Recently I hit the 100 “friends” milestone on Facebook.
Not the 400 I’ve seen on others Facebook pages or the 1000+ I am sure celebrities or authors have on their pages, but still an impressive number if you take into account I either actually know these people or have some kind of connection with them.
According to research, we are only able to keep up with 150 friends, to be able to maintain an actual relationship with that many people.
I like having nieces and nephews on my Facebook page. I enjoy seeing what they are up to and keeping in touch with them when I otherwise might not. Ditto for the long-lost classmates, fellow writers and couponers, a few fans of my writing, and of course, family and friends who are also on Facebook.
The dilemma, of course, comes when someone requests my friendship when they are actually the anti-thesis of the word friend.
For the purpose of this post, let’s call her Barb.
In grade school she was my biggest tormentor; calling me names, spitting at me, pushing me against the wall. It was her face I saw in my nightmares. I will never know why she chose to partake in the torture that was my daily life in school. Her older sister was nice to me and there were plenty of girls in my class who just ignored me rather than add to my anguish. Her own foothold in the popular crowd was tenuous at best; she was overweight and wore glasses. She was one big pimple away from being the brunt of jokes herself. Maybe she thought she could pre-empt any possible teasing by doing the merciless teasing herself. Whatever it was, she didn’t stop teasing me until everything changed in Junior High.
On my first day of Junior High I fully expected to be greeted by an increased assault, since I was leaving Catholic grade school behind and entering a much bigger building with many more students.
Nothing had changed. I was still Mary Potter, poor girl.
But everything had changed.
I had a friend.
She was a girl who took me under her wing that first day in Junior High and, through her friendship, allowed me access to the inner sanctum of popularity.
Annette was friendly, cute, and popular. I’m not sure what prompted her to approach me in the hallway, where I stood alone and afraid, readying myself for what would surely be a continuation of the hell that grade school had become. Maybe it was as simple as the fact that we were both, um, “well-developed” for our age. Maybe she was just a very kind person and she saw the deer-caught-in-headlights look in my eyes. But that day, when she slung her arm across the back of my shoulder, it was as if she’d slung protective armor around me as well.
During seventh grade I became a part of a world that had been out of my reach until then; a world of “friends.” I will never forget the first time I ran into “Barb”that year. Her eyes narrowed, her lip curled back, and she started to snarl, “Ewww…Pott…,” but then her voice trailed off and her eyes darted back and forth in the hallway. She was looking for something.
She was looking for her friends, for support and accolades of her negative treatment of me.
But she was the one that was alone in the hallway.
I was surrounded by friends. Annette was by my side, her friends alongside of us. Her friends that by extension, had become my friends.
Revenge was bittersweet. I didn’t have it in me to be mean to her, or to enjoy her obvious discomfort. Barb hurried on by and I don’t think we spoke another word in the next six years. We graduated together, but we had nothing in common except those first six years of grade school. No shared memories except those of her bullying me. And I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she has no memories of that at all, while my memories are as vivid as if they happened yesterday.
So when she requested me as her friend on Facebook, it was like a slap in the face. All those memories came rushing back, and I was actually shocked. Why would I want to be her friend? Despite the fact that Facebook friends aren’t always actual “friends” I thought of her as more of an enemy, than a friend.
That wasn’t fair of me, I finally decided. She was an adult now. I am an adult. I am no longer that little girl holding back tears at the taunts, wishing she could meld into the walls and disappear. I am a married woman with children, a writer and a homeschooler. This person was married, had a family. She was not the mean girl from the past. Maybe she wanted to say “I’m sorry.” I should at least give her that chance.
I clicked “Accept.”
Then I waited. There was no apology. No contact. This person was collecting friends for her Facebook status. That is all.
And every day when I checked my Facebook status I saw her face. That face from my childhood nightmares, all grown up.
One day I quietly, and without fanfare, deleted her from my friends. No explanation.She may not have even noticed.
The same has been done to me. I once requested friendship from a high-school classmate I had always admired and liked, despite the fact that I knew the admiration was not mutual. She accepted, then deleted me a few days later. I can’t blame her. I’d kissed her boyfriend for an hour one day, then swore up and down the next day that nothing had happened. Maybe he’d told her, or maybe she’d figured it out on her own. He had wanted to be the guy dating a cheerleader, not the guy dating me, but he had no qualms about kissing one while dating the other. He promised me one thing and told her another. If she dropped him, I was supposed to be waiting on the sidelines, and for some reason I didn’t find that offensive at the time. I wouldn’t like me much, either, knowing my part in his deceit.
I’ve heard that class reunions are great, especially after 25 years have passed, because all of this kind of stuff doesn’t matter. By age 50, most of us have figured out that the past is past, and only we can make the future better. A lot of us have been through a fire of some sort and have learned that life is too short to hold grudges.
Maybe someday my old classmate will realize the guy was a creep and we both got burned by him.
Maybe someday I’ll be able to forgive the girl who was so mean to me.
For now, though, neither one is going to be among my Facebook friends.