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I’ve Been a Bad Friend

I got a note from a good friend last week that really threw me for a loop. He basically called me out for being a bad friend. He said I’d been dismissive, insulting and hostile. He was very polite but very direct, which I appreciated. The details are too personal to share, but it made me wonder: Could this be a wet/dry thing? His neighborhood didn’t flood; mine did. I get the feeling he’s moved on after a very dark year, but I feel like I’m caught in a downward spiral where things get worse and worse. I’m still living in a disaster zone, and many parts of the city are even worse. It’s changing me, I think. I feel like I’m much more serious, perhaps too serious for my own good. Could that lead to me being too harsh with those around me? I remember a while back feeling vaguely irritated by New Orleanians who didn’t seem to share my gravitas, but I didn’t think this would cause me to treat people badly. Is this what’s going on? Or maybe it’s a deep-seated character flaw. In any case, I’d better check myself.

Published inFriendsKatrina


  1. People react to the stuff around them in different ways. Some tend to be more quiet, which can be seen as rude. Others tend to want to talk a lot. I’m a talker. When I spend time with the quiet type, it can seem as if they don’t care.

    Then again, those who react with detatchment or are quiet can easily get irritatad by the constant bitching from folks like me. As long as we understand that and can be honest with each other we’ll all be better off.

  2. Chazbe Chazbe

    I’d say it’s the wet/dry thing, and suggest that it’s like the difference between the soldier who’s fought in a bad war (think of returning Vietnam or Iraq vets) and the person who watched the war on CNN. I’m a dry, and optimistic by nature, but even so I fight against discouragement; I can only begin to imagine how facing the slow progress and disappointment daily affects someone’s outlook. I think Howie concludes with useful advice. We all need to understand how circumstances have driven us in different directions, accept our differences, and at the same time keep trying to focus on what we have in common.

  3. I’m sorry to hear about that. It’s hard to hear stuff like that, and its a testament to your integrity that you’re giving it serious thought instead of just blowing it off or blowing up in defense. So many relationships–friendly and romantic–are seriously stressed these days; its like every insecurity or otherwise minor issue is being held under a magnifying glass in the hot sun. It’s good to check yourself, but I do think Howie’s right: quiet people piss people off with their silence, which is interpreted as hostility or snobbery or judgement, while less quiet people can be considered abrasive or bullying.

    Whatever the reason, it’s hard to hear.

  4. I suppose I tend toward the quiet end of the spectrum. I’ve often been told that I am hard to read. I think I often come off as arrogant, pretentious, condescending and self-righteous. I aspire to humility.

    I realize I haven’t been a very good friend to anyone lately. I never call up a friend to get together and do something. It’s always serious, serious, serious. Meetings, meetings, meetings. The never-ending crisis. The worry, the fear, the grief. I really need to lighten up a little.

  5. Your “serious, serious, serious/meetings, meetings, meetings” mania is probably what has sustained you. You’ve thrown yourself into the Post-K N.O. maelstrom like few others. I would be surprised if you didn’t feel at least some resentment for the rest of us who haven’t been so unrelenting in our citizenship activities (“If everyone would just do X, then …”) . You may be more inclined to aim this resentment at those closer to you than to some of your newer friends and acquaintances (some of whom may share your same zeal, thus have more in common with you).

    You’ve given yourself decent advice: call your friend and do something.

  6. Jana Jana

    Don’t be too hard on yourself. Maybe it’s your friend’s perspective that’s messed up.

  7. Ray Ray

    I think too much is made of the wet/dry thing. I myself tend to make too much of the “yeah, well you don’t have kids” excuse as to why I’m being a bad friend, and I’ve been accused of that a few times lately…and I moved from an extremely dry neighborhood (Austin) to a damp one and am in the process of moving to another dry one.

    Living here we all have our challenges, we all have our mood swings, we all have our idiosyncrasies which become exaggerated because of the stress we’re all under. I’m kind of like you…when under stress I retreat, I go quiet, I focus on what *needs* to be done at the expense of being friendly.

    But throwing classifications around like “well, you live in a dry zone!” “oh yeah? well, you don’t have to work full time!” “oh yeah? well you don’t have kids” “oh yeah? well you don’t have pattern baldness” just serves to accentuate our differences which does nobody any good. I’ve heard it suggested in other forums that when discussing rebuilding, the opinions of people who didn’t flood should not count as much as those of people who did, which positively enrages me.

  8. Carmen Carmen

    I only met you once, granted, and that pretty much in passing, but you came off rather like a tall but lost little sheep to me. It may have been the setting. My wager is you’re afraid to let anyone get too close right now; you can’t take another loss. Xy’s probably the best judge if you’re being too harsh with those around you. Your “friend” (boy, I dunno about the friends you’ve been mentioning here lately, babe) may have mistaken clipped and businesslike tones for insult and dismissiveness.

    Your comment feature, on the other hand, is totally bipolar, admitting me one time and moderating me the next. What’s up with that?

  9. Michael Michael

    I was going to say quite a bit, as I know you both, but I’m not sure what to say in a public setting now that the “Leave a Reply” portion loaded. The friend of which you speak is a great friend, and has been there for you in the past, as you well know. Why not a “thanks for being my great friend” day dedicated just to him/her? Be sure to invite the person to the Lafitte hike, and I’d even be willing to buy them lunch at the Bulldog.

  10. The tone of your posts has changed and I sense a more serious Ed B. Hey, you guys have been through holy hell. I could not have gone through what you did. Keep your sense of humor. Don’t let it slip away. After J recovers from fatherhood, I think maybe a special Rox #100 anniversary is in order. Invite your friend to be in it.

  11. TM TM

    It’s a good thing that you listened to your friend and you validate his feelings. Real friendship is not a thing to be taken lightly. My viewpoint is that a friend that doesn’t tell you when you’ve done something to hurt them or when they feel ignored isn’t a friend at all. Shared experiences, conversations, interaction (good and bad) are all the things that make a strong and lasting friendship.

    If your friend had kept quiet about how he felt it would be the same as blowing you off. Not worth the effort. Obviously, he doesn’t feel this way.

    I seriously doubt anyone you would be friends with would consider the wet/dry thing an issue.

  12. TM TM

    One more thing…..I’ve experienced this scenario except I did the calling out which was not easy.Your friend
    It was not well-received, the friend has chosen to terminate the friendship.
    Your friend is saying you’re a “bad” friend. He/she is saying there’s a problem, let’s talk because you are worth it.

    What it comes down to is do you value this friendship or not? It really is that simple. Communication is always a positive and if your friend cannot be honest with you, then you’re not a friend at all. Just an acquaintance.

  13. TM TM

    I meant to say your friend is *NOT* saying you’re a bad friend.
    Cut and paste issues…………

    Sorry for so many comments but I guess my experience is still an open wound and I hope my insight helps you.

  14. c. c.

    Hey, I feel like I lost my sense of humor too! and I was dry, well, dry on the bottom.
    Sometimes people just need a little extra attention, usually due to whatever they are going through at the moment.

  15. TBK TBK

    It’s simple

    True friends will call you out… or kick you in the ass when needed.

    Frankly it’s kind of like marriage. We all need people we can trust to tell us when we’re fuckin up.

    Don;t feel bad….Just explain. we here even on high ground have been through holyhell too.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself


  16. Wet/dry may be a factor for some relationships, but I don’t think it’s universal.

    You and I are not close friends, but I have always enjoyed our friendship. I enjoy your intelligence, kindness, openness and compassion. Your commitment to community is inspiring.

    At some point recently, I have felt a change in our relationship. I noticed the change after Helen was killed. When I’ve tried to engage you, I’ve felt like we didn’t connect like we have before. Granted, it was subtle; but it didn’t escape my notice.

    At first, I wondered if you still liked me, but I think that was my own insecurity talking. I know Helen’s murder hit you hard. From your public journaling, I know it swirls at the center of a despair that includes your neighborhood’s slow recovery and other dark realities of living in this city right now. Given the disparity between all you are giving to this city and what you’re getting back from it right now, I think these feelings are very understandable.

    So, for what it’s worth, I noticed a change too. I don’t think you are a bad friend. I just think you may be in over your head, which always comes with side effects.

  17. Maybe it is a wet/dry thing. My best friends were dry and they have returned to activities of Pre Katrina much faster than we have.

    When my daughter was small she would often ask for an explanation of a circumstance. When I was thru explaining she would ask. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” Most often my answer was “It is what it is” Which would infuriate her. She wanted to close the door on it, know what to think and move on.

    I feel the same way about wet/dry. “It is what it is” That having been flooded and then have the attendant chaos in regards to recovery is quite diffrent from being dry. Which is not to dismiss that experience. The dry folks are living with added stress on a fragile infrastructure, worse than crappy schools, a sort of no end in sight perspective, often times without the galvanizing option of Neighborhood work,because there are fewer passionate issues.

    So wet/dry iskind of like empathy/experience. Those that flood have a level of empathy and vica versa, those that are dry have the same. But the division is there which is not to say it is an excuse,just a reality.

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