I’m A Terrible Friend


I have a confession to make:  I am a terrible friend.

I realized this the other day when I received a Christmas card in the mail from a friend who I haven’t been in contact with for nearly two years.

He doesn’t generally send out Christmas cards, but I had a pretty good idea that I’d be receiving one from him this year because he recently messaged my wife on Facebook and asked for our address.  This makes sense because he had no idea where we are living and he is aware that I do not do Facebook.  I suppose he could have emailed me, as my email address has not changed.  He may not have it in his computer’s address book, though.

The last time my friend contacted my wife on Facebook to ask for our address was because he wanted to send us a wedding invitation.  We were unable to attend the wedding due to the distance involved, but we did send a gift.  I hope he received it.  I wouldn’t know, as we never received any kind of acknowledgment.

Of course, I could have called him to ask whether he and his wife received our gift.  But I didn’t.  I figured it didn’t really matter.  Usually, when you send something, it does arrive.  So I’d just make him feel bad about not sending a thank-you note, and I wasn’t about to do that.  I always hated being forced to write thank-you notes as a kid (usually for gifts I didn’t even like) and there is no way that I am going to hold against someone the fact they choose not to participate in this outdated social nicety.

As I see it, there isn’t anything all that unusual about losing touch with someone for two years or even a whole lot longer.  I’ve always believed that it’s a natural thing for friendships to wax and wane; people come into our lives and go out of them and sometimes return again.  We all have our own problems to handle and staying in contact with old friends and acquaintances is not necessarily a priority.  I’m not going to give you an autograph book to sign “2 sweet 2 b forgotten” and vow to be your BFF on Facebook.  I graduated from junior high a long time ago.

We need to accept that life has its ebb and flow.  We need to ride those waves rather than becoming sucked into the mire of the past.

However. . .  It is just possible that this attitude is one of the reasons that I have very few friends.  Despite the fact that I write a blog that is shared with people who live in countries I’ve barely heard of on the other side of the world, I am basically an introverted person who does his own thing and doesn’t feel the need for regular socializing.

My wife, on the other hand, has what I suspect is a more healthy approach to friendships.  She has friends from one end of the country to the other.  I’m not just talking about sending messages on Facebook, either.  They may be 3,000 miles away, but my wife and her friends still call each other during the day, during breaks at work, during the evening commute, on weekends.

I’ve wondered for a while whether some of this dichotomy may be attributed to the gender divide.  I pondered about this in “On Friendship,” one of my very early posts to this blog.

But if I am to be perfectly honest with myself, I must admit that I am a terrible friend.

You think I’m kidding?  As if not contacting my friend for two years isn’t bad enough, when I did receive his card and letter, he started out his message by informing me of his recent separation and impending divorce.

Okay, now I feel like a crud for sure.

I am tempted to make myself feel better by saying, hey, he could have called or emailed me to let me know what was going on.  If he wanted advice or sympathy or another opinion or just a listening ear, he could have called or emailed me.

But I’d be fooling myself by taking this approach.  The real truth is that I would have known what was going on if I had made even the slightest effort to keep in touch.  And this I did not do.

Sure, this is a friend who asked for my address once to announce his wedding and a second time to announce his divorce.  But at least he felt enough of a connection to me to share these life-changing events.

I like to think that distance is a factor.  For four years, we lived in the same city and met over a Scrabble board nearly every week.  We made more than a few out-of-state road trips together.  But then I lost my job and had to move eight hours away when I found another one.  Now we live only about 3½ hours apart, but that is still too much of a distance for a normal relationship.

Or is it?  This takes me back to my wife’s friends on the other side of the country who call her on their lunch breaks or while driving home from work.

I don’t know whether the error of my ways is a man thing or an introvert thing or just a me-being-an-ass thing.  But I do know that there has to be a better way.

So I hope I can somehow make this right.  Within an hour of reading my friend’s letter, I sat down and wrote him back.  And I plan to visit him next week.

This can never make up for my two-year absence, but at least it’s a start.

Lewis, you have the address of this blog now.  I hope you read this post.


SnapChat Moments


So I’m trying to figure out this SnapChat thing.

We downloaded it onto my iPhone on Thursday night after two of my nieces made a casual reference to the app and I demanded to know what I was missing out on.

I had never heard of SnapChat, but you know how it is, technologically challenged Uncle Guac is usually the last one to get jiggy with whatever the kids are into.

Well, today I was perusing The New York Times online and, whadyaknow, there’s an article about how Facebook is no longer the hot stuff it once was and how teenagers seem to be moving off in new directions.  Heading to places like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, videos on Vine and, you guessed it, SnapChat.

The Times article suggested that Facebook is no longer the crucial social media tool it was just a few years ago, at least partly because it has become so mainstream.  Teens tend to be drawn to apps that are more edgy and have not yet been commandeered by prying parents and their Aunt Rosie.  Another Times article points out that teens, a key social media market, tend to be “fickle” and flock to the latest and the greatest.  Facebook is old hat and (who knows?) could eventually go the way of MySpace.

Just as Zuckerberg created Facebook in a Harvard dorm room, SnapChat came into being as Evan Spiegel’s project in an undergraduate mechanical engineering class at Stanford.  SnapChat gained traction at high schools in Los Angeles, where it became something of a modern-day equivalent of passing notes behind the teacher’s back.  Except you didn’t have to be in the same classroom and you could show off your goofiest face while you were at it.

I am reading that Google offered to acquire SnapChat for the princely sum of three billion dollars and that the Snap turned them down.

Which brings me back to figuring out how to use an app that I had never heard of two days ago.  I have to do this, you know.  I never even had a cell phone until I realized that the only way I’d ever have any hope of keeping up with my far-flung nephews and nieces would be to learn how to text message.

So last night I jumped right in with both feet, hoping my dear ones would not make too much fun of my missteps.  I forgot to check the date on a loaf of French bread I had bought at the supermarket; when I tore off the first chunk, I found that it was stale.  Aha!  A SnapChat moment!  I took a photo of myself looking positively disgusted.  My poor wife was trying not to laugh at me as I turned the phone around and tried not to get my hand in the picture while my index finger estimated the location of the shutter on the other side.  Um, apparently there’s a little camera icon with swivel arrows at the top of the screen that reverses the lens to allow selfies.  Oops.  Suddenly, I feel this small. #uncleisadork

The problem with my disgusted face portrait was that I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to add a message to the photo.  I had gotten the Snap part down, but the Chat part continued to elude me.  I pressed whatever buttons I could find to no avail.  So I figured maybe I could write a message on the photo with my finger, just like painting back in kindergarten.  And it worked!  Tracing each letter of “eating stale bread,” my shaky writing even looked like it had been the work of a kindergartener.  But I got the thing sent to one nephew and two nieces, and to me, that was what counted.

A minute later, all three sent back goofy-face photos of their own to indicate that stale bread is indeed pretty gross.  I couldn’t figure out how to save or retrieve their photos, and I could only view them for a few seconds.  If I held my finger down, the “countdown” would start, the photo would appear, and then, bloop!  Disappeared into the stratosphere.

Not long after, my nephew sent me a smiling SnapChat photo of himself behind the wheel.  “Driving home from FoodMaxx.”  Cool!  “See?” I told my wife.  “We’d have no idea what he was doing if not for this thing.”

I know what you’re thinking.  Why do I need to know that my nephew is on the way home from the grocery store?  I suppose I don’t really need to know.  But it’s nice to know that he’s actually buying groceries and has food in his house, which is not something you can automatically count on with this guy.

I snap a smiling photo of my own.  “What’s for dinner?”  Wait a minute, I don’t want to do the finger painting thing again.  How do my nephew and nieces get all this perfect white type overlaid on their photos?  I ask my wife for advice.  “Google it,” she suggests.

Sure enough, Google has all the answers.  Apparently, you have do swipe your finger downward, as if pulling down a keyboard to type.  Not at all intuitive.  But hey, it worked!  Well, sort of.  I have to abbreviate and make my message very short.  Not the easiest thing with my verbose tendencies, but it only takes so many characters.  This is worse than Twitter!

Another photo.  He’s making Hamburger Helper.  I respond with a photo of my popcorn.  He sends back a smiling face of approval.  I assume a pensive pose in the manner of Rodin’s “The Thinker” and express a very truncated wish that I had a good movie to go with my popcorn.

And then this morning, my nephew is at work and SnapChats me his bemused face in regard to the fact that there is some type of anime event going on in the breakroom.  Later, my niece sends a photo of her sandwich and fries at a local restaurant.  I reciprocate with a photo of the batch of guacamole I just finished making.  And so it goes.

On Thursday, when I first downloaded this app, my 17 year old niece grabbed my phone and created a SnapChat handle for me.  I have been dubbed “unclecool59.”  You have no idea of the extent to which I am blushing to even type this.  At least now I could show you if I wanted to.  But first I’d have to access My Friends and add a couple hundred of you.

You wanna?

NaBloPoMo November 2013