Hannah Pool has an article in today's Observer on a topic that fascinates me: the breaking up of friendships. I don't have a lot to add to what she says here, really. I've tried both of the "techniques" for breaking up with friends that she describes and agree that neither of them is pleasant. I've also had them done to me. Not so much the slow one, because if I call you a couple of times and you don't call me back, then I stop calling you pretty quickly (and by "call" I also mean email/write/whatever). And then if I hear from you months down the line because you've either changed your mind about breaking up with me or because you genuinely were busy or depressed or something, that's fine.
But the quick one I've had done to me twice. At the time I was extremely hurt by one of these breakups, which was done by letter. It came as a total shock to me and I was very upset to read the words "I don't think we should be in touch with each other any more". This was like a real breakup. (Subsequently the person in question did get back in touch and we did meet up a couple of times, but we both realised that his initial instinct had been correct and we haven't been in touch since. Still, nice to have everything put on a more civil footing.) The other time, I was out for a drink with the person and we were arguing about personal politics. I was finding these meetups less and less enjoyable every time we had them, but I basically liked this person and I was living on my own at the time, so I was reluctant to lose contact with even more people than my divorce had already cut me off from or allowed me to lose contact with, depending on how you look at it.
At the end of the evening I suggested we meet up for brunch in a couple of weeks (I preferred brunch because there was less chance of drinking and therefore less chance of argument) and he just said "yeah, brunch doesn't really suit me any more. Look, don't worry about it." And that was it. We never called each other again. It was a massive relief. Sure, we've seen each other on the street a couple of times since then, and we've said hello and exchanged highlights, but that's it. So civilised.
Anyway, that was all apropos of not much really. I wanted to save that article and I wanted to save the comments too. Some interesting stories there. I'm particularly interested by the person who starts her comment by complaining about using the word dump to describe breaking up with friends, then says she's had this done to her several times by people who are cowards, then talks about how awful people are who break up with friends. I don't know this person, and I don't like to be judgemental (or rather, I don't like people to know how judgemental I am) but I already want to break up with her and I've not even had to be her friend for any period of time.
People also talk about how Facebook and Twitter makes this all much more complicated, and it probably does. But for me, as for a lot of people, Facebook and Twitter are an aid to maintaining casual contact with people I care about very much who happen to be far away. I see the minutiae of their daily lives, comments from other people they chat to, and it makes me feel connected to them. It also makes it easier to keep that connection, so I don't worry so much that I don't have time to write a letter.
These are things, as someone points out on the comments page for the article, that rear their heads at this time of year, both for those of us expecting people home for Christmas, and for those of us who are coming home and don't know who we''ll end up having to talk to when they hit the pub on Christmas Eve.