Those Friendship Epiphanies Are A Good Thing

by admin on August 28, 2012

This story is partly a plea for advise, as I had no idea how to handle the situation when it was occurring.

In my first year at university, I naturally gravitated towards a group of girls in my seminar group. This group consisted of most of the girls in the seminar group (there were three seminar groups in the year). Since we were all about the same age and studying the same subject, we got on pretty well and had quite few things in common. We sat together in lectures (several degrees shared units and lecturers) and often ate lunch together. We hadn’t known each other very long, but I was under the impression that we all got on well enough.

Then, one day at the beginning of a lecture, one of the girls asked the rest of the group, “So, what time are we meeting up tonight?”

It turned out that the other girls had arranged to go out for the evening at some point. This was the first I had heard of it, so it had obviously been discussed while I wasn’t present. I was a little hurt at not being invited, but the last thing I wanted to do was demand an invitation to an event I wasn’t wanted at, so I didn’t say anything.

This proceeded to continue on a quite regular basis. The other girls in the group would make plans to meet up or go out together, often talking right over my head to debate meeting times and what clubs/restaurants/bars to go to. Another thing they would often do is discuss what a great time they had all had the night/weekend before, seemingly oblivious to my dismay at being excluded yet again. The thing that made it worse was that there was no obviously overt maliciousness in their actions – they just seemed completely clueless that discussing an event that a member of the conversation hadn’t been invited to might be hurtful.

I eventually took the hint and withdrew from the group, but it caused a real knock to my confidence. Even then, there was one final twist of the knife. At the end of the year, having completed our final exam and now being able to relax somewhat, our seminar group were discussing how we thought it had gone, when a member of the group declared (right in the middle of the conversation) that they should all go to her place to relax and celebrate the exams being over. With that, they left, leaving me standing there.

The story does fortunately have a happy ending. After going back for the summer and spending time with the friends I’d known for years, I realized I’d put up with being excluded because I was afraid of not making any other friends at university. A group of students from another seminar group in the same year kept in touch with me throughout the summer, and on the first lecture after returning, asked me if I’d like to join them to go out for dinner. I now spend a great deal of time with them, both in and out of university. I also became heavily involved in several clubs and societies and made a great deal of friends there, regularly meeting up for drinks and coffee and all the things the other group of girls used to plan over my head.

In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time with the group before deciding I’d had enough. I never confronted them on their exclusion of me, as I still have seminars and team projects with them, and they even declare sometimes how we “Never see each other anymore!”. To my knowledge, they still have no idea why I stopped hanging around with them. 0824-12

Your experience isn’t that uncommon.  Everyone, til the day they die, will miscalculate the level of relationship intimacy among friends and have an epiphany realization that they have invested in a relationship that just wasn’t worth the time and emotional expenditure.  My most recent one was when I had cancer three years ago.  Get cancer and you will discover real fast who your true friends are.  People I thought I was very close with abandoned me with no solace, no cards, no further contact as if my cancer was like leprosy.   On the other hand, people I had minimal acquaintance with came out of the woodwork and invested weekly to see how I was doing.   So I’m not entirely sure such trials and revelations into the character of one’s friends is all that bad of a thing to happen.  It’s like relationship closet cleaning..out with the bad, in with the new and good.

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria August 28, 2012 at 4:27 am

I can understand feeling left out, but I’m wondering if she could have misunderstood… perhaps they spoke about getting together so freely because she *was* invited – that it was just assumed that everybody in the group were welcome, so specific invitations weren’t necessary.

Especially when they stood around talking after the last exam – how did she know that she wasn’t welcome to come over and relax as well? Did they specifically exclude her? Or was she just not mentioned by name?

I feel we’re missing some information before I’m willing to throw the other girls under the bus.

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Emmy August 28, 2012 at 5:45 am

I’m not saying this is definitely the case with the OP, but some people expect to be specifically called out and invited somewhere when a group is planning an event. For example, somebody may not really feel invited if somebody says “hey everybody, let’s go to lunch”, they want somebody to say “hey Mary, let’s go to lunch”. Maybe when the group was planning something in front of the OP, they assumed it was an outing for the whole group and she knew she was invited because she was a member of the group. After the semester, when the group member said everybody should go to her house, it sounded like she was inviting everybody. I would need more information to see why the OP felt she was excluded from the all group invitations. Maybe it was something that became a cycle, the group thought the OP did not care to participate in the social outings so they wouldn’t extend an invitation to her. For the first outing, I can see why the OP felt left out, but somebody could easily be accidentally excluded if the rest of the group used calls or e-mails to plan to get together (although I am not saying this is the case).

That being said, I can see why the OP felt the way she did. If nobody asked where she the previous night or specifically asked if she wanted to come out, I could see why she felt on the outside of the group. I can also understand the OP not wanting to try to interject herself into a group that really doesn’t seem to care about her. I’m sorry for the bad experience and can relate. I had to go on a 3 day work trip with co-workers who were all part of a different clique at work. The group tolerated my presence, but made zero effort to draw me in and my own efforts fell flat. It was only 3 days, but it was a very lonely experience.

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--Lia August 28, 2012 at 6:51 am

What might you have done at the time (besides realize what was going on and finding other friends sooner)? Do the inviting some of the time. After the first time you realize that they’re getting together in the evening without you, wait only a few days, then say when you first sit down in the lecture hall, “hey, why don’t we all grab a bite to eat later and name the time and place you have in mind.” If they already have other plans, they’ll likely let you know what they are.

Also, seek individual friendships. Instead of doing everything in a mass of girls, invite one of them over to your room for coffee or to study together. A few days later, ask another out for a snack. Then do the same for each in turn. When you’re together, absolutely do not engage in any gossip or anything might be confused for gossip or any discussion of the others in the group at all. Just enjoy your time with the girl in front of you. In time, you’ll find that you have more in common with some than with others. Get together with them more often while never ignoring the ones you have less fun with.

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Katie August 28, 2012 at 7:34 am

Are you sure you were being deliberately excluded rather than just not being pro-active enough to join in when group activities were organised? If you were never invitd to anything, then I understand it was hurtful but this part of your post makes it appear that you expected a direct special invite to what was a casual get together – and it sounds very much like you were being included:

a member of the group declared (right in the middle of the conversation) that they should all go to her place to relax and celebrate the exams being over. With that, they left, leaving me standing there.

Why didn’t you just go along too?? I think you are being far too sensitive. And it was not “right in the middle of conversation”, it was part of the conversation!

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PM August 28, 2012 at 7:41 am

Sometimes groups of people have to prove how close or speical they are by excluding someone else. Congratulations to the OP for handling this in such a quietly classy manner.

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DaDancingPsych August 28, 2012 at 7:44 am

I had this same experience this past weekend when two coworkers opted to plan some fun together while I had to listen to the activities that I was not invited to. While the hurt was unintentional, it was thoughtless, as they excitedly told me stories of their time together. It sucked!

I came to a similar conclusion as the poster. If they were not going to be thoughtful of my feelings, then I will remove myself from the situation. I wish that there was a way to point out that what they are doing is rude and hurtful (it would make them better people), but unfortunately, I have not found an E-Hell approved way.

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Hemi August 28, 2012 at 7:56 am

My first thought was: maybe they all thought you were being invited by another member of the group and were just not joining in. Since they thought you were not interested in going out with them, they did not feel it was inappropriate to talk about outings in front of you. As for the celebration for exams being over, it seems that was a blanket statement that included you. Unless the host looked straight at you and said “you are not invited”, I think you were invited and should have gone.

Sometimes, especially in high school and the first year of college, it takes awhile for you to find the group you really click with and enjoy. I don’t think the girls were intentionally excluding you, but once you get that feeling, it does hurt to think that and hear them discuss how great a time they had. I had an episode or two of that in high school.

I’m glad you found the group(s) you do click with! :)

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Marissa Coulter August 28, 2012 at 8:05 am

If, as you say, they didn’t seem to do it with the intent of hurting you, maybe you should consider either speaking up or accepting that sometimes people you like won’t like you back as much. Why is it that people can’t accept graciously that you may get on well with someone in a professional setting, but they may not be interested in having you as a friend outside of work or university?

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woohoo! August 28, 2012 at 8:12 am

This is a tricky situation, and I think our fear of it stems all the way back to when we were kids in 3rd grade and there was always that group of 3 girls who left us all out.

Maybe college girls still play those games, I don’t know, I would hope at that age they were grown up enough not to, but don’t play the game! Go find the mature ones and have fun.

That said, there are still times in my life (and I’m much much older than college age now) that this happens. It is for the most part, pretty unintentional. We, at our age, no longer have to worry about hurt feelings, leaving someone out, if someone’s ego is ok, if we have to woo back someone to the fold—we just do stuff and we don’t really care who is there and who isn’t. So, alot of the times, we make blanket invites, and whoever comes, comes and we really don’t care. We may not say you by name, and we may even forget that when we made the invitation you were sick that day or in the potty, but we mean no malice over it.

I can assure you, that if you are indeed with grown, mature adults–all you had to say was, “I guess I missed what was going on, where’s everyone going?” and someone would tell you and you could decide whether to show up or not, and nobody cares if you do or you don’t. I’m pretty sure if they are discussing activities within a circle of people, everyone can go–you don’t need a special invite.

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Kathryn August 28, 2012 at 8:23 am

I have found myself I in this kind of situation many times before. Sometimes making it obvious and a bit lit hearted can help (and maybe this can only be pulled off in Australia): “hey, what’s this party you’re having that I’m not invited to? You know, I’M having a party on Friday night but none of you are invited. It’s going to be awes like sauce. Too bad I don’t consider ANY of you to be my friends!” Followed by a raised eyebrow mock staring down with supressed smile.

Then someone will usually say “oh, my table only fits 8 people so I can’t invite you this time, but definitely next week” or “or totally come, do you need my address” and I only do this with people I do consider my friends and have shown themselves to be nice.

I moved to a new town for work this year and trying to make friends with people in established friendship groups has been challenging. DH and I have also had a fortnigtly pizza night at ours to get to know all sorts of different people in a more intimate setting. That’s been quite successful.

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Elizabeth August 28, 2012 at 8:41 am

Early on, if you were interested in participating, perhaps you should have said so … ‘hey, can I join you?’ Since you didn’t voice any interest, perhaps the group thought you weren’t interested in socializing, drinking or what ever. You are mistakenly assuming the group could read your mind and know you wanted to join in and where hurt to not be invited. Inclusion might have been assumed amongst the group and formal invitations not issued.

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RebeccainAR August 28, 2012 at 8:46 am

We found out this lesson the hard way when DP got cancer two years ago. People we’d dropped everything and run to help in the past acted like we were pariahs. Unexpected kindness came from friends I’d lost touch with from college who found me on Facebook. Overall, it was an eye-opening experience – and one we’ve still not recovered from (well, I haven’t – I’m still bitter that so many friends AND MY FAMILY were so heartless).

Finding friends can be hard – finding true friends is even harder. My best wishes to you, and good luck.

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Ellen August 28, 2012 at 9:10 am

I tend to fall with those who believe the exclusion was unintentional. I think this is more a question of temperament and maturity level – I am of the temperament that assumes if a group is discussing something in a general way, everyone within the group is included. I am more likely to come off as pushy, than feel myself “left out”.
Maturity comes into play that one would hope that the other girls would notice that OP never showed up, and a more mature group of people might think to ask her about it or speak to her privately, understanding that she is more shy/reticent/unsure. Either way, it is good she found a group of friends that is more considerate and suited to her personality.

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Shalamar August 28, 2012 at 9:11 am

I’m surprised that so many people seem to think that the group was implicitly inviting the OP. My belief is that, if that were the case, they would’ve eventually have said “Hey, how come you didn’t come to (Blah) last night?”.

That said, I agree that sometimes you have to be a bit forceful to make it clear that you’d like to be included. Sometimes groups just assume that, if you DON’T say “Can I join you?”, you’ve already got other plans.

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Aje August 28, 2012 at 9:37 am

Same thing happened to me. I don´t know why… but I was excluded in my one immersion language course. The worse part was- we were all in another country studying so I couldn´t just shrug and go out with other frienss. It was really difficult. They even made a facebook group for everyone in the class excluding me to go on special trips together. The only thing I can think is that I studied, always attended class and don´t drink… whereas everyone else seemed very into these things…

I got along great with the people abroad and ended up making good friends and learning a lot more of the language than I would have.

My favorite part was that while I was studying a bunch of the girls from my class kept saying, ¨Well it´s not as though we´re getting a grade!¨ as if that´s an excuse to party and not try your best for a class you paid a lot of money for. At the end they decided to give us a grade anyway. Straight As… :)

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OP August 28, 2012 at 9:47 am

OP here.
@Maria, these events, especially things in the evening, usally started at someone’s house for “pre-drinks” and often getting ready together. Also, from what I gleaned from the conversations I sat on the outskirts of, they rarely decided exactly where they were going until they had all gathered on the evening in question. As I had no idea where many of them lived, “just showing up” was impossible. I was never given specific instructions, eg, “We’re meeting at X at Xpm” either.
@Katie, when I said “they left me standing there”, I meant within the space of two minutes after the declaration, they had left. They rushed off together with no intentions of allowing me to join them. I had been talking to two girls in particular and the others left without a word to me, before the two I was talking to noticed the others were leaving and all but cut off mid-sentence to follow them. It was pretty clear I wasn’t invited.

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NicoleK August 28, 2012 at 10:13 am

I’m not getting why she assumed she wasn’t invited too… what do you mean they left her “just standing there”, why was she “just standing” and not leaving with the group?

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Sarah Jane August 28, 2012 at 10:13 am

I had a similar situation at my last church. Bible study groups were set up to be close-knit (six or eight couples) so that people could really connect and encourage each other.

About once a month, three or four of the couples would start telling stories during Bible Study time about recent camping trips or other social activities they had all attended together. Even worse were all the “inside jokes” they would chuckle about during the session.

They had every right to socialize with each other outside of class, but after several instances, it started leaving some of us wondering why we were never invited to do anything with them. I can see how it could have seriously damaged the cohesiveness of a group that was designed to facilitate acceptance and spiritual/emotional support. It’s like saying, “Yeah, we’ll pray with you in our class, but you’re not really suited to join us for ‘fun’ stuff.”

Bottom line: It’s very rude within a group setting to flaunt your social activities that exclude some members of that group.

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Gloria Shiner August 28, 2012 at 10:21 am

As I was reading this, it reminded me of a woman who used to work in my department. There are three of us who have been friends and done things together for quite a while. We made an effort to include “Kathy”, and for awhile it seemed to work, but some things she did made us give up the effort. For example: we always had to invite her, she never reciprocated ever; the invitations had to be specific (“Kathy, want to go to lunch with us at 11:37 next Tuesday?”); when asked for suggestions for where to go, she wouldn’t give any, but she would feel free to complain about choices others made.

Sometimes you also need to speak up. Always expecting (like Kathy) that someone will specifically invite you and that you never need to make an effort just may not work.

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Wendy August 28, 2012 at 10:25 am

When they didn’t include OP in the original plan, it’s clear they were excluding her. Especially since they never asked her why she never came along. I’ve been there, it sucks muck. Sometimes you have to put up with it (if they’re an assigned group or what not) and sometimes you don’t.

When I transferred from my very small country elementary school to the huge (to me) Junior High I had a similar experience. For some reason I assumed that since we’d all been friends for the past six years, that would continue. Imagine my shock when only a couple of the 15 kids I went through elementary school with thought I was important enough to continue to associate with. So, not only was I trying to adjust to a new school with lots more kids, I had to start making new friends from scratch. And being an especially shy kid to begin with, it was torture.

Kudos to OP for figuring out the situation and also for taking the action she did.

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Cat August 28, 2012 at 10:33 am

I, too, have met people like this and my thought is, “Who needs them?”.
I have mentioned this before, but for anyone new to the site: I was an adopted child whose adoptive parents died when I was in my early twenties. I began searching for my birth family.
It was thirty years before I found them. I was very excited until I was told by a niece that no one wanted to see me. They had welcomed three other adoptives into their family but excluded me. I never met or spoke to any of them until four months after I found them, even the one who lived in my area of the country. She refused to look or me or to speak to me and allowed her daughter to do all of the talking. I got cards signed with names only at Christmas though I wrote notes on mine, including my phone number and desire to see them. They never told me their phone numbers and a niece sent me an email reading, “You are probably wondering why you have never met any of your sisters. They have agreed there is no need for them to ever see you. They are getting all of the ‘news’ about you from a ‘third party’ and are happy just talking about you.’ Since it had been three years without ever seeing any of them, the email was not news to me.
After nine years, I finally contacted one of my brothers. We met and became close.
Now, eleven years later, his sisters cannot understand why I see him and not them.The fact that not one of them has ever called me, come to see me, invited me to any of their family reunions, and that I was not allowed to attend my mother’s memorial service / that my name was not listed on the programme as one of her children does not seem to occur to them that I take all this as a rejection. Silly me.

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Cami August 28, 2012 at 10:40 am

OP — I feel for you. I am in a similar situation at my workplace. When I started it was the first time a new person had come on staff in years and the group was already a firmly established clique of friends. I was astonished at how open they were about planning or talking about social activities in front of me. At first I thought it would just take time to “fit in” with the group. Then one day, I realized I was wrong. That was the day, I mentioned to a coworker that she and I should see a certain movie together (as we’d been talking about it and both of us had mentioned that we didn’t know anyone who wanted to go). Her response was, “I already have enough friends and don’t need to go to the movies with you.” Okay, then. I get it.

Since I started, there has been some staff turnover, although all but one of the main group of the Queen Bees are still here. It has been illuminating to watch how birthday celebrations differ depending upon who you are. If you’re a Queen Bee, you get a big birthday party every year. If you’re one of the “worker bees” (as I call us), then you get almost no one willing to even attend your party, let alone help make the celebration happen.

It’s hurtful to be excluded.

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CaffeineKatie August 28, 2012 at 10:40 am

I think I would have found a way to ask one of the friendlier group members (after the seminar was over) if they had any insight about your exclusion from the group. I’d try to avoid any whiny/accusatory tone, but maybe something along the lines of “I noticed I wasn’t invited to activities with the rest of the group–is there something I could do to improve my social skills?” If you frame it as a possible learning experience for you, they might be willing to tell you. And you might learn you were excluded because you weren’t a binge drinker, partying fool, etc.–and that would be a relief, no?

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Stacey Frith-Smith August 28, 2012 at 11:00 am

Never make someone a priority in your life who makes you an option in theirs. This applies to group dynamics as well. You can always test the waters by hosting several events and inviting some group members but if it isn’t successful, network with more like minded people.

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Katie2 August 28, 2012 at 11:40 am

Different Katie here ;)

I wrote a long comment, but there must have been a problem submitting it, as it hasn’t appeared…

But I was wondering, did the other girls know each other from another context? If so, that might explain why they were so insular in their social activities and invitations. I agree that, even if there was an ‘implicit’ invitation, SOMEONE at some point could have said ‘Sarah (or whatever the OP’s real name is, aren’t you going to join us?’ or something of that kind. It just seems very odd for nobody to every query it if she wasn’t legitimately invited. That said, it doesn’t sound like an intentional slight if they were friendly with you in other regards. I think you’ve handled it absolutely right if you have to work with them on projects/university work.

Good luck with the rest of your degree, and I am so glad you’ve made nice friends since :)

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scottish_lass August 28, 2012 at 11:48 am

OP, I’ve been there. Granted, in secondary school, not college, but still. A lot comes down to intonation and eye contact – you just know you are not being included. I spent far too much of my time with that group and I now have really good friends – if one person says “let’s meet at the usual spot” I know where it is and I don’t have to ask if I am invited. I’m glad you also found a nice group of friends.

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Harley Granny August 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I’ve been in the same situation as the OP. Even at 50.
We have a number of friends so don’t get me wrong, we are rarely bored but we make it a point to either invite everyone present or don’t speak of it at all if we’re not sure if even one person is also welcome. we never assume everyone knows.

The main group of us consists of four couples. DH and I were instramental in everyone meeting. I though we all got along famously. Then right in front of us they were discussing what a great time they had the night before…..at the place WE suggested we all go. (When we got no response from them at the time of the invitation we assumed they weren’t interested so we didn’t go.)

At no time did any stop and say…sorry you couldn’t make it, we really missed having you there or why didn’t you show? At that point we could have chalked it up to a miscommunication.
Another instance is much like the OP’s where they are discussing having a BBQ/Swim party at one of their houses….at no time were we included in the conversation so it was obvious that we were not invited.
I was brought up not to invite myself so I let it go.

But…..We got the hint.
So OP, you handled it well and am glad you have a great group of friends in your life now.

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Politrix August 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I second what woohoo! said — it’s tricky to know if you’re invited or not. But IMHO, one of the reasons etiquette exists is to clear up these “tricky” scenarios, and I really believe the onus was on the group to make some sort of attempt to let OP know she was welcome to join them… in my book, that’s just common courtesy.
I can’t say I’ve always been gracious or polite in life… in fact sometimes when I look back on some of my own behavior, I actually cringe — but I’ll say this much: when new people enter my “circle” — whether it’s at work, or a social situation, or an academic environment, I — and very often my colleagues — will make every effort to include the new person. A simple glance in the “newbie’s” direction when publicly declaring we’re all going to hang out should suffice… I usually take it a step further by saying, “X, you’re invited too, if you haven’t already made other plans…” Of course, if I didn’t want to include “X,” then I’d make sure “X” wasn’t around when I made the suggestion!
Also, I’d be downright uncomfortable talking with my friends about the great time I had the night before, in front of the individual(s) that we all knew weren’t there — without even a simple acknowledgement: “Hey, X, you weren’t at the restaurant with us last night, is everything ok?” Actually I usually add, “We missed you… maybe you’ll come next time?”
It seems like the OP, from her follow-up post, was purposely excluded. Although, I really don’t think it was malicious — in fact, it sounds like the group liked her (him? I don’t wanna presume), but just wanted to keep within their own comfortable social circle, and not broaden themselves to any new people or experiences. Rude, pig-headed and ignorant? YES. Mean? Well, maybe not intentionally.
OP, you handled the situation with class and dignity, glad you found a circle of friends who appreciate who you are and welcome you.

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Carrie August 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I’m sorry for your experience, OP. I know how much it can sting to be blatantly excluded. I think you handled it in the correct manner, though, especially when you said you didn’t want to demand an invitation. And kudos to finding people whose company you enjoy and who don’t play these petty games, either. I know college is full of teenagers, but they’re a little too old to be toying with others like this. I hope you give them a blank stare when they gush about how they don’t see you anymore.

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Another Alice August 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Ooooohhh, that sucks. I can’t stand that. Really, really can’t. I speak as someone who was left out of a few parties thrown by people I really thought I had good relationships with. While I’m still friends with them, it’s always in the back of my mind. However, my solution (as may be good should the OP ever find him/herself in the same situation), as others have suggested, would be to throw your own get-together and initiate. What I figured was, even if they don’t come, they can know that I consider them to be good friends. Maybe, at the very least, they didn’t think I’d want to go, or didn’t realize how close I thought we were, so that would be a heads up. Also, I have a thing about not stooping to people’s level; regardless of whether or not what they did was intentional, that’s really not my problem to figure out. I knew how hurt I was, and on the off-chance they would be, I refused to have them feel the same way.

I also agree with those who say, when others’ talk about fun things they did together and you weren’t invited, to give a little comment about it. I have no problem whatsoever piping up with, “Oh, I wish I’d known you were going to see that movie! I really wanted to see it too!” or whatever fits the situation. At the very least, it’s a relatively subtle lesson to not talk about parties or events around people who were not invited.

Anyways – my sympathy for ya, OP. I thought I was done with that stage in my life, but as Admin said happens to all of us until the day we die, every couple of years I’m reminded of how immature people can be. But think of it just as that – people having no concept of etiquette and being thoughtless, not malicious.

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TylerBelle August 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I’m sorry this happened to you. It makes me cringe to see this sort of behavior. Unfortunately as mentioned it isn’t uncommon. I’m glad that you have moved on, found other groups of friends, and not subjected yourself to more of that treatment.

I’ve experienced both the unintentional (ie., the “hey we’re all going to go…” though I don’t go) and the specific (ie., “we’re going to do this and you’re not invited.”). The former is really more on me, the latter isn’t and more hurtful. Such as close friends in high school planned a trip after graduation, and I was told the way it was arranged (a gift to two graduating sisters), myself and another girl (both graduating as well) in our group weren’t invited. I just knew the other girl would eventually be going for she was the ‘it girl’ of the group, the one everyone wanted to be best friends with. Needless to say, she did go and I did not.

I believe most general invites are for all the group involved, though some folks may be hesitant on taking them at face value for they’ve been burned in the past. Some comes on the general invitation then are treated like they weren’t expected. Not a good feeling. Also I’ve gotten from friends the “We’ve not seen you lately, where have you been?” when I’ve pulled away from them somewhat. Yeah, I know, it’s a bummer when you lose your audience there to watch you and your group have a good time, and wanting to be in on it, too.

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Cat Whisperer August 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm

One of the great things about the internet is that it allows a sharing of painful situations so that we realize that maybe other people, maybe quite a few other people, shared the same experience. That helps: we don’t feel quite so shamed or isolated or violated when we realize the commonality of the experience.

I feel for OP, having been in the same sort of situation myself, and I applaud her for her class and grace in extricating herself from a group where she felt excluded and finding a way to find friends who valued her and treated her as a valued member of their group.

Regarding whether the OP was too sensitive and perhaps felt excluded because she wasn’t explicitly invited to go with the others when in fact her inclusion was implicit and she would have been welcomed: all I can say is that people vary in the sensitivity they start out with; some people are bold and brassy and literally can’t imagine themselves being unwelcomed by others, and so would always assume they’re included; and other people are more reserved and cautious, less certain of themselves and can’t imagine thrusting themselves into a situation where their welcome wasn’t assured and vouched for by specific invitation. That doesn’t make either type of person wrong, or bad.

FWIW, one of the functions etiquette is supposed to serve is to ensure that people of all sorts are able to function within their comfort zone in social situations. To me, this argues in favor of sensitivity that takes note of how people are interacting in a group, and of noting situations that are not working well and taking action to correct them. In this specific situation, that would mean noting when a member of the group seems to be marginalized, and fixing the situation. That would mean, if OP was meant to be included in the group’s activities, noting that she’s not participating and making the effort to make her feel welcome.

If OP was not meant to be included in the group’s activities, that’s more difficult. What do you do if someone doesn’t fit well in an otherwise harmonious group? It can happen: Aje’s description of her situation, where she was the studious one in a group that tended more towards party animals. Especially if the group is “the only game in town” and there aren’t other good options for finding friends, how do you handle that?

I think, in the end, it’s a matter of realizing that sometimes you’re going to be the “odd one out” in some groups, and removing yourself as gracefully as possible from the group and waiting for an opportunity to find a group where you do fit in, or doing as the OP did, and actively seeking out others who are a better fit.

Sometimes we have to recognize that we’re all imperfect people in an imperfect world, and making the best that we can of awkward and imperfect situations. And being grateful that with the internet, we can now see that we aren’t alone in having had that experience.

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AIP August 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I think OP has hit the nail on the head. If she was expected to join them at least one person would have said “are you coming/ you not coming then?”

And I know exactly what the Admin said about getting cancer. Previous friends made it perfectly clear they couldn’t give a toss if I lived or died. Whereas practical strangers went out of their way to send cards. I wouldn’t mind but they have the complete gall to post those patronising “you worry about mundane cr*p but a person with cancer just wants to be cured”. Errr we have bills, mortgages and mundane nonsense on top of being ill and dealing with idiots pretending to be sooooo right-on.

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Shoegal August 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I have a group of friends (neighbors) that I hang out with from time to time. The times when my husband and I would attend a social event including all of the neighbors – it would be quite obvious that they had all gone out together previously and would also talk about what a fantastic time they all had and how funny this or that was. My husband and I were not invited to the previous gathering and couldn’t contribute to the converstation. I told my husband that my feelings were a bit hurt that we weren’t included and I had somehow misjudged the level of our friendhship. These neighbors would then speak of future planned events in front of us and still – even though we were sitting right there – no invitation was forthcoming. In the same vein as the OP’s story – there was no malicious intent These people weren’t trying to hurt us -through whatever circumstances they had all got together and fate didn’t bring my husband and I at the same place at the same time. And the events they were planning – I already knew we couldn’t go – and they probably did too.

I have to say it is very easy to have your feelings hurt and it is not easy to include yourself. I couldn’t beg for an invitation or just show up somewhere so I resolved not to be hurt by it anymore. Nobody was going out of their way to hurt us. There are going to be groups or gatherings where we aren’t included and some events I couldn’t attend even if I wanted to. I even joked at one gathering that my husband and I were the least popular members of this social group – we lift right out. That’s fine – the OP found places where she was more than welcome. It all works out.

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Shalamar August 28, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Cami, that was a horrible thing for your co-worker to say to you! What a witch!

I hear you on the birthday party thing. When my mother was still working, she found out quickly that she wasn’t one of the “popular kids”. Things came to a head one day when her boss suddenly stopped still, gasped in horror, and said “Oh no! We forgot to do anything for (Queen Bee’s) birthday!” My mum glared at him and said “So? You forget MY birthday ever year!”

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LS August 28, 2012 at 4:15 pm

>>”Get cancer and you will discover real fast who your true friends are.”

Heck, lend money out and you’ll discover who your friends are.

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Cat Whisperer August 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Gotta comment on the people who mention people they thought were friends ditching them when they were facing a diagnosis of cancer.

Yes, that is a hellish thing to go through. But if you REALLY want to find out what it’s like to be a pariah, and to watch people who you thought were your friends or at least not your enemies turning away from you and even actively turning AGAINST you,if you really want to find out what it’s like to be lonely in a way that’s impossible to adequately describe, then have a close family member with a mental illness involuntarily committed to a mental institution after a public incident involving the police.

You’ll not only have people you thought were friends shunning you, you’ll have them blaming you for the situation and eagerly and self-righteously telling anyone who will listen that they hope you, and your mentally ill family member, will be harshly punished for the situation! And even complete strangers will find a way to express their vitriol to you.

With all due respect, cancer just ain’t in the same league. Trust me.

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E August 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm

These stories of exclusion are painful, and as someone who’s experienced similar situations, I empathize. However, I wonder how many of these same people have also excluded people, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and for good reason?

In my (university) program, we have one guy who just really rubs everyone the wrong way. He’s confrontational, quick to insult anything you care about or associate with, but the biggest drama queen and crybaby if he feels like someone’s stepping on his toes. He constantly feels disrespected, but is incredibly disrespectful to those around him. He’s beyond socially awkward and dull, and he will monopolize a conversation if you allow him, usually turning to a litany of complaints that we’ve all heard 1000 times before and totally disagree with. I’m sure he has an undiagnosed condition of some sort. So I feel bad for him, but he also irritates me to no end. My friends and I in the program try hard to be nice, and part of that is not talking about social events in front of him that we have no intention of inviting him to. However, I’m sure we failed once or twice because someone accidentally let it slip. In that rare case, I always feel bad – but not bad enough to invite him and ruin the night for everyone else.

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Mabel August 28, 2012 at 5:50 pm

No matter how the group might have known each other outside it, it was still very rude to discuss / invite / plan activities in front of the OP without including her. And running off leaving her standing there? Ugh! The Misses No-Manners strike again! Rude rude rude!

Re admin: not cancer, but a very distressing breakup happening on the heels of unemployment and some big transportation / household issues (seemed like everything happening at once–bleah!). A few people I thought cared about me basically told me to suck it up. I can only imagine what their reaction would have been if it WERE something like an illness. :P

Others made an extra effort to see me, or at least be available if I needed to talk, if they were hampered by distance. At least I know who REALLY cares now. Makes it much easier to divide between friends and acquaintances. And of course they have my ear if ever they need it!

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Anonymous August 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm

I’ve been in that situation before, and one thing I’ve found that works is to just make a neutral comment like, “that sounds like fun,” or “what was your favourite part of the movie?” That gets the conversation rolling, and encourages people to draw me in without being made to feel guilty about excluding me that time. It also increases the odds that I’ll be included next time, once the group realizes that I share certain interests with them. Then again, some people are just jerks, and after a few rounds of intentional exclusion, I agree with the OP–it’s time to move on.

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Angel August 28, 2012 at 9:25 pm

OP, that sucks. I’m glad you have made other friends. Now that I am past college age I can tell pretty quickly if I’m going to hit it off with other people in a professional setting. Hit it off meaning, be friends outside of work. Those people are few and far between, unfortunately. And that’s quite common. It’s actually pretty rare to be close friends with people in professional setting. An academic setting, making friends is a little more common, but still, there may only be a handful of them that you actually click with.

And some people, by nature are just very exclusive, cliquish people. I have found that this is a quality that people rarely if ever grow out of. It sounds like you just fell in briefly with the wrong kind of people. Doesn’t necessarily make them bad people, they just aren’t the type who welcome a newcomer to a group with open arms. I personally think that when a person is like that, they tend to miss out on close friendships, in favor of superficial connections, they are unwilling to give a new person a chance.

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BatCity August 28, 2012 at 10:10 pm

I had this happen to me once, and I will never forget it if I live to be a hundred and ten.

My Freshman year in college, I made friends with a bunch of girls in my dorm. We all hung out together, doing nothing in particular. Until one day…

We were hanging in one girl’s dorm room, and I had to leave. As soon as I closed her door, I very clearly heard someone say, “Oh, good, she’s gone”, followed by laughter from everyone.

I ran to my room, slammed the door and bawled my eyes out. But from then on, I never gave any one of them the time of day. Thank goodness I got the message loud and clear; painful as it was, it was a lot better than enduring months of slow rejection.

FWIW, that would have been in 1989 or so.

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anonymoose August 28, 2012 at 10:45 pm

I’ve been in this situation many times at work. There are a group of women who routinely socialize with each other and plan activities together, then talk about them afterwards, in front of everyone else. There’s no rule that says you have to invite everyone, but I was always brought up to believe that it was rude to talk about things like that in front of people who weren’t included.

Most of us grow out of that type of behavior in junior high. Too bad some don’t.

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PsychoKitten August 29, 2012 at 1:29 am

I’m surprised at how many are suggesting that the OP should have just spoken up and asked to come along. It’s not that simple. Many of us were brought up on the idea that it isn’t polite to invite yourself to a gathering, regardless of how informal it may be. Doing so often results in what I call a “pity invite” (“Oh… Uh, sure. You can come along if you want.”). If the group is as clique-ish as it sounds, the event would have probably been rather awkward and uncomfortable for the OP. I’m sorry that happened to you OP, but I’m glad you found better friends. :)

Oh, and admin is totally right about the cancer thing. I had a cancer scare a few years ago, and I was sick and miserable for several months. During that time several people that I’d previously considered to be acquaintances reached out to me. Some offered to come visit me in the hospital, others sent me several “get well” e-mails and facebook messages, some sent cards, and some offered to come over and keep me company when I was bedridden. I was really touched, and now consider those people to be good friends. On the other hand, there were people whom I’d previously considered to be good friends who responded to the news with “Wow, that sucks. Hope we can hang out when you feel better!”. They completely disappeared when I got sick, and when I got better, they expected to resume our friendship as if nothing had ever happened. Yeah…… No thank you.

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wallaby August 29, 2012 at 2:49 am

Gosh, I’m kind of speechless at the number of posters who advocate giving the ‘friends’ the benefit of the doubt and think it must have been some big misunderstanding on the OP’s part… I can safely say from my own experience that not only is this scenario totally believable, but the OP has an accurate interpretation of what was happening. I am glad the OP moved on the bigger and better things.

My main comment however, is prompted by Admin’s comment. I supported my friend though a very difficult time, while some of her oldest and dearest friends wanted nothing to do with her… and yet, once the dust had settled and everything was back to ‘normal’, friend resumed her old friendships again and I was pushed back to the outer. It took me some time to realise that I had been relegated to ‘supporting role’ again, and surprise, surprise, last year when I needed support, friend was nowhere to be found. So yes, how someone responds to difficult times can be illuminating, but so can how they respond to the good times!

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Alice August 29, 2012 at 2:58 am

I have to confess I am guilty of unknowingly excluding someone. A rather large group of friends I’m part of have a facebook group and regulardly invite people who have the same interests as us to join. Often we organize meet-ups and gatherings on that same fb group and assumed it was understood that everyone in the group was invited to come, until one girl expressed that she felt she could not come as she was only close to one person in the whole group, and unless that person went then she was not allowed to go just by herself. We now encourage new members to come to our outings more often to make them feel welcome and even organize gatherings specifically to meet the new members.

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AIP August 29, 2012 at 3:07 am

@Catwhisperer

Fair point, well made. At least with cancer you get a certain amount of sympathy and leniency face-to-face, with schitzophenia and similar mental illnesses, not so much. I have suffered from depression off and on for years, which while not in the ha’penny place in comparison to you and your family member, I can empathise with you. It’s a horrible situation for anyone to be in, and I hope that person is stabilised for all of your sakes.

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OP August 29, 2012 at 5:28 am

OP here again.
I understand that no two situations are ever the same, but I grew up used to a rule of my Mother’s “If you have to ask, you weren’t invited.” This rule became established after several children in my classes at school tried to guilt their way into invitations to events that were limited numbers due to a budget.
Also, as PsychoKitten said, I was worried that speaking up would lead to a “pity invite” but not really being wanted at a gathering.

I think I was spoiled by my group of friends at sixth form college. We were a large mixed gender group with lots of different interests, but we all gelled pretty well. If we arranged a group gathering, people would do everything in their ability to make sure everyone knew. You’d be asked repeatedly by multiple people (usually as a conversation opener) “are you coming with us next week/tomorrow/tonight?” If someone was seen as absent without having mentioned not being willing/able to come, they’d be texted and called to make sure they knew what was going on and weren’t caught in traffic or something.

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--Lia August 29, 2012 at 6:47 am

Something seems to be left out of all these comments. People complain about not being included in others’ plans, but I see no mention of ever initiating the invitations. The first moment you feel like you’ve been left out, try an experiment. Ask everyone to come to something of your own choosing. It could be as little as getting together at a coffee shop. Make the invitation to the group and to individuals: “After class today, shall we rehash the class at Joe’s Diner? Sound good to you, Alice? Barbara, want to come? Cathy?” Then make eye contact with Dottie, Edie, and Flo until it’s certain that everyone sitting there is included.

I’ll grant that it’s possible that one person is being purposefully left out, but at least this way, you’ll have broached the question in a way that makes it obvious that you’re not just horning in on their plans but willing to make some of your own.

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AthenaC August 29, 2012 at 9:01 am

It seems that any sort of misfortune will show you who your friends are. Cancer, mental illness, or divorce – everyone wants to think that they are immune from misfortune, so therefore “it must be your fault somehow.” And if it’s your fault, you are suddenly a toxic person to be excised from their life. Just the ugliness of human nature.

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