Lack of trust is a deal breaker for me. I either trust you or I don’t. Similarly, if you don’t think I’m trustworthy, you clearly don’t have a good read on me, so what’s the point of maintaining a friendship?
I once ended a 23-year friendship for that very reason. She had always been the one to fly out to visit me, because I was poor and she was a lot less so. (That, and she also visited other people in the area.) It was purely a case of economics and convenience. At least that’s what I had always assumed.
Then one day I got the bright idea to surprise my best friend. I saved my money for nearly a year so that, for once, I could visit her. Of course I didn’t just show up at her door without any warning. I would never do that. When I finally had enough for the plane ticket, I called her up and shared the news that I’d like to visit for a few days in about two months, based on her availability.
I thought she’d be as excited as I always was when she came to see me. My guest room was always open to her. Always. But apparently that particular street only went one way.
My best friend for 23 years (who, by the way, never called me her best friend, even though we spent about 5 hours a day talking on the phone. No one ever has.) informed me that I couldn’t stay with her, because she couldn’t trust me in her house.
And just like that, I realized that I had been operating under the illusion that she knew what kind of person I was. Discovering that her assessment of me was that I was someone who couldn’t be trusted around her personal possessions left me completely and utterly speechless. Like I’d… what? Root through her file cabinet and write down her Social Security Number for future use? Read her diary? Steal her silverware? Really?
I was disgusted. At myself. For thinking she knew me for 23 years. For not realizing that she had such a low opinion of me.
It’s too simplistic to say that that was the only reason I ended that friendship. But once the scales fell from my eyes, I saw just how much I had been overlooking for all those years, and this was just a bridge too far. That was a bitter lesson to learn.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take that lesson and apply it to others. To this day, I walk through life thinking that I actually know people. I assume decency. I am too trusting. And it bites me in the butt all the time.
Picture this. Fast forward seven years. I thought I’d finally made my first friend after having moved across the country to Seattle. She was a climate activist and a therapist, and she lived only about a mile away from me. We’d hang out once or twice a week, go to dinner, play cards, watch Trump get elected and feel sick together… you know. Friend stuff. She even had me over for Thanksgiving.
Then one day we were hanging out at my house, something we rarely did because she didn’t like my dog (and that should have been a red flag in and of itself.) She had to use the bathroom, which of course was no problem. I was in the kitchen, making lunch. But the walls in that place were thin, and my medicine cabinet made a distinctive squeak when it opened. I could also hear the pills rattling around in the bottles as she took the time to examine one after another.
I went into the living room and sat down, facing the bathroom door. She spent quite some time in there, nosing around, and I was at a loss as to what to do about it. It felt like such a violation. And what nerve. (To her credit, I never detected that any meds were missing, but still.) It was as if she were saying that I had no right to privacy, I should not expect to be respected, and I had no agency over my own things in my own home.
When she came out and saw me sitting right there, I could tell she was taken by surprise. I looked her square in the eye, and she looked down. I wish I could tell you I confronted her about it, but the truth is, I hate confrontation. And I kind of thought I had made my point anyway. We had an awkward lunch and she left.
Once again, I was shocked to learn that someone’s character was a lot less admirable than I had assumed. It just goes to show that therapists can be every bit as f***ed up as the rest of us are. I kind of feel sorry for her patients. Here they think that they’re telling all their intimate secrets to someone with a moral compass who wants to help them, when in fact she’s probably just getting off on rooting around in the medicine cabinets of their minds.
Shortly after that lovely insight into her moral makeup, she got herself a boyfriend and completely dropped off the face of the earth for about two months. To say I was relieved would be putting it mildly. But of course, that relationship didn’t last. She didn’t like the way he loaded the dishwasher. Suddenly she wanted to hang out again.
I didn’t completely eject her from my life. Friends are entirely too thin on the ground out here in the Pacific Northwest for that. But things were never the same. My fundamental opinion of her had shifted too much.
Then later, when I got married and moved 25 miles away, she told me we weren’t friends anymore because I wasn’t willing or able to drop everything to hang out with her at a moment’s notice like I used to. (I think it had more to do with the fact that I had managed to find someone who “loads the dishwasher” to my satisfaction, and that’s something she has never been able to achieve, but I digress.)
Having someone who snooped around in my medicine cabinet turn around and tell me I was a bad friend for paying too much attention to my husband was, and will always be, more than a little bit amusing to me. She may even believe the words that came out of her mouth. I have no idea. But I really believe I’m a good friend to have and she doesn’t get to have that.
I’m making more of an effort to remind myself that I can’t figure most people out. It’s a moot point, though. She moved to another city and made it quite clear that there was no point remaining in contact.
Did I judge her too harshly? I suppose I do expect the same level of integrity from others that I do from myself. To do otherwise might put me in a scary situation.
Apparently, many people can’t resist sticking their noses where they don’t belong. According to a survey by the makers of Quilted Northern toilet tissue, 39 percent of Americans peek in other people’s medicine cabinets. Even worse: Twenty-five percent have helped themselves to something inside.
Of course, those surveys only measure those who are willing to admit their transgressions. I bet that figure is actually higher. But it would never have occurred to me to wonder before I had it happen to me. I hope 39 percent of my readers don’t pull this caper. I’d be profoundly disappointed.
These statistics blow my mind. It would never, ever occur to me to violate someone’s privacy like that. I once endured a throbbing hangnail for 4 hours because I wouldn’t go into someone’s medicine cabinet on my own and they were so justifiably busy that they couldn’t stop long enough to get me a nail clipper and a band aid.
If I need an aspirin, I ask for one. If someone asks me for an aspirin, I don’t hesitate to provide it. I really don’t have anything to hide. I’m an open medicine cabinet. I just would like you to grant me the courtesy of asking me before opening said cabinet, just as I would do for you. That seems fairly straightforward to me.
I can’t believe how rude people can be, with apparently no remorse whatsoever. Maybe the fundamentalists are right and there’s no such thing as evolution, at least from the perspective that we never truly emotionally evolved as a species. We certainly behave like monkeys a lot of the time. We’re only a few genetic sequences away from throwing our feces at one another when we get agitated.
Maybe I need to lower my expectations. Maybe I should assume that I’m viewed as untrustworthy, and will be no matter what I do, and I should hold a similar opinion of others. That would certainly simplify things, because I’d lose all desire to interact with anyone but my dog.
Human beings are inherently flawed. I realize that. Maybe I just have to learn that, in addition, nothing is sacred. I just wish I weren’t going through life learning that lesson over and over and over again. It’s exhausting, disappointing, and it makes me very sad.
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2 thoughts on “Can anyone be trusted?”
I’m so sorry that you’ve had these experiences. Trust seems like such a fragile thing, and once lost, it’s certainly hard to rebuild. Personally I tend to instinctively trust people, but I realize that I’m still pretty cautious about building up close friendships very gradually, testing out the boundaries and limits to see how far I can trust them. I guess I do that instinctively, and hadn’t really thought about it till you wrote this! Thanks! Amanda
Thanks! I know that friendship caution is very much a Seattle thing, and I’m finding that hard to get used to. But I can definitely see how it has its advantages. It’s never too late for me to learn something new and valuable.