Miss Conduct

Advice: I had surgery and none of my friends visited me in the hospital

Do I need to ditch them and find new friends?

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Please help me gain some perspective. Recently I had a serious spine surgery at a Boston hospital. I was there 4½ days. My friends live on the South Shore. Not one of them came to see me. I know it’s a trek, but I was so hurt. (They did keep in touch with my sister.) My resolution is to make new friends. Am I being too sensitive?

J.B. / Carver

Two questions:

1. What are they like aside from that?

2. Did you ask?

People have different ways of showing concern. When an otherwise wonderful friend falls down at a task you consider Friendship 101, it’s usually the case that this particular friend doesn’t have that particular skill (chicken-soup-making, say), or doesn’t value it highly as an expression of friendship. It’s not about you, it’s about their own repertoire of loving gestures. Which is why, when we really need a particular kind of support, it’s best to ask explicitly. (I recently had a minor surgery and scheduled visits from the friends I wanted to see.) Your friends may well have thought that with such serious surgery, you’d prefer to conserve your energy for healing.

You might need to renovate your social life a bit, and it’s always a good resolution to make new friends, even if the current ones are entirely satisfactory. But don’t take any drastic measures yet. The first time I read your question I screamed (internally): “Of course you’re too sensitive, you just had spinal surgery.” Your entire nervous system has been violently disrupted! Maybe sit with your feelings for a while and let your poor brain sort things out. Maybe your friends are rotters — this happens! — but maybe your lizard brain is simply flailing about trying to find the source of the pain and has latched onto your neglectful friends as the cause. And if you do need to prune that social tree, you’ll do it more wisely after some recuperation and meditation time. I wish you the best in your recovery.


Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.