For a few days now, I have been worrying an upcoming social event where I know I'll see the person my wife and I unfriended on Facebook. I am not a fan of confrontation, so I dread the question "Why did you unfriend me?" or the more passive-aggressive glancing blow "Well, you might not know ___ since we're not friends on Facebook anymore."
This person was never really an actual friend, but a friend of a friend in the group of friends that were my wife's primary social circle before we met and got married. She is someone we saw at bigger get-togethers but interacted with very minimally. She had the annoying habit of using the words "queer" and "gay" in place of "stupid" or "ridiculous" like so many middle school students. Except she is 40.
We overlooked it again and again, but one night, looking at our newsfeeds during a cozy pizza-and-movies night at home, there she was, calling our mutual friends "QUEER" because they were dancing the hustle. My wife, irked, commented: "Seriously stop using the word queer please!" but this comment was ignored by all involved, even the two mutual friends (actual friends) who commented.
It hurt. The word hurt, and being ignored hurt. Now it was clear that they were drinking some wine and having a good time, so if they didn't respond that night, it is understandable, but days passed and there was no response, either on Facebook or in any other medium. So, we just decided it was no longer worth it, and we hit that magic unfriend button. And things quickly became awkward.
Now, six months have passed and it is time for the annual Memorial Day picnic at the house of the friend we have in common, the friend whose silence had also hurt our feelings, but whose friendship we thought was worth working through this moment. Of course, in true New England style, "working through" means not talking about it and pretending it didn't happen.
We are most definitely the outsiders in this group, although my wife was once a core member. We are the only LGBTQ ones, we are the only ones not born and raised in the area, and we are the only ones who do not live nearby. I suspect that if the person we unfriended becomes confrontational, and we stood up for ourselves, no one would have our back. I imagine that we would be told to lighten up. I imagine that people would say (or at least think) that my wife has changed, and that this change is probably my fault.
So, all of this has me full of dread and worrying more about awkward social interactions rather than which potato salad recipe to make for the event or what to wear when you don't fit into last year's summer clothes. The irony is that I study language and social interaction, including apologies, politeness and impoliteness, yet I have no idea how to approach the situation. I suppose that my approach will be to buy a cute new outfit, make a fabulous potato salad, smile, act as if nothing happened and try to fade into the background of the get-together. Secretly, however, I'll fantasize about wearing my new equality t-shirt from the Dolores Huerta Foundation, bringing up something from the world of LGBTQ politics and culture every time a conversation lags (did anybody rush out to get the new Harvey Milk stamps? How about marriage equality in Oregon and Pennsylvania? Is anyone else hoping to catch Casa Valentina on Broadway? Did you see Conchita Wurst win Eurovision?), and saying "and that is why we unfriended you" should the word "queer" come out of her mouth at the cookout.