Questionnaire for everyone who stopped talking to me

I’ve developed a survey to give to people who slipped me into their not-friend category. Since I’m a person with no ability to cope with nuance, answers to all questions are yes/no.

1. Were you ever my real friend?  I want to know if you needed me like I needed you, but I don’t want to ask in person because it’s pathetic to have an uneven relationship. So please write yes or no so I can tell if the whole thing was doomed from the start.

2. Are you the one who disappeared? Just checking because maybe you think I’m the one who disappeared. I do really dislike having to talk to people regularly in order to maintain a friendship, so maybe I missed a few too many volleys.

3. Am I overreacting? Perhaps you moved me from your invite-once-a-year list to your Christmas-card-only list which is not really a huge demotion. But maybe I didn’t noticed that I had already been demoted once before.

4. Have you move from a paying to non-paying friend? I ask because it’s so much easier for me to be friends if you are paying me; I try harder to be reasonable.

5. Does it bother you that I play one song 200 times? Please be specific about this problem: is it the song or the number of times? Just FYI, I know I have said that I won’t budge on eating the same food every day. But I’m flexible on which song I play on repeat.

6. Did I embarrass you with my clothing? Not guaranteeing I would have changed if you asked me, but I did stop wearing the bunny ears outside my apartment. I guess what I meant to say is that changing clothes every day feels like overkill.

7. Have I exceeded the socially acceptable number of times to cancel plans? I’m thinking I’m okay on this one. In my mind I only change plans in an emergency, like moving your birthday lunch to a day when I can stay in bed and stress about it all morning.

8. Are you sick of hearing about my to do list? Believe me, I’m sick of it, too. I had an idea to put really easy things on it to see if that would motivate me. But I could barely motivate myself to rewrite the list.

9. Did my instability get to you? So many people think I’m similar to them, and then they get to know me and they realize that actually, reading my sporadic blog posts is the exact right amount of time to be interacting with me.

10. Do you think I’m an incompetent dog owner? People have told me they can’t walk my dog with me because I’m oblivious to dog decorum. The truth is I am probably not the best dog owner. But everyone who has ever said I’m terrible with my dog has, in my eyes, been terrible with their kids. So be careful when you answer this question.

11. I’m sorry I can’t stop telling you everything I notice about your life choices. It’s my Tourette’s. Or something. Were you unable to appreciate my gift for seeing the worst in everyone?

12. Did I interrupt your stories to tell you that I relate to you by telling a story about me? Don’t say yes or no to interrupting. I already know. Can you just tell me if you like my stories?


31 replies
  1. F.
    F. says:

    You are so smart it is scary. Now I definitely want to pay you to be a friend and to tell me the worst about myself

    I’ll think about it plus do some math

  2. Anna
    Anna says:

    This is great. I stopped talking because I’m overwhelmed with my own life and because my needs have changed with following your content. Thank you for sharing this example of how to get to the bottom of things with friends. I too miss nuance and need things spelled out clearly like this. Will keep this in my back pocket. Hope you are well. Wishing you all the best!

  3. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    We aren’t friends. I only read your writing. But I think I would be your friend if you lived down the street or something. Youre pretty funny.

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      Your comment makes me happy. Though I confess that sometimes I wonder if it feels more peaceful to me to imagine that people would be my friend than to actually have people as friends.

      • Trish
        Trish says:

        Oh it’s way more peaceful. Just like we want confirmation that people want to have sex with us, but we’re simultaneously planning to never have sex with anyone ever again.

  4. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    Yes we are (were?) real friends. I’m the one who disappeared, pretty sure you know why but feel free to ask. I still love your stories, they transformed my life and thus the lives around me.

  5. Ellie
    Ellie says:

    Can I just say how much I relate to this? Something is happening in the world right now that’s making people lose friends at an accelerated rate.

  6. A
    A says:

    I think this is meant to be satire but it hit a nerve. I missed the volleys and that’s why I everyone I know is now an aqaintence .
    I’m trying more with the paying friends.
    As in me paying people I like with skills I don’t have to help me

  7. Tina
    Tina says:

    People who pay you are not real friends. You can have interesting interactions and a friendly relationship, but you are not friends. If you develop a truly close friendship with someone who pays you, that person will expect that relationship to continue once they stop paying you. If you stop putting effort into the relationship because the person no longer pays you, the person will demote you as a “friend,” which then leads to a decline in the relationship until it’s nonexistent.

  8. Julie
    Julie says:

    Excellent analysis of both the culture and the feelings of “crap, maybe it was me.” I think it’s ok to see/talk to/text/email your friends only periodically. And I try to look at demotion as inadvertent. Then again I’m a half full kind of gal when it comes to hearing about other people’s pain. If someone is excluding me, however, they are definitely acting out of malice (smile emoji) I often am the one to reach out which means by definition many of my friends are delighted to hear from me and apologize for not reaching out. I don’t mind. I’m more needy that way.
    Some relationships only get work if you need to resuscitate them. It’s hard to keep friends and a job and be even remotely in touch with world events and have any responsibilities at home. Only so much emotional energy to go around.

  9. Janelle
    Janelle says:

    I’ve been following your blog loosely for a very long time, I was an unschooler too. And then I found out you were on the spectrum just like me! I get all the struggles. At the same time I’ve moved past my self diagnoses. We have to learn how to operate in the world, yes we may have to put on a mask and watch our mouth but it is worth it because we have to see things from other people’s perspective too. I was bad at perspective taking. I wanted to tell people all about their faults and how to fix them. You can’t have relationships like that. You can still be ‘yourself’ but with compassion and learning to love others. Being caught up in my own little world was hell.

  10. Gayle S
    Gayle S says:

    I’ve been a long-time reader/follower of your blogs {#1, probably not] who used to pay you until I didn’t lol [#4]. Part of the reason for the latter is I did get peeved with some of your ideas/beliefs on top of feeling that I had “paid back” what I felt that I owed you (yeah, I am very often transactional in my dealings with people). I tried reaching out to you once via email, but your server kept rejecting me (#2, which I interpreted as you disappearing). It’s okay (#4), I get that. I missed you. Then I started getting emails about your posts again. Which made me realize how much I missed you. You’re funny, direct, honest, and prescient.

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      This reply shocked me — about you reaching out and me rejecting you. Because I have always answered every single email. So I did some investigating and I see that my email address at quistic stopped working. I’m sure I broke it and didn’t realize it. But anyway, I wouldn’t have known if you didn’t post this comment. So thank you. And also I’m sorry to who-knows-how-many people didn’t get a reply from me when they used that email address.

      Going to fix it ASAP.

  11. Stephenie
    Stephenie says:

    1. No. (I don’t know you so I couldn’t actually claim to be but I’m going to pretend we were friends to answer the rest.)
    2. Yes. (I’m sorry I do this all the time. I find maintaining friendships draining. The friends I cherish have little more notion that I cherish them than the friends I give up on. If you disappeared, I might not even suspect it was you.)
    3. I don’t know. (see the last answer)
    4. No. I can’t afford you. I will forever be a non-paying friend.
    5. No. I find this quite charming. I think of you whenever I hear the song.
    6. No. The only way you could embarrass me with your clothing is to wear something with grotesque odors or in exceptionally poor repair. Everything you wear ranges from acceptable to very nice. I’m not a fashion critic & quite frankly as long as your clothing doesn’t offend my senses, I’m not overly concerned with what you wear.
    7. Yes. I’m very sensitive about my schedule. I make time for you because I value your company. I don’t like feeling so unimportant that you constantly reschedule on me.
    8. No. I thoroughly enjoy hearing about your to do list. It gives me ideas.
    9. Yes, but it’s who you are and I accept you.
    10. No idea. I love dogs. But I will never have another one again. They are as big of a responsibility as a child and I’m done raising children. You’re not abusing your dog so the rest is none of my concern.
    11. No. It’s why I like you. If I don’t like something you say, I chalk it up to our cultural differences or something I need to work on.
    12. Yes.

  12. Jessica of Springfield IL
    Jessica of Springfield IL says:

    Always a fan since your first blog. Please don’t change. The world needs you because you often say (write) things we might think but cannot conceptualize into words. Thanks for ALL that you do. Truly.

  13. Katie
    Katie says:

    This was a bit wild, because I’ve written the same email. Unsent. Mine was shorter, same gist.
    So now I have to reply.
    You and I had a call lined up. At great cost to me (financially & logistically).
    You didn’t bother answering on the first 2 dates we planned. Those dates involved commuting to my office in the city on a Sunday to make the international call.
    The third attempt you responded. 1 hr after the call time.
    In hindsight I’m mind blown that I persisted. But I’m like that I guess. You made the call from a car, while travelling with others, semi-distracted for the entirety and told me that my job was a sham, it was an autistic excuse to hide from school mums, before even asking me what I did. I tuned out assuming you were a lunatic and made polite noises for the 20 mins thereafter.
    I went home and said you wouldn’t believe the nut job I just paid.
    Fast forward 6 months I realised I indeed am autistic, my job was a ruse to escape socialising and so many life facts made sense.
    Had you been even slightly pleasant or shouted less I could have absorbed your words of wisdom and grasped so much more from the call. It doesn’t matter. I accept your nightmare personality, and I’d happily talk again, this time I’d shout back. I absolutely appreciate your words. Thankyou.

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      I love this comment. I have found that most people do not believe me when they’re on the phone with me. I try to remember that when people have told me very true things that I don’t want to be true, my first reaction was thinking the person is wrong as well.

  14. Eric
    Eric says:

    This post inspired me to write a survey…

    Dear Friend: Please complete our Communication Preference Survey

    I’m so happy you’ve agreed to be my friend. Thank you! I couldn’t do it without you.

    To make sure we’re on the same page and to avoid miscommunication in the future, please confirm your preferences per the ground rules below:

    1. Should I wait until you send me the first email? Or should I demonstrate my ‘off the charts’ executive functioning skills and text that info now – done! Also, how many emails am I allowed to send before getting a response? 3? 3.5?

    2. Do you want me to ping ping ping you anytime something random and bizarre pops into my head? Or would you prefer I bundle into one summary email? Sent every-so-often or daily?

    3. How late are you up, typically? And is your phone muted?

    4. Do you want to hear about my day? Yes/No. If not daily, please note frequency.

    5. Do you want me to wish you a happy birthday? Gmail has this really cool new feature where I can set it up once and it sends you a happy bday message every year!

    6. A lot of bad shit happens to me – and often. Can I depend on you to be there for me? I’d just like to confirm up-front so as to avoid getting hurt later.

    7. To be fair, a lot of great things happen to me too! I can’t wait to share them with you! Would you like to hear them?

    8. I apologize in advance if I miss an email – please resend. If you don’t receive a Xmas card from me – well – you can stop resending. I’m sorry it didn’t work out between us. But hey, you’ll always have my birthday well-wishes.

    9. Speaking of Xmas cards, while I can’t put a personal note on every correspondence, please know in advance that I pray for a blessed holiday season for each and every one of you.

  15. Dana C
    Dana C says:

    1. No – just a reader/commenter or over a decade
    2. No
    3. Yes
    4. No – in fact I have been reading/interacting LESS because it seems like you were requiring “friends” to give you money
    5. No
    6. No
    7. No
    8. Yes – and your failed relationships, and how difficult your life is. We all have shit
    9. No – but yes to the secondary statement
    10. No
    11. No
    12. Sometimes

  16. Kelly Kotanidis
    Kelly Kotanidis says:

    I don’t personally know you, but…
    7. The socially acceptable amount is 100% – we can both feel good for making plans, and then relieved that we don’t actually have to carry them out.
    12. Isn’t this what conversations are? #alsoautistic


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *