Woe Is Me! “My Friend Slapped Me. How Should I React?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I was with my friends. We were cracking jokes, making fun of each other (as we normally do), but this time my roommate slapped me all of a sudden when I said something about her. The whole day after that, she was grumpy and in a very bad mood. So, I can understand that she was really annoyed. She did apologize to me later on, but this incident has left me feeling like she doesn’t respect me as a person. How do I address this?”
— Still stinging
QG: I, personally, don’t condone physical harm in any way whatsoever. Expressing your anger using force does not seem okay to me in any context — in fact, it’s a transgression of the highest order.
That being said, I don’t know the equation between you and your friends — I don’t know what constitutes “normal” for your group, and what your friend was going through that led up to her lashing out in this manner. Did you all cross some lines while joking around? Are you aware of what she was dealing with that led to this grumpy behavior you mentioned? Maybe, you’ll be better equipped to decide if this act seems okay to you with these details.
However, if you feel disrespected (as anyone would if they got slapped), I’d suggest having a serious conversation with her regarding this. I must reiterate — physical harm is never okay, which is why I would even go so far as to say that if you deem this to be grounds to break the friendship, that makes perfect sense. Not only is this an act of massive disrespect, it’s an example of the extent she can go to when she’s “angry.” People need to grow on their own and be equipped enough to deal with their negative emotions. If she cannot deal with them, maybe, she needs some space that allows her to learn how to do so.
Life is wonderful and long — you’re going to meet people who are a joy to be around and who know how to express their emotions in a positive way (or, at least, are trying to). So, you don’t necessarily need to keep those who can’t, around. Ultimately, though, she’s your friend and you know her best so trust your gut.
AS: Although I don’t know what your friend was going through that day, I don’t think a “bad mood” justifies a physical expression of anger. You should definitely talk to her about how this made you feel disrespected. A question to ask yourself (and her) is whether what you said, even in jest, might have hurt her or touched a nerve. If so, you can own up to that and apologize. But while you’re doing that, you can also let her know that her reaction was out of line. Talk it out soon so you both can grow to respect each other’s boundaries — all relationships need them, and friendships are no different.
DR: Wow, there’s a fair bit to unpack here. Slapping is a form of physical assault, and unless someone threatens one’s immediate safety, I don’t think it’s a justifiable way to retaliate. Naturally, you feel disrespected. However, I’m also inclined to assume that your friend felt disrespected, too, which led her to slap you. Again, I don’t think that’s a valid excuse; I’m simply trying to point to the fact that both of you probably felt disrespected in one form or another.
You mentioned that you “normally” make fun of each other. In my opinion, that norm right there is a recipe for disaster, but you do you, I guess. However, do you think you crossed a boundary that day? Of course, I can’t answer that for you. But, well, you know who can. I’d suggest that you sit down and have a chat with her about what drove her over the edge.
But I’d also like to add, here, that if you feel so violated that you don’t want to engage with her for a while — or at all — that’s also understandable. If that’s the case, do maintain your distance, but for the sake of your future friendships, I’d urge you to introspect about what could have triggered her to react the way she did.
RN: Here is a checklist of things to consider: was your joke casteist, sexist, transphobic, ableist, or anything else that may have insulted her based on her identity, or some other form of trauma you knew she had? If yes, this warrants a serious conversation with her, where you both address how you’ve crossed a line verbally and physically. If the answer is none of the above, you need to cut her off immediately. To me, barring the aforementioned scenario, it doesn’t matter what you may have said to offend her so much in this situation. I do believe there’s a hierarchy when it comes to abusive actions in some contexts — here, if what you joked about wasn’t fundamentally offensive to her personhood, slapping you in public is a humiliating form of assault. It definitely shows that she doesn’t respect you as a person and neither deserves your friendship, nor an explanation from you for cutting ties with her.