Welcome to "Friend or Foe," the DoubleX advice column for your queries about the trickiest of all love affairs: friendships. Lucinda Rosenfeld, author of I'm So Happy For You, a novel about best friends,is now taking questions at email@example.com. (E-mail may be quoted in a future article or elsewhere unless the letter writer stipulates otherwise.)
Dear Friend or Foe,
My friend "Sara" met my now-former best friend, "Diane," through me. After the two started hanging out, I was a little annoyed and jealous, but I let it go. But when I decided that Diane (who backed out of being my maid of honor at my wedding) wasn't someone I wanted to be close to, Sara complained that I was making her feel like she had to choose between us.
Enter "Bianca," an acquaintance who approached me and said she wanted a deeper friendship. I opened my heart and told her about my break with Diane, and she assured that she "had [my] back." I also introduced Bianca to Sara, and they started to bond, which I was fine with. Although by then I'd begun to notice a pattern: Sara wanted to get close to anyone I was close to.
One Saturday a few months later, Sara told me she was crafting with her fiance. I found out later on Facebook that Bianca had been there, too. I forgot about it until I got an e-mail that Bianca, Sara, and Diane were going canoeing. I had vocalized that I was too busy to do anything that weekend. Still, I was stunned and hurt not to have been invited. I confronted Bianca, who played dumb and said she found out about the trip two hours before. She must have then e-mailed Sara about my complaint. The next thing I knew, Sara had sent me an incredibly nasty e-mail, referring to me as "Queen Bee," telling me I needed to let go of my jealousy, and saying that life wasn't a popularity contest. She even had the nerve to ask me if I was "abandoned as a child." I felt hurt and betrayed by everyone, including Bianca, who—it turned out—had set up the craft-time with Diane and Sara. When I confronted Bianca about forwarding my e-mail to Sara, she lied and said she hadn't.
Even so, both Sara and Bianca think this is all about me and Diane. But it's not. It has to do with all three of them being sneaky and withholding information. Sara is trying really hard to be buds again. She offered to watch my dog when I travel. I haven't decided how or what I'm going to do. But I have noticed that Sara is starting to get close to other good friends of mine, too. Please tell me how to defuse this situation.
Help, I've Been Poached
A victim of friend-poaching once myself, I wrote an essay a bunch of years ago on the very subject. From your description, sweet, magnanimous Sara sounds like a classic FP indeed. The generous reading is that she just loves everyone she meets and can't stop pursuing new friendships. The less generous interpretation is that, like some kind of friendship Don Juan, she enjoys drawing others in before spitting them out again. I suspect she's guilty only of the former, and here's why.
You've managed to feel hurt and excluded by THREE of your girlfriends. Could they really all be two-faced schemers? Certainly, feeling left out is awful as an adult, just as it was on the schoolyard. But it might be time to take a look at how you're contributing to your own alienation. I've never heard of anyone outside the military, gangland, or the mafia assuring her new bestie that she "has [her] back." Friendship is supposed to be about confession and companionship, not swearing your allegiance.
What's more, paranoia tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you rant and rave about having been scrapped from scrapbook night, the more your friends will begin to feel as if they have to invite you out, rather than desire to do so because your company is such a delight.
Regarding canoe weekend, you did say you were busy. And forwarding others' e-mails is something all of us do by accident all the time. Bianca shouldn't have lied about it. But nor can you assume that she purposefully exploited your privacy. You don't mention how you and Bianca are getting on now. But it sounds as if Sara is offering to make a fresh start of it. I suggest taking her up on it. Her e-mail was harsh, yes. But I'm sorry to say it sounds as if it contained some uncomfortable truths.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I don't want to be friends with "Andi" anymore. She's incredibly passive-aggressive and condescending. She'll send me an article about Michelle Obama and her big butt and then say, "See! You shouldn't feel bad! You're just like the first lady!" Or after telling me that she's moving in with her boyfriend, she asks me, "So why aren't you moving in with your boyfriend? Is he just not ready for that sort of commitment?"
In addition, she's in a terrible relationship that I don't want to be a part of in any way. Last year, she was a 27-year-old-virgin. Her boyfriend took advantage of her while her dad was dying. A year later, he's still taking advantage of her, allowing her to pay for their trip to Aruba and subsidize an apartment he can't afford on his own. He has a dead-end job and does nothing but smoke pot, but somehow she thinks it's the best relationship ever. When I try to express misgivings about it, she doesn't want to hear them.
I don't want to have a big blowout with her since unfortunately her boyfriend is friends with my boyfriend (and a lot of our other friends.) But she's noticed that I wasn't really responding to her anymore and asked me what the deal was. I don't know what to say. Telling her that she's awful and I don't want to be around her—and that I think her relationship is ridiculous—seems judgmental and mean. But just thinking about her makes me seethe! I would like to get to a point where I just don't care about her, she knows nothing about my life, and vice-versa. How can I accomplish this?
Cannot Stand the Sight of You Anymore
I guess I'm failing to see where passive comes into the aggressive. The woman basically told you were fat and that your boyfriend doesn't love you. In Andi's defense, however, 27 is kind of old to be a virgin. (In her shoes, I might be a little defensive, too.) What I don't follow is how a woman that old can be "taken advantage of." Maybe you mean that she was a 27-year-old virgin and so happy to finally have company in bed that she allowed herself to be taken advantage of financially?
In any case, since your boyfriends are friends and you have other friends in common, too, my advice would be to avoid a major rift. Tell her you've just been busy or some other innocuous lie. The only reason to really "have it out" would be if you think there's any hope of salvaging the friendship. Which you apparently don't. For the record, many people (including Barack) find Michelle Obama's backside to be a thing of beauty.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I'm in my late 20s. From elementary school until the end of college, I always had loads of guy friends and one female best friend. Lately, things have changed. I finished college, moved across the country, and got married. In our new town, my husband and I have several social circles, and he has a male best friend he spends one-on-one time with. But I don't have an equivalent buddy. It's not that I'm anti-social. I spend time with different kinds of people in various social settings. I'm close with my mother and sister, but they both live far away. Most of the time I'm happy, but sometimes I lament my lack of a confidante. Now that I'm married, I don't feel that I can go back to cultivating independent friendships with men, and none of the women I know strike me as BFF material. Should I give the girls I do know more of a chance? Should I wait and hope I'll meet someone more interesting? Or should I just accept that life has different phases and the best friend one is over?
Painting My Own Toenails Is No Fun
I'm reading between the lines that you're feeling a tad isolated in your new life. Which is completely understandable. You've moved thousands of miles away to a town where everyone has probably known one another since nursery school. My advice is to get out there and schmooze in whatever capacity you're capable of. And yes, by all means, invite the girls you do know out for a ladies' night. If you work in an office or equivalent, pursue friends there, too. You might also want to consider throwing a party at your house. Invite the gals you know to bring their friends, too. Husbands are fine, but everyone needs girl friends. Who else are you going to talk to about the Kourtney Kardashian OK! post-pregnancy retouching controversy (and other important issues of our time)?
Friend or Foe