My friend's extreme politics have come between us.

Advice on sticky friendship dilemmas.
Feb. 23 2010 10:39 AM

Tea-Party Trauma

My friend's extreme politics have come between us.

Illustration by Jason Raish. Click image to expand.

Dear Friend or Foe,

Lucinda Rosenfeld Lucinda Rosenfeld

Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of four novels, including I'm So Happy for You and The Pretty One, which will be published in early 2013.

I'm kind of a geeky person and have never had many friends. When I graduated from college, I moved in with a female roommate who monopolized my social life. Eventually we both moved on to romantic relationships without any drama. But she suddenly manufactured a huge fight, and we stopped speaking. Then I married, became involved in my husband's church, and made friends there. After I divorced, the church took the attitude that "nice women don't do that." My husband, who had never even attended regularly, was suddenly invited to eat Thanksgiving dinner with the minister, while I was informed that all my committees no longer needed so much help. My church friends were all too busy to see me, too.

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Thankfully I developed another close friendship with a geeky lady—"Meryl"—with whom I share interests. Lately, however, she has taken off into the far, far right-wing of politics. She suddenly says things like, "All environmentalists are Communists." She's joined the Tea Party, but she's right-wing even for them. Sometimes she scares me. I've tried to talk to her, but she either shouts at me or runs off and cries. Her husband doesn't help at all—he's actually pleased by her political fervor. I really don't want to socialize with her anymore, though I still hold out hope that she'll become sane again someday.

Is this just how friendships go? Meryl meant a lot to me. And I'm still scarred by my church's abandonment. Am I missing something about myself? Is there a pattern I don't see?

Sincerely,
Feeling Stuck and Abandoned in the Middle of the Road

Dear FSAAITMOTR,

You may have interests in common with Meryl, but it sounds as if your mental-health profiles could not be more different. You sound like an extremely level-headed woman, whereas your friend Meryl sounds, if you'll forgive me, a tad bonkers. (She yells and cries when you disagree with her politics?) I'll hold off passing judgment on her opinions about Communists and environmentalists. The point is that you two simply may simply have more crazy in your friendship than glue.

As for the other vanishing acts, let's break it down. Regarding the female roommate with whom you lived after college, it's not surprising for people to grow apart in their early 20s. (I'd say it's the rule rather than the exception.) I was far more shocked to hear that your church buddies abandoned you after your divorce. It was one moment in your life when you needed them most, and they disappeared. Not very Christian of them, and definitely not your fault. Last I checked, breaking up with one's husband did not fall in the same criminal category as selling drugs to minors.

You say you don't make friends easily, and I sympathize. Even so, the next time you're feeling pals-y wals-y, make extra sure that you and New Friend share, if not like-minded politics, then at least similar values. In my book, that means sticking by a friend both during and after a divorce and regardless of her decision to recycle milk cartons and plastic bags.

Sincerely,
Friend or Foe

Dear Friend or Foe,

Shouldn't there be a statute of limitations as to how long it takes to get over being dropped by a friend? I'm embarrassed to tell you how it still riles me—and how I'm still puzzled and hurt—by the loss of a high school friendship nearly 40 years ago! We attended a small, private high school, and the combination of sharp intellects and creative spirits in close quarters led to a lot of spectacular clashes. When I read the annual alumni magazine recently to see how my friends from that time have fared, I still feel the loss of "Trish," who simply left me behind.

An attempt to reconnect two decades back with a warm birthday message earned no response, which was a response in itself. A brief conversation at a school reunion ended with her saying, "My mother would love to see you!" I don't owe her money. Didn't steal her boyfriend. Didn't commit any faux pas other than wanting to be her friend after she had already moved on. All of which lead me to the conclusion that Trish dumped me not for a specific reason, but just for being myself. That still hurts. How do I move on?

Sincerely,
Can't Get Over the Past

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