My Husband and I Live With a Slob!
How to get rid of a messy, drunken roommate without ruining the friendship.
If Margie's daughter is an aspiring MD, chances are that she would and will be the first to notice if there's something askew with her mom, though I don't think contacting her politely would hurt (if you can find a way to do so). * What I suspect, however, is that your desire to reach out to Margie's daughter has as much to do with seeking solace for your own loss as it does with your concern over her mother's and grandmother's well-being. Which is not to minimize your concern, but 30 years is a long time. You'd be inhuman not to feel some kind of hurt over the end of the relationship.
Margie sounds prickly, to be sure. But I also observed that you began your letter complaining about her neglect of you—before moving on to discuss her neglect of her mother and, finally, herself. Is it possible that you were reliving your own history with dementia through Margie and her mother? If so, I can understand why she found you hectoring instead supportive. Bottom line: You can't live other people's lives for them.
I once met an Alzheimer's specialist/doctor at a party who told me he spent two-thirds of his time treating the families of his patients rather than the patients themselves. The disease is sometimes as rough—if not rougher—on the immediate family members than it is on those afflicted. It seems a shame that, during this difficult time in Margie's life, you and she can't find a way to patch things up. Perhaps you could begin with an apology for having intruded. (Maybe she'll return the favor with an apology for having rebuffed your offers of help so harshly.)
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
My best friend "Dave" and I met in school, where he became close with my husband and me. At the time, he was dating a woman—"Jen"—who is now his wife. She and I share no interests besides the fact that we are both pursuing the same career. We have completely different ideas about politics, movies, music: You name it and we don't agree. Yet she insists we be "best friends," too. I don't mind disagreeing with friends—my other best friend is unlike me in every way, yet we share a deep bond—but Jen takes everything personally. An argument often results in her crying. These dust-ups always end in me apologizing, while I've rarely heard her admit to being wrong. She also overwhelms me with phone calls and "follow-ups" about planned activities that she has instigated and promises I've made to pass her name along to someone in our industry. She makes mocking comments meant to be flippant but which actually hurt me. When I call her out on her behavior, she casts herself as the victim, saying she can't understand how I could ever be offended by something she did because we're "such good friends."
Recently, Jen called me to ask about something we were planning, and we had a tense but civil conversation. Twenty minutes later, Dave called me and said his wife "said you sounded really stressed out." They cast it as concern, but I feel condescended to, misunderstood, and, yes, "stressed out" by the way they behave. I see them constantly because our social circles and career paths are identical. I only get alone time with Dave when she is out of town or otherwise occupied. How do I swallow my anger and dislike for this woman in favor of keeping her as a happy colleague—and saving my friendship with her husband?
Her Husband's Best Friend
That's weird, because I never got that memo—the one that says you have to be BFF with your best friend's spouse, too. In fact, I would say it was the exception, rather than the rule, that old friends end up hitting it off with each other's significant others. With the majority of my old friends, girls' night is de rigueur—for a reason: We can't think of anything to say to one another's husbands or, in, a few cases, wives. While I'm very fond of a few of my bosom buddies' bed mates, rarely has a spouse ended up on my speed dial. Speaking of spouses, I'm also wondering where your husband is in all of this. I'm assuming that he has no problem with the woman (or you would have mentioned it).
Given the same-profession, same-social-circle factor, it sounds as if Jen is unavoidable. So you're going to have to learn to deal with her. That doesn't mean you have to be soul mates, however. If you really can't stand the woman, then start passing on the one-on-one activities when she calls. If she cries, pass her the tissue box. See Dave when she's out of town—or meet him for lunch during the work week. If all this means not seeing Dave every day, so be it. We all make sacrifices for marriage.
Friend or Foe
Corrections, May 19, 2010: The first version of this article said the new roommate has three months to find new roommates. He only has two, per the original letter. (Return to the corrected sentence.) The first version of this article also said that Margie's mother was seeking an MD. Her daughter is the one in medical school. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Like DoubleX on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.
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.
Illustration by Jason Raish.