Dear Friend or Foe,
By the end of our junior year of college, my roommate and best friend, "Tracy," had surrounded herself with new friends. In front of them, she became impatient with me and sometimes mean. By the time our lease was up, I'd tired of the situation. With no fanfare or drama, I moved out. We rarely saw each other senior year and lost touch completely after graduation.
Four years ago, I moved back to my home state and city. At some point, I heard that Tracy and her now-husband, "Alex" (also a good friend of mine in college), were living here, too. I had no interest in re-establishing actual contact. But one night I was looking up people on Facebook, came across Alex's name, and sent him a friend request. Fifteen years later, it seemed like a safe and neutral way to satisfy my curiosity.
Both he and Tracy acted overjoyed to hear from their "long lost college pal" and insisted we have dinner with them that night. Not only do they live near us, but they have kids the same age. Alex has raced mountain bikes against my husband. And Tracy works at my old company. Our kids played well together, and we had a lovely time. We don't get together as often as they'd initially promised, but when we do, they act as if we've always been the closest of friends. My dilemma is that I can't stop feeling suspicious of Tracy for fawning over me. I also find it hard to reciprocate her and Alex's warmth. A part of me wants to ask her what changed her mind about me. Another part says, "Hey, let the past be the past, and they seem like nice people now." What should I do?
Can't Leave Well Enough Alone
I'm not surprised that your heart is still cold to Tracy: She rejected you in a humiliating fashion at a formative age. What concerns me is that, in thinking about your renewed friendship, you keep deferring to what Tracy seems to want. Instead of wondering what changed Tracy's mind, why don't you consider what changed your mind? Just because she and Alex have decided to be nice (again) doesn't mean you're under any obligation to reciprocate. "We don't get together as often as they'd initially promised," you write. Again, you're setting yourself up as the passive victim of Tracy's dictates. Maybe it's time you start making or withholding the promises.
It's nice that your kids have a good time playing hide and seek (or whatnot) and that your husbands share a love of mountain biking. But I think it's a major strike against the woman that she dropped you like a hot potato in college and has never acknowledged this fact. If you really want to keep the friendship going, I'd pour the two of you some stiff drinks one night while the kids are watching a video and, in an offhanded way, tell her she was a bitch back then. See what she says. If she's willing to admit as much (and even apologize), sure, let bygones be bygones. Short of that, I'd let her and Alex fade back into the News Feed.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I graduated this past May without a job that would support my living on my own. For five weeks, I stayed at the apartment of a college friend, "Nadia." She had basically moved into her girlfriend's place, an hour away. Since Nadia's apartment was essentially empty and she was never there, I assumed there would be no strain on our relationship or anyone's finances. Boy, was I wrong!
About three weeks ago, Nadia started making comments such as, "I can't afford to pay for an apartment I'm not staying in" and asking me if I wanted to take over her lease. I repeatedly told her that I couldn't afford to do so. She put in notice, paid the fees for breaking the lease, and told me I had to find another place to stay. Then a week ago, she left me a message saying she'd come up with a dollar amount she thought was fair to cover the cost of my having lived there—and that I could pay her later. She also said she'd been keeping the apartment partly because I needed a place to stay.
When I was still in college, I spent $250 of my meal plan so that Nadia, who had graduated already, could eat for free a few times a week. Plus, every time she's gone out of town, I've watched her pets. Finally, when I first moved into her place, I offered to pay for utilities, and she told me not to worry about it since they only came to $100 a month. Is she wrong to have asked for rent money after she'd already let me stay there, or am I wrong to be upset and shocked that she asked?
Am I Asking for Too Much?
Hm. That's a tricky one. It really depends on what kind of conversation you had before you moved in. Did Nadia say, "Hey, feel free to stay at my place. I'm never there!"? Or did she stay, "You can sublet my place if you want. We'll work out the terms later"? No doubt Nadia's fee for breaking the lease was steep. But since she was already living with her girlfriend, it sounds as if she was headed in that direction, anyway. On the other hand, if it wasn't for your staying there, she might have severed a month earlier and saved on rent. To that effect, I think you do owe her something, if not the full cost of rent and utilities for the five weeks. Sure, Nadia sounds as if she's being a little parsimonious, especially given your previous largesse. Unfortunately, money is tight for most everyone these days—and she was being generous in letting you stay there.