Infertility Is Wrecking Our Friendship
I can't even mention my kids to my friend who is having trouble conceiving without her crying. What should I do?
Tired of Being Used
I'm surprised that, given the chance, you didn't make a forceful argument in favor of Michelle taking the highly prestigious singing gig in Europe. Would your problems not be solved if she took the next plane to Paris—and stayed there? You could still hang on to the fantasy of her being your "oldest friend in the world" without having to endure either her mooching or her perorating. There's Skype, of course. But you can always click "hang up" and claim a faulty configuration that you really need to get fixed—every time she calls.
Alternately, if you can't convince Michelle to leave for Europe, I suggest you simply stop being such a great friend. Every time she starts a new monologue, tell her you'd love to listen but you have to go pick up your dry cleaning. Every time she invites herself over to make use of your rice pot, tell her that, unfortunately, you're cooking a 10-course meal. And every time she asks to use your computer, tell her your network is down. Eventually, she'll get the message. If and when you see her thumbs making discrete semi-circles in her lap as you try to tell her what's new in your life, fall silent until she stops. Yes, multi-tasking has become commonplace in our culture. That doesn't make it any less rude.
All this said, if Michelle finds a measure of stability in her life, it's possible that she'll resume being an actual friend as opposed to a World Class User. With that hope in mind, I wouldn't end the friendship—just put it on the back burner until further notice.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I'm concerned that my roommate/best friend, "Gary," is a psychopath. This isn't a conclusion I've arrived at casually. Rather, I've been doing some extensive reading on the subject, and his symptoms match the classic case. I've always known he's a bit narcissistic, but lately he's been referring to himself in a divine way and announcing that he manipulates everyone around him—it's for their own good, he says. Even more concerning, he's been having "visions" during the day that are more vivid than dreams. He also has trouble separating his dreams from reality. Beyond that, he has a history of jobs and relationships ending suddenly and badly, and now he's told me about his personal vendetta against them all.
Most recently, he's claimed that everyone around him has started to turn on him (which I don't see at all). It was this declaration that prompted my research. I've been seeking advice online for the last few days but everything just says to get away. I can't just leave Gary, though—he's like family to me. How can I help my friend without him thinking I'm turning on him? He occasionally has bouts of rage, which I'd like to avoid. Any advice besides "run" would be appreciated. I'm a male reader, by the way.
I'm a writer by trade—not a doctor. So my advice to you centers on the urgent need to get this guy into professional medical hands. Being a Fake Psychologist Par Excellence, however, I'm happy to share my fear that your buddy may be suffering the first stages of schizophrenia with its accompanying delusions of grandeur and paranoia. If you know anyone in Gary's family—or can even come up with a family member's phone number—this is the place to start. Call and say you consider Gary one of your best friends in the world and that you're worried about him. He's been acting erratically lately and saying worrying things, and you feel strongly that he needs medical attention.
If his family refuses to believe you and/or blows you off, you'll have to try and convince Gary yourself. Tell him that you're worried he's not distinguishing between reality and dreams—and that you want to take him to see someone who will help him do so. (For a referral, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness's toll-free help line, 1-800-950-NAMI.) Unfortunately, just as you perceive—and since Gary's paranoia already apparently runs deep—he'll likely interpret your attempts to help him as invasive. Hopefully, he'll be able to thank you later. But even if he doesn't, it's a testament to your worth as a person that, when Gary started acting strangely, you didn't think only of yourself and simply get the hell out of Dodge City. (Keep up the "nice guy" work.)
Friend or Foe
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.