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Advice on sticky friendship dilemmas.
April 19 2011 10:03 AM

Wedding Guest Gone Wild

My manipulative friend almost ruined two weddings. Should I forget her?


Dear Friend or Foe,
My friend "Portia" tends to manipulate situations to get what she wants. In the past, I've indulged this behavior because she has a good heart. The situation devolved last year, after the mutual friend who introduced me to Portia—"Melinda"—got engaged, and then so did I. Portia started playing mental games, sometimes acting as if she didn't even know me, other times trying to drive a wedge between Melinda and me. At Melinda's bridal shower, she only spoke to me when she could insult me. Then, at Melinda's wedding reception, she shoved the maid of honor to the floor because she was doing up the bustle "wrong," spent an hour crying to complete strangers, then had a fight with another bridesmaid on the dance floor. Then she ditched the party completely to hang out with bridesmaids (also strangers) from a different wedding in the same hotel.

Portia's behavior at my own bridal events was no less egregious. She didn't come to my shower and dropped out as an attendant at my wedding. But she came to my bachelorette party, where she decided people were being mean to her, snuck out at four in the morning, and drove the two and a half hours to her home while totally and completely drunk. After that, I was angry, but mostly afraid for her. She came to my wedding in the fall, but since then wants to socialize only on her terms. Recently, she got married in an intimate ceremony to which I wasn't invited (though Melinda was). The wedding was supposed to be a secret, so she could have a "big" one next year. Not only did Portia lie to me, but she asked our shared personal trainer and Melinda to lie for her, too. After I found out, I refused several of Portia's calls. But a few days later, I extended an olive branch, and she rebuffed me. I know Portia well enough to know she now expects me to beg, and I'm not willing to do so.

And yet I miss her! I wish that she'd been willing to talk, that I could get an apology, and that we could be buddies again. Is Portia a friend in need of understanding or a foe trying to kick me off the island? My sister thinks she's an emotional vampire.

Sucked Dry


Dear SD,
Wait—I thought bustles went out of fashion in 1910! But never mind. Your friend sounds like a piece of work. And a part of me would like to make the argument that a good wedding needs at least one such type for others to gossip disapprovingly about in the ladies' room while reapplying lip gloss. Moreover, wedding guests are more likely to remember the girl who slugged the maid of honor than they are the Pablo Neruda poem reading or the bride and groom's first dance to "As Time Goes By." (After a while—sorry—they all start to blend together.)

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'd also like to confirm that your friend Portia is a total and complete nightmare. It can be fun, of course, to have friends who are complete nightmares. Which is probably why you're missing her. Life can get boring when everyone's acting properly all the time—and failing to pummel the people who are trying to fasten their skirts. (Though drunk driving is an example of improper behavior that isn't all that charming or exciting.) I'd almost be inclined to tell you to pick up the phone and eat crow. Except it sounds as if Portia doesn't actually want to be friends with you anymore (hence the noninvite to her wedding). So the question of whether to pursue her just might be out your hands. Which you should actually consider a blessing, since the main thing the woman was actually adding to your life was, well, masochism.

As for your sense of loss, maybe you can channel it into a screenplay. Wedding Bashers? Instead of Crashers? (Just an idea.)

Friend or Foe

Dear Friend or Foe,
I'm on the outs with my closest friend—"Bev"—and don't know how to proceed. We live a couple of hours apart, and a few months ago she suggested we have lunch. Finances were a little tight for me then, so I suggested we set a date for the following month. At the end of the previous month, I sent her an email asking where and when we would meet. A couple of days later, I applied for a nonpaying summer fellowship, and began to realize that if I wanted to pursue that opportunity I'd need to start saving immediately. I didn't think I could spend the money to see her (about $50, including gas, tolls, and food). So a couple of days after that and a week before our lunch date, I sent Bev a short email saying something had come up and I'd have to cancel. Later, I felt bad about my abrupt cancellation and sent an apology with a longer explanation.

Bev's reply was very angry, calling me dishonest and disrespectful. I responded with another apology, saying she wasn't the only one whom I wasn't going to be traveling to see because of the cost. I also sent her a note in the mail apologizing again and asking her to extend my regrets to her boyfriend, who was supposed to have joined us for lunch. But I haven't heard from her since. I admit I could have given her a longer initial explanation, but since we'd been friends for 14 years, I thought she'd know I wouldn't cancel without a good reason. Is what I did really so horrible? I'm at a loss on how to move forward.

Late Canceller

Dear LC,
Wow, your buddy runs a tight ship. A lunch date? Really? That's hardly a Caribbean holiday with nonrefundable airfare and hotel deposit. What I'm wondering about here is whether there has been a history of this kind of behavior on your part. Is this the first time in a long time you've pulled a late cancel on her? If so, I don't see why you deserve to be ex-communicated—especially after all those apologies. If, on the other hand, there's been a pattern, well, then, I can see where Bev is coming from.

It's also possible that Bev is just cooling down from her initial snit. Maybe you'll hear from her in a few weeks, and everything will be fine. In the meantime, what about sending her an invitation to lunch or dinner in your town—and even at your apartment? If you're feeling tight, cooking is always the cheaper option. And if you don't cook, I still presume you know how to make sandwiches!

Friend or Foe

Dear Friend or Foe,
A year ago, I moved to a small foreign country, where I landed in an awesome group of (local) girlfriends who are slightly older than me. When I arrived, most of the girls in the group were still single. All of us are now in relationships except for one girl, "Christina."  She was the person who was most welcoming to me when I arrived. She is also the one who is most "desperate" to find a man and get married—and unfortunately it shows. Men with whom she goes on dates invariably get put off. Meanwhile, the other girls and I always invite Christina to anything we're doing. But, lately, Christina has started hitting on other people's boyfriends or acting passive-aggressively. What's more, there are many nights now where we don't go out, as we're staying in with our significant others. Christina then feels left out and makes comments such as, "Well, now that you have a boyfriend, you blow me off all the time."

All of us wish we could help, but at this point we can't really see any solutions. Society here is very small, and nobody knows any more eligible bachelors; there are no singles events; and talking to Christina about it has backfired. (She stopped speaking to one friend who, when pressed, admitted that Christina gave off needy vibes.) The only two ideas we have are to a) somehow convince her to stop caring about finding a man, or b) suggest she go for a year abroad to another country where everyone's not paired off by 30.  Do you have any ideas?  All of us love Christina, who is smart, pretty, and caring, and has a great career. And it pains us to see her alone.

Wish We Could Help Desperate Friend

Ah, the plight of the desperate friend! She might as well wear a giant D on her forehead … Honestly, your letter is making me miss the Sex and the Cityera (when it was still acceptable to be solo). First, the pity needs to stop on both ends. There are actually things worse than being single at 30 (or however old she is)—much worse things. So do Christina a favor and stop talking to her in a sad voice with a gently cocked head. Meanwhile, Christina herself needs to get a grip and find some other single women with whom to hit the bars. I'm sure your gang girls are the bestest friends ever, but in truth you may not be that fun right now. I also refuse to believe that Christina is the only single woman in the entire country—even if that country is the size of Luxembourg.

That said, my guess is that Christina's "desperation" vibes have only a little to do with the fact of her being single—and everything to do with her personality and some fundamental lack of self-esteem. Until she deals with that issue, nothing is going to change on the romance front. It's not that men are afraid of women who want to get married; they're afraid of women who look at them as if they're the answer to all their problems. Nobody wants that kind of responsibility. If you want to be a good friend to Christina, tell her how fab she is and how it worries you that she doesn't seem to know this. Then urge her to seek counseling. Telling someone to move away is not a nice thing to do. (Though she'd probably dig it here in NYC, where, in some circles, getting married and pregnant before 35 is still considered gauche.)

Friend or Foe

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