Is My Friend Just Using Me for My Extra Bedroom?
She comes to stay almost every month, but then she doesn't spend any time with me. Should I dump her?
P.S. Returning a wedding gift is the height of rudeness.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I have a best friend at college, "Mason," who means the world to me. We were roommates freshman year. Three years later, we still share trips, stories, friends, and everything else. The problem is that our relationship is strained because a lot of the areas that were his strengths in our first year have since become mine. He had a way with the ladies, but I'm the one who ended up in a wonderful relationship. We both started out in the same job, but I got the promotion. The straw that seemed to have broken the camel's back was that I'm now doing better in school than he is. You have to trust me that I'm not competing with him. Rather, I'm trying to be supportive. Lately, I've been trying to convince him that he should focus his energies on what he's passionate about and that he shouldn't take grades personally. I'm also working on the girl thing for him. The problem is that, as time passes, he's becoming more bitter, pushing his friends away, and making things worse for himself. I won't give up my own aspirations or do worse in school to make him feel better, but I'll do almost anything else! Please help.
Trying To Show We Can Both Be Best
You don't say in your letter whether you're male and female (and my attempts to ascertain this information have failed), so I'm going to answer with both possibilities in mind. I admit that I've never before heard of a male-female friendship with no sexual component that had grown competitive. But that doesn't mean it isn't possible. In an increasingly a) cut-throat and b) gender-neutral world—at least where the professional classes are concerned—there's no reason that a male student wouldn't envy his more successful female friend. If this is the case, I'd simply do more of what you're doing: reminding Mason what a warm, funny, and talented person he is.
There's also a chance that Mason's bitterness stems from some secret undying love for you. If this is the case, and assuming you have no interest in reciprocating, there's nothing much you can do. I suppose the same advice would apply if you're a guy and Mason secretly harbored special feelings for you. But if you are of the male persuasion, it's more likely he's just plain old competitive. In this scenario, I'd recommend giving Mason some space to work out his own shit. Obviously, he's feeling threatened right now, and the sight of your pretty face is only making it worse.
In either case, if depression seems to be in play, you might want to point him in the direction of a counselor or therapist. It won't be an easy conversation, but you can phrase the suggestion in terms of how awesome a guy you think he is—and how he seems to be the only person who doesn't realize it! Good luck.
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.