My Sad Sack Friend Won't Leave Me Alone
I've already told her to stop contacting me. What else can I do?
Dear Friend or Foe,
In college, my friend "Bev" rebelled against her deeply right-wing Christian background, and she started hanging out with my liberal crew. But after graduation, she moved back to the same small town and began attending the same "Everyone but us is going to hell" church. While our peers began dating, moving in, and getting married, Bev was left on the sidelines. Typically, she got crushes on guys with whom she didn't have the slightest chance—especially since she didn't believe in sex before marriage. She's not attractive, but if she really takes time with her hair, makeup, and clothes, the result isn't bad. However, she gets her hair butchered at cheap shops, wears sloppy clothes and no makeup, and then goes after the best-looking, brightest, most successful guy around.
When I was in grad school, I thought about ending the friendship, as Bev was becoming more bitter and judgmental. She was also bigoted against gays, and many of my good friends are gay or bi. Things came to a head when Bev told me that she was going to Vegas with some friends—a married couple and a male friend of theirs. After the trip, Bev wrote that she was disappointed because she'd hoped the guy would propose and they'd get a quickie wedding. I wrote back saying I was sorry it hadn't worked out but glad she was dating someone seriously. Bev wrote back to say that, not only was she not engaged to this guy; they'd never been on a date or even kissed! In my response, I tried to gently point out that her expectations were unrealistic—and was she sure he was even straight? (She has absolutely NO gaydar.)
The reply I got back was dripping with venom and filled with crazy accusations. I wrote back saying I had no evil thoughts about her but I hoped she'd get professional help—and that it was best if we had no future contact. … In the past year, I've received endless letters (my husband throws them straight in the trash), phone messages (until we moved to a new town), and emails (until I blocked her address). Bev is also the reason I can't join any social media sites. The last straw came when she found my current company on the Internet and sent a sob story email to the general delivery mailbox! The CFO forwarded it to me without comment, and I had to write him an apology and explain that this was from a mentally deranged ex-friend. At that point, I did email Bev and told her in no uncertain terms to LMTFA. Anything else I should do?
Victim of a Stalker Friend
Ah, the stalker friend. We've all had one. Though typically their actions are a little less extreme. That said, what do you say we separate Bev's crimes against humanity (and personal space) from her victimless displays of patheticness? (And you say Bev is judgmental?!) It's not the woman's fault that God did not bestow on her the physical prowess of Gisele Bunchen. Nor should Bev be blamed for getting her hair chopped at Supercuts. As we all know, salon visits can cost a small fortune. I'm also of the opinion that, short of blemishes that need cover-up, makeup does not always enhance the beauty of nonbeautiful people. As for the sloppy clothes, well, as someone who was in her early 20s during the grunge era, I could also make an argument that wearing holey jeans and plaid shirts is the very definition of sex appeal (thought I won't). Moreover, if you were hurling yourself at men who treated you like a cancer while your friends were all busy getting married, you too might get, well, bitter. Finally, I feel compelled to point out that some of my best friends lack basic gaydar skills.
The homophobia is hard to excuse, however—along with the barrage of unwanted communications culminating in the mortifying letter to your boss. On that note, if you hadn't already told poor Bev to LYTFA, I'd probably have advocated just hitting delete. Why? It's possible that even a furious email will inspire her to keep reaching out. But let's hope this is the last you hear from Bad Hair Bev—and that you don't have to file for a restraining order. In your fear and loathing though, can you please retain a shard of sympathy for the woman, who is clearly delusional (See: the Vegas story)?
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe:
This past semester, I invited my good friend "Una" to join in on plans I'd made with one of my best friends, "Sean." To my dismay, Una immediately began hitting on Sean. Later, she and I discussed that this upset me, as I felt as though she was hitting on my brother (i.e., it was gross and weird). Then, on a beach trip, I found out by snooping on her phone that she'd been texting with Sean behind my back—trying to hook up with him, but also acknowledging in her texts to him that what she was doing was hurtful, deceitful, and wrong.
I know my snooping was invasive and obsessive, but intuition told me that something was afoot. Now I feel that Una not only violated my trust but made my friendship with Sean into a lie. What compounds the hurt is that we've all just graduated and the two of them will be in the same city next year with me 100 miles away. Part of this could be my fear of the real world and the sense of being adrift, but I've got this lingering uneasy feeling that I can't shake. Right before graduation, Una and I talked about the situation. And the first thing she blurted out was that Sean was trying to hook up with her. I know that it takes two to tango, but I place the blame squarely on her shoulders, as I assume it was her guilt that motivated her to tell me. (Never mind that I already knew.) Una still considers us to be good friends. But at this point I'm only keeping her close to keep tabs on her. What should I do? What started out as the feeling of being a third wheel now bothers me deeply.
Feel Betrayed by Flirting Friends
Third wheelism is a singularly unfun experience. But sorry, darling, Una hasn't done anything wrong. And the fact that Sean is your best friend doesn't make it even remotely "weird" or "gross" that she's attracted to him. They're not related! (Nor, btw, are you.) You don't own the guy, and Una doesn't owe you a vow of celibacy. That doesn't mean you have to like the fact that your two friends will probably wind up in bed together, if they haven't already. But I'm afraid you're going to have to live with it. When you put people of the same sexual orientation in the same room (or vacation, or Oval Office), history suggests that stuff happens. As for the question of being deceived, there's dissembling (failing to tell the whole truth) and there's outright lying. If your friends are guilty of anything, it's the former. Before you make a case for the two being equivalent, please stop to consider why both felt they had to hide their flirtation.
I agree that your anxiety might have something to do with having just graduated from college. It's a scary if exhilarating time for all. But are you sure you're not also secretly in love or lust with the guy (or girl) yourself? Whatever the case, please rest assured that, in a year's time, you're unlikely to care even a quarter as much as you do now about what's going on between Sean and Una. You're about to start the rest of your life, which means new people and new experiences. My advice: Forget about college and start planning your future.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
My best friend "Cindy" lives a block from my apartment with her boyfriend. I need to move soon, and my boyfriend suggested we get a third person to help with one particularly heavy piece of furniture (we can manage the rest by ourselves). Since Cindy's boyfriend is strong and lives so close by, I suggested that I call Cindy to ask. But my boyfriend thinks Cindy's boyfriend won't want to do it—and that we should get my building's handymen to help instead. He also thinks that if we do ask Cindy's boyfriend, I should let Cindy know beforehand but ask her boyfriend directly because he thinks that, otherwise, Cindy might force the guy to help against his will.
I guess I don't find my request quite as big of a deal because I would gladly help out Cindy and/or her boyfriend with similar requests. (I don't know whether my boyfriend would be as willing, but in either case I wouldn't force him.) The four of us have hung out numerous times, and we're all nice and get along well. However, I think it's a bit weird to ask Cindy's boyfriend directly because it puts him on the spot. I'm closer to Cindy so I'm inclined to ask her instead. What are your thoughts?
To Ask or Not To Ask
Dear Friend or Foe,
In coming centuries it's quite possible that, when it comes time to reproduce, women will press some button on their inner thigh. In the meantime, able-bodied young men are good for the following gender-specific things: sex (procreative and nonprocreative); installing air conditioners; and, yes, moving heavy furniture up narrow flights of stairs. In short, I think you and your boyfriend are overthinking this by half. Call either Cindy or her boyfriend (whoever you're more comfortable calling) and say you want to ask a huge favor for which you'll be eternally grateful and which will be rewarded with a six-pack of cold beer. If the guy is even remotely a mensch, he'll say yes—and find time. If he feels "put on the spot" or inconvenienced, too bad. Moving day is what friends are for.
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.