Dear Friend or Foe,
For the past three years, I was part of a gaming group that met every Friday night at the home of “Theresa" and her significant other, “Ken.” During a gathering two months ago, at around 11 p.m., Ken and I got into an argument over a card game. He became verbally abusive, and I walked out. He followed me out onto his quiet and dark residential street, continuing his nasty comments. When it appeared he was going to follow me to my car, I turned around and loudly told him to back the hell away from me. He grabbed my wrists, threw me to the ground, pinned me, then got on top of me. I started screaming rape. He got off. I immediately called 911 and asked for police assistance. On seeing me do this, he also dialed 911 and claimed he had caught an intruder on the property. When the cops showed up and took statements, he lied again, claiming I had “taken a swing at him” and he “had to restrain me until I calmed down.” The cops told me they couldn't take him in because it was his word against mine. Although I wasn't seriously injured, I subsequently swore out a complaint against Ken. But while the prosecutor was sympathetic, she told me that, without witnesses, she had no case. And since Ken had recently lost his job and had no assets, there was no point in pursuing a civil claim for damages. So I let the matter go.
What I can’t get over is the utter lack of concern shown for me by the other members of the group, three of whom I was friends with before Theresa and Ken ever entered our circle. No one came outside when I screamed for help, or called me later that night to see if I made it home safely. One of my old friends, “Cathy,” did call the following day. But when I asked her why no one responded to my screams, she said they didn’t want to get involved in case they made things worse. She also seemed oddly lacking in any sense of outrage toward Ken. Three days later, another member contacted me through Gchat to see how I was doing since I’d “seemed pretty upset on Friday.” At that point I was still discussing the attack with the prosecutor's office, so I told her that the bureaucratic wheels of the case were turning. There was a long pause. Then she typed, “I don't understand. What case? We thought that since no one was hurt and no one was arrested that it was no big deal.” After I explained otherwise, she started discussing how much she hated lima beans.
That was the last I heard from any of them. I assume the Friday sessions have been continuing without me. I have no desire to return to my attacker’s home. But none of the members of the group have invited me to any social outings, either. I made tentative inquiries at one point to see if Cathy and her husband would like to come to my place, but they replied that they were too busy with school and work and it was too far. Do I write off these people as bad friends? Do I assume they never really liked me and are glad to see the back of me now? Maybe it was unrealistic of me to have expected that they’d ostracize Ken, but I would have liked to hear someone say, “We think Ken's a total bastard for doing that to you,” or, “We understand why you aren't coming to Friday nights anymore, but we're sorry about what happened and we miss you.” Instead, the message I've gotten is, “Ken clearly lost his mind that night and we don't know why, but let's all just try to put this unpleasantness behind us—it just wasn't that big a deal." But it was to me! Even so, I could possibly—possibly—even accept an apology from Ken if it was offered. But nothing of that sort has happened, either.
Feeling Victimized on All Fronts
I hate lima beans too, but that’s no excuse for making light of an incident that, while it thankfully didn’t result in any hospitalizations, was surely scary and clearly traumatized you. I doubt your “gaming girls” are happy to see the back of you so much as they’re utter wimps with a capital W, scared of causing any further disturbances that might offend someone. However, in doing nothing—and demanding nothing of Ken—they’ve effectively taken his side. I don’t blame you for being hurt. Not only were you friends with them before he was. But he’s a guy and presumably bigger than you. (Yes, I know women and men can be close platonic friends, but in situations like this a little gender loyalty should be expected!) Instead, it’s as if you’re being blamed. Not cool at all.
That said, I wish you’d provided a little more detail regarding how a card game deteriorated into fisticuffs. Were you guys playing gin rummy with an accent on the gin? Was a royal flush dangled in another’s face with a na-na-na-na-na? Did one of you accuse the other of cheating or not shuffling? Did the charge invoke some earlier disagreement? (My best guess.) Which is to say, is there some kind of back story here? Short of further details, I admit I’m finding the entire incident bizarre, straight down to the failure of your mutual friends to come outside and see what the hell was going on. Moreover, where were the husbands and boyfriends in all this, and why didn’t they try to break up the fight? In my experience, grown men love nothing more than “playing cops.”
In any case, I recommend you put the incident (and the crowd) behind you. I hate to invoke James Taylor, but good friends are people who, winter spring summer or fall, all you’ve got to do is call. ... And here, your supposed gal pals could barely manage a Gchat about legumes! Sorry, not good enough. My advice: quit the cards and take up tennis.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
When I first met “Kate” and “Joplin” in college, I thought that both of them were nice, attentive, wonderful people to be around. Kate and I became such close friends that we were like sisters. The following academic year I met “Irene.” We were never friends, but I tolerated her because she was dating Joplin. During the remaining two years of college Kate began constantly to criticize me over the smallest things. (Joplin and Irene would chime like a chorus, backing her up.) I was left second-guessing myself and even believing I was a horrible person. What’s more, if Kate saw me on campus, she’d follow me with the pretext that she happened to be going whichever way I was. On one occasion, she claimed I was the reason for her low grades and that professors favored me because I don’t have hands. Kate wasn’t the only culprit. All three would separately give me the cold shoulder, pretending not to hear me and talking over me. Other friends (“Beth” and “Liz”) reported that the trio were also making wild accusations about me and telling them not to speak to me—just as they told me not to speak to Beth and Liz. Sometimes Kate would introduce us both to acquaintances by looping her arm over my shoulder and claiming we were "great friends.” (In great discomfort, I’d always reply that we weren’t.)
Kate once commented to me that if I took legal action against her bullying that Joplin's sibling would vouch for her legal defense. The abuse—never physical, but deeply humiliating—lasted all the way to graduation.
Thankfully, none of the trio has attempted to contact me since then. But despite the years separating college and the present, I still think I‘m afraid of them. My field requires networking and re-meeting old/new acquaintances, and there’s a possibility that we’ll cross paths again in a convention or expo setting. Any thoughts on how I can overcome my fear?
Scarred by Bullies
I’m so sorry for your awful experience. For grown women (and men) to get their kicks terrorizing a person living with such a challenging disability as you have—you say you have no hands, and I’m assuming that you don’t mean this metaphorically—is really inexcusable and speaks of an utter lack of humanity on the part of the perpetrators. What a waste of a life this Kate person sounds like. And her co-conspirators (Joplin and Irene) sound almost as bad. Please believe me when I say that, without knowing any more about you, I can tell that you’re worth 10 of these people. I only wish you’d realized this back in college—before they played with your head and nearly convinced you otherwise.
As for your fear of future contact, the world is a big place. I doubt you’ll see them again. But the very fact that you’re thinking (and writing to me) about it makes me think you might be suffering from some kind of post-traumatic stress condition and would benefit from talking to a professional counselor. He or she might help you realize that a) that time in your life is over and b) your fears are irrational. You might also want to do a little reading about bullies. I think you’ll find that most are self-loathing individuals who can only feel good about themselves when they’re subjugating others. Jesus said to love your enemies. I’ve never agreed with that statement, but I think there’s something to be said for pitying them. Imagine if you could only be happy when you were being cruel!
Oh, and if you ever run into any of these three, you have my permission to tell them they’re pathetic losers.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
My good girlfriend—“Lenore”—is going through a rough separation with her husband. Under normal circumstances, I’d include her on my bachelorette party list, but now I don't want to upset her or seem callous to her marital situation. However, she lives in a different city, and I don't think I'd get to see her before the wedding otherwise. This bachelorette party is more of a girls’ get together than a toilet-paper veil/penis-paraphernalia party. So maybe it won't be too hard on her. Should I invite her, and if so, should I call or email before the invitation is sent out?
Sensitive Bride To Be
If you don’t invite Lenore and she finds out, you’re only going to succeed in making her feel worse about her life. First her husband disses her—now her old friends? Besides, if she’s too down to “get up” for a girly night, she can always decline. Though I’m not sure she will. Just because her own marriage failed doesn’t mean she no longer believes in the institution. But even if she is feeling cynical about the concept of True Love Forever, that doesn’t mean she’s feeling cynical about you. As for warning her by phone or email before the invitation goes out, I don’t think either is necessary. Let her open the envelope like everyone else. And now for the important stuff: what exactly happens at a “penis-paraphernalia party”? (I need to know what I’ve been missing all these years.) Readers?
Friend or Foe