My Divorced Friend Is Moving In
I said she could stay with my husband and me, but now I’m regretting it.
You’re likely too young to remember Jon Lovitz’s brilliant “Pathological Liar” sketch from Saturday Night Live. But your letter brings it to mind … . So Allie would do anything for you? It sounds as if she’d also do anything to you, including steal your credit card numbers, keys, jewelry, and boyfriend. OK, I’m exaggerating. But honestly, the woman appears to be well on her way to Stalker Central. You could take the high road and be flattered (and feel sorry for her that she can’t generate any stories out of her own dismal life). Or you could sit her down and tell her in the nicest possible way that you feel like she’s piggybacking on your big city tales—and that, if she’s so keen to be living the New York life, maybe she should move there herself. But my advice would be to forgo the group pancake parties if necessary and to stay far and away from this wackiest of all whack jobs.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
My close friend “Heather” and I met waiting tables more than 15 years ago. While we’re opposite personalities and she’s a decade older, we bonded through girls’ weekends, travel, and mutual respect. Several years ago, I suffered a series of devastating losses. Although Heather showed up for the funerals, our relationship turned into me driving up to her place and drinking my way through the grief. Fast forward to a year ago when I came out of my fog and realized that "Heather" and I have nothing in common but a shared past. She has few if any close friends, doesn’t seem interested in exploring new activities or places, and she isn’t even open to the idea of a romantic relationship. We’re both single and have successful careers, and I'm no social butterfly. But I’m constantly pushing myself to keep the channels open. I enjoy evenings out and work hard at keeping my relationships with friends and family. I’m also trying to "date," online and the old-fashioned way. What’s more, to keep our friendship going, I always had to come visit her. And she basically pooh-poohed who I was and what I did (i.e., criticizing the times I like to listen to music), etc.
A few months ago, I e-mailed "Heather" some of my concerns in what I thought was a direct and friendly way, basically telling her that she hadn’t been a good friend and that I worried about her tendency to self-isolate. Although her reply sounded hurt and defensive, she admitted that she needs to make herself more available and that her tendencies were self-destructive. That was several months ago. Now I feel sad about our parting and bad about criticizing her so directly and hurting her feelings. Most of all, I worry about her. She just turned 50, smokes, and never exercises. Plus, she doesn't have any children or family in town or close ties to anyone. An email and a “funny” text that I sent went unanswered. I'm not sure if Heather and I can be friends anymore, but I do believe in the Girl Scout mantra "Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver, and the other is gold.” On the other hand, lives diverge. Should I try and repair the rift?
Walk or Sail?
First, I’m sorry for the unnamed losses you suffered. Death has a way of clarifying what (and who) is important in one’s life. It makes sense that you would worry about Heather, who, from your description, has put everything into her career and very little into the rest of her life. But worrying about someone getting lung cancer is different than wanting to go on vacation together. Pity and guilt do not make for a good friendship; companionship and shared interests and outlooks do. Then again, you say you feel sad about your parting from Heather. I think you need to figure out if you’re melancholy because you miss her or because the two of you grew apart.
I will say this: If you do want to revisit the friendship, the onus will be on you and then some. I don’t know how you convinced yourself that your breakup email was delivered in a “friendly” way. You basically told the woman she was an ungenerous loser. That’s not a very friendly thing to do. So, don’t be surprised if she rebuffs your attempts to repair relations, just as she failed to reply with a “ha ha” to your “funny text.” Moreover, from your description, it sounds as if Heather learned to do without intimates long ago. So if guilt is the true motivating factor here, please know that she might not be missing you as much as you fear.
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.