Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Breaking up

"You're going to break up with her?" my husband said in surprise.

I'm in the odd and uncomfortable position of disentangling myself from a friendship. It was probably always a friendship more enthusiastic on her side than mine, but I had a great time doing things with her. She likes museums, nice restaurants, and exploring new cities, is an energetic and resourceful traveler, and has enough money to stay at charming bed and breakfasts. Taken two or three days at a time, her tics--the little moues of displeasure if service was not sufficiently deferential, the condescending manner towards people she perceived to be of a lesser social position--were easy to overlook. She was extremely generous with gifts, but I assumed that was part of her marketing profession--the instinct to make people feel in her debt so they'd do what she wanted. It made me feel uncomfortable, but only mildly so.

So, what happened to upset this balance?

She got married to a loser. In the five years that I've known her, she'd dated a number of men, all of whom she found in some way wanting. Then, two years ago, she disappeared off the radar for a few month and reappeared, engaged to one of the biggest zeros I've ever met. Charmless, neurotic, hypochondriacal and boring (I'd once sat through at two-hour dinner with this man during which he'd never once smiled and had contributed fewer than 10 words), he nevertheless had the one characteristic missing from all her previous relationships: He worshipped her, and would do anything she wanted.

Despite her extensive efforts, their wedding was flat and charmless. Her parents and friends were clearly not impressed by him. He didn't seem to have any friends. His family seemed pleasant but oddly nervous, perhaps unable to believe that he was getting married to such an attractive woman.

I went through the wedding festivities sort of numb. Several months earlier, I'd considered telling her he didn't seem right to me, but if you tell someone that and they then go ahead and marry the person, it's rather uncomfortable.

Shortly after the wedding, she found out he'd lied to her in oh-so-many ways. Turns out he didn't have any money, any vacation property, or any retirement savings--but he did have a huge pile of debts and an abysmal credit history. He'd been employed steadily for more than a decade, so the mystery, which has never been solved, is what he spent all his earnings on.

As all this unfolded, I was the recipient of panicked phone calls, and gave her what I thought was good advice about the need to see therapists, financial planners, even private investigators. But the months have gone by, and the upshot of it is that she's decided to treat him like a helpless invalid and enlist her friends to entertain him, comfort him, help him get a new job (he hates the current one) and listen to her talk about what a sweet man he is.

Stop this train; I want to join the stampede getting off.

If this were some temporary phase--like a family illness, or a divorce--that she were going through, I like to think that I'd weather the unpleasantness and stick by her. But this is clearly a permanent way of life she has chosen. Some of her friends have already opted out, and she's becoming increasingly clingy to those of us who are left.

Of course, I've tried hinting that I'm busy with my own life, but she's not the type who takes (or even recognizes) a hint. She keeps calling on a near-daily basis and proposing get-togethers. How can I get up the courage to tell her I have no interest in helping her rehabilitate the leech she married, that he makes my skin crawl, and that she's become an incredible bore since she got into this mess? I think of all the wonderful friends I don't have time to call or get together with because I'm busy fending off her calls and worming out of her invitations, and it makes me want to scream.

No comments:

Post a Comment