Do I Have a Bad Friend?

Victorian, 1885

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by Madeline Laughs

Believe it or not, some people can’t tell the difference between a good friend and a bad one. I used to be one of those people. Then I had a truly BAD friend and I wised up.

There were three of us in the beginning of this friendship. We had a great time going places together and doing different things. We all had so much in common. Then one day not long after we had established our three musketeer persona, one of us decided that three was a crowd.

That day was my birthday.   The plan was to all meet at Cheryl’s house in town. From there we’d have a celebration lunch and do some shopping. It was my day and I was so excited! I arrived at Cheryl’s house first and realized that her phone was out. This was a time before cell phones lined everyone’s pockets, so we hopped back in the car to ride to the nearest pay phone to call Debbie.

Debbie didn’t answer her phone.

Cheryl and I went back to her house and we waited, and we waited, and we waited. Finally we decided to leave Debbie a note and went to the restaurant for a very late celebration lunch. Neither of us were in a birthday mood by then because we couldn’t figure out what had happened to Debbie.

This became a common occurrence over the next few months. When she’d actually take our calls, she always turned down our invitations. I wondered what I had done to make her angry. I wondered too if she really *was* angry, or just being a jerk. I couldn’t figure it out. I’m very direct, so when I would pointedly ask her what the problem was she’d respond with “No problem. Nothing’s wrong.

Oh, so she just naturally treated her friends with absolutely no regard for their feelings at all? It sure seemed that way. There’s unconditional love, but that’s usually reserved for family, and even then it gets used up sometimes.

Over the next year this up and down behavior became exacerbating. One day she’d be your friend and want to hang out, the next week she’d ignore you like she didn’t know your name. I, for one, had had enough. I wanted out of the Passive/aggressive fire pit.

So I took myself out of the loop. I stopped calling her. I stopped going to events when I knew she would be a part of the group. I figured if there was something about me that always pissed her off then my absence would alleviate a lot of stress. I wouldn’t constantly be apologizing for imaginary slights and she wouldn’t constantly be angry about them.

She never even noticed I was gone.

Three peaceful years passed when one day I get a call from another mutual friend. “Debbie was wondering why you and she don’t hang around together anymore.” I blew it off. Then I get another call from a different friend. “I think I need to mediate this situation between you and Debbie! She’s very concerned that the two of you never hang out together anymore and doesn’t understand why!

Are you kidding?

After three years Debbie has finally woken from her friend-coma and noticed that I have disappeared from her life? Trying to explain to my friends that Debbie and I hadn’t hung out together for three years was difficult, but what was even more difficult was dealing with their shock and dismay that this had been going on for so long right under their nose and they had no idea.

Water under the bridge can’t even begin to describe how I felt about the death of that friendship, and now I resented the fact that instead of coming to me, or saying something to our other musketeer, Cheryl, that Debbie had decided to involve all of these other people instead. What was she hoping to accomplish? Surely pissing me off wasn’t the best way to mend this rip.

I continued living my life and ignored the calls to mend the fence. I didn’t miss the drama and had no desire to rekindle a relationship that was nothing but drama.

But Debbie had other plans for me.

Over the course of two weeks I received not one, not two, but three magazine subscriptions. I thought the first one was a sample they were sending to get me to subscribe. The second one was just annoying, but the third one made me suspicious. It was a subscription to Maxim, a men’s magazine, and Maxim doesn’t have to troll to sell copies. I called their Customer Service department and here’s how the rest of my day played out…

According to Maxim, I had subscribed to the magazine and they planned to bill me for it. I asked them exactly how I had subscribed and the rep told me “Mrs. Smith, you filled out the subscription postcard and mailed it in. I have the notes right here in your file.” I had never done that! Then the rep told me something I’ll bet no one on Earth ever knew. They keep all of those mailed in subscription cards, the actual hard copies, on file. I asked her to fax me a copy, front and back, and she did.

I then called the other two magazines and found out that the same thing had happened at both places. Those magazines also faxed me a copy of the mailed in cards.

Having all three faxes in hand I pulled out evidence of my own. You see, I recognized the handwriting on those cards and was so shocked that I had to make comparisons before I completely lost my mind over this. All three of these magazine subscription cards bore the familiar handwriting that I could compare to birthday cards, Christmas cards and little notes from my *friend* Debbie.

I called Cheryl and told her what was going on. Cheryl always liked to believe the best of everyone and defended Debbie. “Maybe she’s just trying to get your attention.” WTF? Really? Well, guess what? She’s got it!

A week later I get a telephone call from a producer of a new talk show. The lady left me a message to call her back, so I did. Having worked in the industry I wasn’t too surprised. I thought they were coming to my town to do a location shoot and might need some production assistants. Boy, was I wrong!

She very cordially invited me on an all expense paid trip that would include four star accommodations, meals and transportation to appear on her new talk show about friendships gone awry. When I didn’t respond she continued on with her *vision* for the show. My friend Debbie and I would go to dinner to talk about why we weren’t friends anymore. The whole dinner would be filmed. After the dinner meeting we would go our separate ways to think about what we had talked about. The next day, on live television, the talk show host would call me in my hotel room, while Debbie sat on the sofa next to her, and they would ask me if I thought this friendship could be saved.

So, what do you think? Doesn’t that sound great?”

I was speechless.

And then I got angry.

First I asked her if this was a joke. No, she assured me that this was a serious offer. Then I asked her how she knew about my friendship with Debbie. She said Debbie had emailed the show asking to be a participant and had told her side of the story when the producers called her. “Debbie is very anxious to settle this matter with you! She has no idea why you two aren’t still friends!

Really? She wanted to fix our friendship by dragging me to another state to parade whatever four year old problems there were on a national television show that was the equivalent of Jerry Springer?

I’m not going to go into too much more detail, but suffice it to say I realized this had developed into a dire problem. This was borderline psycho.

I told the producer that Debbie’s problem wasn’t me. Debbie was her own worst enemy. I then turned over the magazine cards and all of the evidence along with the talk show producer’s telephone number to my local police department. I let them handle it from there. Filling out and mailing a bogus magazine subscription card is a felony. It becomes a federal offense once that card hits the mail room. Add to that identity theft, fraud against three magazine companies and possible stalking and harassment and you’ve opened a big ole can of worms.

No, I was never Debbie’s problem.

She admitted what she had done when the police contacted her and I declined pressing charges. I just wanted her to leave me alone. After that, she did.

When this was happening I didn’t know what I could have done differently. I thought I had done both of us a favor by quietly fading into the background. Isn’t that the really great advice you always get? Bow out gracefully and don’t make a fuss. That tactic backfired like a boss with this lady.

How would any of this been any better if I had told her in the beginning that I didn’t want to be her friend anymore?

Perhaps a heart to heart could have produced a compromise, or I would have figured out that her anxiety wasn’t that I wasn’t her friend anymore, it was because she didn’t want to share my friendship with Cheryl. Either way, her terms would not have been an acceptable compromise for me. I would have had to face the fact that she was just not a stable or healthy person to be around.

Recognize that a friendship isn’t going to work early in it’s development. Tune in to the small telltale signs that your new friend may not play with a full deck of cards and pay attention.

If a friend plays head games with you rather than being honest, then that person was never your friend to begin with. For some reason you trigger an unhealthy response from them and trying to figure it out, or fix it, will not fix the huge hole they have in their heart. It’s best to bow out and let them work on their own issues.

If you ever have to ask yourself, “Do I have a bad friend?“,chances are pretty good that you do. It’s not always the choice of running away, but putting some distance between you and enforcing your own personal boundaries can protect you from being the object of their psychosis.

About Madeline Scribes

A writer with a sense of humor. If anyone can laugh at life, it's me.
This entry was posted in All kinds of Advice, Facebook Advice, Personal Boundaries Primer and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Do I Have a Bad Friend?

  1. madelinelaughs says:

    To be absolutely clear…at no time is it *okay* to send bogus magazine subscriptions to people you’re mad at 🙂 and never, ever call talk shows on someone you’re trying to make amends with.

    Regyna is right, always make sure that you’re direct about your feelings for someone, even when they aren’t good feelings. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But it keeps you above reproach.


  2. Spread Information says:

    A friend of mine who is a counselor by trade once told me you have to listen to what people say about themselves and take it at face value. If someone tells you they are a bad friend, they probably are. We tend to make excuses for them, feel like it will be different with us, and then later remember what they said and wonder why we didn’t hear them. People will often come right out and tell you what they are like. Listen to them.

    It’s also true that if you enjoy talking about other people, and the person you are talking to does too, chances are your secrets will be the topic of the next conversation she has with the person you are talking about today. Don’t kid yourself. If they’ll do it with you about them you can bet they’ll do it with them about you. I try to stick to this rule. If I talk about someone when they aren’t around and say things I haven’t said to their face I will try to make sure I say whatever it is to the person in question within the next week. Not always possible, but definitely clears the air for me.


  3. Pingback: crossing the line of healthy boundaries | Spread Information

  4. Pingback: crossing the line of healthy boundaries | Madeline Scribes

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