Dear Friend or Foe,
By the end of our junior year of college, my roommate and best friend, “Tracy,” had surrounded herself with new friends. In front of them, she became impatient with me and sometimes mean. By the time our lease was up, I’d tired of the situation. With no fanfare or drama, I moved out. We rarely saw each other senior year and lost touch completely after graduation.
Four years ago, I moved back to my home state and city. At some point, I heard that Tracy and her now-husband, “Alex” (also a good friend of mine in college), were living here, too. I had no interest in re-establishing actual contact. But one night I was looking up people on Facebook, came across Alex’s name, and sent him a friend request. Fifteen years later, it seemed like a safe and neutral way to satisfy my curiosity.
Both he and Tracy acted overjoyed to hear from their “long lost college pal” and insisted we have dinner with them that night. Not only do they live near us, but they have kids the same age. Alex has raced mountain bikes against my husband. And Tracy works at my old company. Our kids played well together, and we had a lovely time. We don’t get together as often as they’d initially promised, but when we do, they act as if we’ve always been the closest of friends. My dilemma is that I can’t stop feeling suspicious of Tracy for fawning over me. I also find it hard to reciprocate her and Alex’s warmth. A part of me wants to ask her what changed her mind about me. Another part says, “Hey, let the past be the past, and they seem like nice people now.” What should I do?
Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone
I’m not surprised that your heart is still cold to Tracy: She rejected you in a humiliating fashion at a formative age. What concerns me is that, in thinking about your renewed friendship, you keep deferring to what Tracy seems to want. Instead of wondering what changed Tracy’s mind, why don’t you consider what changed your mind? Just because she and Alex have decided to be nice (again) doesn’t mean you’re under any obligation to reciprocate. “We don’t get together as often as they’d initially promised,” you write. Again, you’re setting yourself up as the passive victim of Tracy’s dictates. Maybe it’s time you start making or withholding the promises.
It’s nice that your kids have a good time playing hide and seek (or whatnot) and that your husbands share a love of mountain biking. But I think it’s a major strike against the woman that she dropped you like a hot potato in college and has never acknowledged this fact. If you really want to keep the friendship going, I’d pour the two of you some stiff drinks one night while the kids are watching a video and, in an offhanded way, tell her she was a bitch back then. See what she says. If she’s willing to admit as much (and even apologize), sure, let bygones be bygones. Short of that, I’d let her and Alex fade back into the News Feed.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I graduated this past May without a job that would support my living on my own. For five weeks, I stayed at the apartment of a college friend, “Nadia.” She had basically moved into her girlfriend’s place, an hour away. Since Nadia’s apartment was essentially empty and she was never there, I assumed there would be no strain on our relationship or anyone’s finances. Boy, was I wrong!
About three weeks ago, Nadia started making comments such as, “I can’t afford to pay for an apartment I’m not staying in” and asking me if I wanted to take over her lease. I repeatedly told her that I couldn’t afford to do so. She put in notice, paid the fees for breaking the lease, and told me I had to find another place to stay. Then a week ago, she left me a message saying she’d come up with a dollar amount she thought was fair to cover the cost of my having lived there—and that I could pay her later. She also said she’d been keeping the apartment partly because I needed a place to stay.
When I was still in college, I spent $250 of my meal plan so that Nadia, who had graduated already, could eat for free a few times a week. Plus, every time she’s gone out of town, I’ve watched her pets. Finally, when I first moved into her place, I offered to pay for utilities, and she told me not to worry about it since they only came to $100 a month. Is she wrong to have asked for rent money after she’d already let me stay there, or am I wrong to be upset and shocked that she asked?
Am I Asking for Too Much?
Hm. That’s a tricky one. It really depends on what kind of conversation you had before you moved in. Did Nadia say, “Hey, feel free to stay at my place. I’m never there!”? Or did she stay, “You can sublet my place if you want. We’ll work out the terms later”? No doubt Nadia’s fee for breaking the lease was steep. But since she was already living with her girlfriend, it sounds as if she was headed in that direction, anyway. On the other hand, if it wasn’t for your staying there, she might have severed a month earlier and saved on rent. To that effect, I think you do owe her something, if not the full cost of rent and utilities for the five weeks. Sure, Nadia sounds as if she’s being a little parsimonious, especially given your previous largesse. Unfortunately, money is tight for most everyone these days—and she was being generous in letting you stay there.
If there’s a moral to the story, it’s that even the most casual of real estate negotiations require contracts, if possible. Written ones are the best. Short of that, verbal ones are still better than nothing. Good luck with your job search! And remember—next time, get it in writing.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
Over the years, I’ve felt alternately protective of and frustrated by my college friend “Eva,” who has always been a little off balance. She’s had numerous friends dump her and vice-versa—something I never wanted to happen. After I got engaged last winter, I decided that my cousin and sister would be the only bridesmaids, mostly so I could avoid dealing with Eva and her endless drama. When I told her that I was having only my two family members in the wedding party, she was upset and threatened not to come, saying it would be hard to get time off of work if she couldn’t give her boss the excuse of being a bridesmaid. She also disagreed with my choice of location (on the West Coast, where I live); wanted to plan a bachelorette party in Las Vegas (I hate Las Vegas!); and declared that she would pick out and buy my wedding dress for me. (What?!)
After a lot of thought, I later decided it was dumb to sacrifice not having some of my other close friends involved in the ceremony just because of Eva. I subsequently invited three other women to take part, one of whom is also a friend from college, and they all accepted. After Eva sent me another e-mail in which she made a wedding dress suggestion, I finally wrote to tell her what I’d done. I used lots of “I think” and “I feel” statements and tried not to blame her for anything. She hasn’t written back, and it’s been a month now. I think I was right, but I feel like shit about it. I also worry that she doesn’t have many people to turn to and that I should have been the bigger person. What do you think?
Never Dumped a Friend Before
You “tried not to blame her for anything”? (Tried not to blame her for what?) Sorry, but while Eva may have been a handful and a drama queen in the past, I see scant evidence of her having acted maliciously or even tediously with regard to your nuptials. The woman offered to organize and throw a bachelorette party for you! (It’s not her fault you don’t like Vegas.) Plus, a trip to the West Coast (unless you already live there) is indeed no easy feat to pull off when you have no vacation days left at work. Finally, it’s hard for me to see how Eva’s getting (overly) involved in the selection of your wedding dress constitutes a cardinal sin. It sounds a little clueless, sure, but also kind of sweet.
As for her initial disappointment that she wasn’t being asked to play any special role in your wedding, assuming that she considers you her best friend, this isn’t all that surprising. But sending the poor woman an e-mail informing her that you’ve changed your mind and that you are going to have buddies outside your family read Pablo Neruda poems—just not her—is, sorry, downright mean. I’m not surprised she hasn’t answered. She’s probably incredibly hurt. What I’m confused about is what kind of response you were expecting. Did you want her to write back that it was no big deal—she’d be happy to come to the wedding anyway? Or was this your way of ending the friendship once and for all? If your goal was the latter, you’ve done your job.
Friend or Foe