Recognize this phrase? I have a station set up on my Pandora titled “New Edition,” and since some of the members of the singing group New Edition split off and formed Bel Biv Devoe, the song “Poison” comes up on my play list. Bel Biv Devoe sang about the dangers of getting tangled up with a woman who was bad news; however, it’s not just romantic relationships that suffer when someone is nasty or devious – friends can be poisonous too.
I am eternally grateful to the friends I have made over the years who tolerate my weirdness and bluntness. Without a doubt, I am humbled by the friends who have mopped and sanitized my house when I have returned from the hospital. I am indebted to the people who have shuttled me around to doctor appointments and grocery store runs, and who have replenished my stock of food and supplies. I have tried to be a good friend in return when I have been able to, which admittedly has been very infrequent for the past 5.5 years because I can’t seem to stay well enough to be out of bed for any length of time.
Unfortunately, because I have the reputation of being a good listener and the voice of reason, my bedridden status has trapped me into being something of a therapist for some. One friend helped me get to a doctor’s appointment about five years ago. This woman and I had become friends back in 2006 when I was working a couple of jobs to pay for my second trip to Europe. That one ride of eight miles nearly cost me my sanity.
Because she found out that I was stuck in bed when I called her to help me get to the appointment, I believe she saw it as an opportunity to unload all that was bothering her – after all, I didn’t have anything better to do, right? This friend was going through a nasty divorce. She would call me at all hours nearly every day, crying and asking me what she should do in certain situations. She would never actually take my advice.
Our interactions became more strained. I finally resorted to telling her, “I don’t know what you should do” every time she called with a new crisis. She switched to texting me instead of calling me. I’m not sure if she thought my answer would somehow be different. Just for the record, it wasn’t.
This woman had a good heart, and I did get a ride from her when I needed it most. I just did not think that I was forever obligated to take on the stress of her failing marriage. For that reason, I cut her off completely. Subtlety wasn’t working, and telling her I was exhausted and stressed from fighting to be heard in doctor visits had absolutely no effect. I feel a twinge of sadness when her birthday shows up on my calendar, but I know that if I pick up the phone and wish her a happy birthday, the cycle starts again.
Another woman I became friends with was introduced by a mutual friend. We became acquainted after we spent a holiday together; I brought a movie that she had watched many times in her native country as a young girl, and she translated the film for us as it did not have any subtitles. I’m going to christen her Ms. Lederhosen.
I met Ms. Lederhosen as she was going through a nasty divorce with her second husband. I had suggested we get together for movies or nights out because it seemed like she needed to do things that would distract her from all of the emotionally draining stuff she was going through. Unfortunately, it was all she would talk about. I’m not exaggerating when I say that. I could say something like, “This tomato soup is good.” Ms. Lederhosen would reply by saying, “Oh, R. (her ex) likes soup too. You know, when we were married, he used to make me take care of his daughters, but they were lazy and did not like me. I would tell them to do something and they would go to their dad and he would tell them they didn’t need to do it.” It’s how every conversation would go. Everything tied back to her ex, no matter what I said, no matter what I tried to talk about.
I remember one time we made plans to see a movie. When we picked our seats out and got settled with our beverages and snacks, she started talking about the ex. The lights dimmed and the movie started; Ms. Lederhosen was not letting that stop her. Other patrons in the theater started saying “Shhhh!” loudly, turning towards us. She wouldn’t shut her trap. I told her that we should wait to chat until the movie was done. She kept talking in a loud voice because she had to finish that story. Well, she finally did…and then throughout the movie, she ran a commentary on what was happening on the screen. At that point I made a mental note to never see another movie in the theater with Ms. Lederhosen.
The ex was dragging out the divorce, filing extensions and demanding spousal support. Ms. Lederhosen was constantly calling and texting to rehash what he had done. At one point she asked me to proofread letters and documents for her because they were going to be used in her case. I would always set aside what I was working on and comb through her submissions because I knew how picky judges could be.
Ms. Lederhosen finally decided to pursue her U.S. citizenship. She didn’t have many friends, so she asked me to prepare a letter of good character for her attorney. Again, I set everything aside and whipped together a professional piece to convince the Court that she was a productive member of society.
She didn’t care for her job or boss, so Ms. Lederhosen sent me her resume so I could send it out to my contacts and enter it in my employer’s database. She wanted to respond directly to her ex’s demands through family court but didn’t want to pay her attorney to do it, so I arranged for a friend who was a paralegal in family law to assist her.
Ms. Lederhosen met a man through a woman who facilitated a social group for foreign-language speakers. I had hoped that meeting someone new would calm her down regarding the ex and encourage her to discuss other items of interest, but no. She even told me that her new man was complaining that she was too focused on the ex.
I was able to meet the new boyfriend when Ms. Lederhosen brought him and her little sister over to my house to visit; it was her sister’s first time in the U.S., so I made an effort to speak slowly – her English was good, but there is always a huge adjustment period when anyone is suddenly immersed in a country where the language is not their native tongue. Often Ms. Lederhosen would interrupt to talk about her ex. At one point, her current boyfriend grabbed her face, squeezed her cheeks and said “Stop talking.” She didn’t, of course. Her sister got completely put off and eventually just fell asleep on my couch while the boor hijacked the conversation.
A few months later, I had reached the point of blinding pain with my shunt – I had developed an uncontrollable leak. Ms. Lederhosen had indicated that she was at her boyfriend’s house but that if I needed a ride to the ER, she was more than willing. I took her up on the offer. They didn’t end up keeping me to bring me into surgery as I had hoped, because at that point they wanted to figure out which parts of the shunt I was allergic to, which would take months. They sent me home with big bad painkillers instead.
Facebook can make or break friendships, and in our case, it broke ours. Actually, for me it was the last straw. I had posted a story about a product that was being given to girls in sub-Saharan Africa to allow them to continue safely attending school during the bleeding days of their menstrual cycles. This charity was distributing silicone cups that could be used to collect the fluid for up to 12 hours and then be emptied and washed in private. Well, Ms. Lederhosen did not like that at all.
She hijacked the post by first saying that she would never want to use a product like that and that she was perfectly happy with her birth control pills. I explained that birth control pills were not an option in this region, and that it was a much safer alternative for the girls instead of their normal methods, which included stuffing their bodies with dirty rags, newspapers or mud. Ms. Lederhosen said she asked her boyfriend’s mom, and she agreed that she wouldn’t use a product like that either, and they were stupid for not using birth control pills. I explained that in this region, pills were not readily available or transported easily, and not everyone could or should be on hormones, and that the girls just really wanted to attend school and the cups were a viable option. Then Ms. Lederhosen posted a huge paragraph about how American women are stupid, fat and lazy, and she was able to lose weight by eating organic foods and exercising (which had nothing to do with what was being discussed).
I blocked her on Facebook. It’s no wonder she has few friends! Unfortunately, my phone at the time was not able to block calls or texts, so for two days she sent me all kinds of nasty messages about how she was prettier, smarter, more successful and thinner than me. Ms. Lederhosen told me how I was jealous of her relationship with her boyfriend, and how my college degree was the equivalent of elementary school in her home country. I sent back one message saying I was not interested in competing with her, and her messages just got nastier. She told me how she was a much better friend than me because she drove me to the ER that one time; of course, she conveniently forgot about all of the ways that I tried to help her when she needed it. Finally she stopped and went radio silent.
Two months later I got a card without a return address. I opened it to discover it was a note from Ms. Lederhosen, telling me she missed me as a friend and that we should be friends again. I didn’t have a return address for her and so couldn’t send anything back, and her info had been deleted from my phone long before that. A week later I got a text message from her saying that she didn’t hate me anymore and that we should be friends. I again told her that I did not want to compete with her, and that she said horrible things that made it difficult for me to want to be friends with her. Well, that just set her off again – 16 messages of vile, nasty words.
Around Thanksgiving of 2015, I received another text from her. Ms. Lederhosen said that she missed me and that I probably still had some bad feelings, but she was there for me if I needed her. The response that I didn’t send but really wanted to? No fucking way.