The Vine: December 21, 2011
This is one of those "some friendships have a lifespan" problems, I suppose. Years ago, when I was at secondary school, I was friends with L. We were really close, but being teenagers we fell out badly at one point and didn't talk at all for a number of months. We made it up before school finished and went our separate ways and it was all okay. I went off to university in a different country and stayed there, and about 5 years ago L moved to my area. I was really pleased — she started dating a good friend of mine, I introduced her to all my friends, we hung out loads, and it was great. After a while my social life was based around L and three other girlfriends — C, M, and S, and everything seemed great.
Of course, I wouldn't be writing to you if everything had STAYED peachy, would I? After about a year of the five of us being best buddies, C and M started coming to me telling me that L was spreading stories about me behind my back, and trying to convince them that I was an "emotional wrecking ball" (her exact words. Nice) but that she couldn't ever confront me about it because I had ruined her life when we were at school, because that's what I do, be careful of me blah blah blah. It got so that every time I hung out with C and M they had some new story to tell me, and it became really difficult to cope with.
S confronted me about the things that L had been saying, and the upshot of it is that I don't talk to or see L anymore now (and S has moved hundreds of miles away). C and M stopped seeing L also, partly because of what she had been saying about me but partly because she had also been pretty bitchy about C's mother. It was not a pleasant situation, let's put it that way.
It's difficult to put into words how unhappy all of those shenanigans made me. It isn't all L's fault — the timing was very bad. There was a death in my family and some serious family problems, and my workplace was closing down. I became really ill and had to have a leave of absence from work. I felt like everything that was important to me was being taken away from me. To say that I was shocked by L's behaviour is a bit of an understatement because she'd always been super affectionate and loving towards me — it was really confusing. At one point she was handmaking me gifts, then the next day C was telling me about the horrible things she'd said about me. I totally broke down, and it's only really now (more than a year later) that I've started to regain my confidence.
The reason I'm writing to you is this — C has started seeing L again. L broke up with her boyfriend and I guess C was attracted to the drama, or something, because she was straight in there as the consoling friend. Initially that really bothered me — seeing L go out of her way to curdle my relationships with my friends in the past has made me resolve never to let her near me again, in any way. I thought on it for a while and decided that actually, it won't make that much difference to my life if L and C are friends again. I don't think L can hurt me any more.
What does bother me about it is C herself. At the time when it was all kicking off, it was C who came running to tell me how upset she was about the things L was saying about me. It was only through C that I found it all out and it was C who I leaned on for support when I was at my lowest. She's the only one of that group of friends who I've stayed friends with, but now I'm totally questioning both her loyalty to me, and her role in what happened in the first place. She didn't need to tell me the things that she did, and if she felt so strongly about it then, how come it's suddenly okay to be friends with L now?
What makes it worse is that C is constantly trying to bring it to my attention. I don't mean that I think she should be hiding it from me, but suddenly her Twitter feed is full of updates about the amazing time she's having with "one of her favourite ladies" and all of the things she's looking forward to doing with her. It feels uncomfortably like she's trying to provoke me into some kind of response.
So I suppose what I'm asking is this — do I cut this last remaining tie to L, and stop seeing C altogether? My boyfriend seems to think that C is just trying to stir up some more dramz because it's all been quiet on that front recently. I don't know if he's entirely right, but it does feel like there's an element to that to this. Is this something that I need to address, or should I just let this friendship die a death? The very stubborn dramz-loving part of my personality is damned if she wants to let L win by getting up in my friendship with C, but the bigger tired-of-all-this-shit part of me thinks that there's got to be a better way.
I do still want to have some form of friendship with C — I enjoy her company and we have mutual friends — but how do you continue to be friends with someone when they're fraternising with the enemy? Or when you're not at all sure that they have your best interests at heart?
Any advice or smacks around the head would be very welcome,
Far from Cher Horowitz
I'm with your boyfriend. You describe C as "attracted to the drama, or something" vis-à-vis L's break-up with her boyfriend, but I had that phrase rattling around my head throughout the first half of this letter. Yeah, L sounds like a wimpy phony, but there's a word for someone who, after university is over, still makes time to update you on every ort of trash talked about you by a third party, and that word isn't "friend." It's "shit-stirrer."
Would I cut ties with C? Well, not in an announced, "this is me cutting ties with you" kind of way, but I would stop spending as much time with her, and I would stop entrusting her with any privileged information or relying on her for emotional support. But if you do cut ties, or pull away from her, you should do that because of her. This isn't about the last vestige of a friendship with L that, for now and in future, is a non-starter. This is about recognizing that putting herself in the middle of the negative action is more important to C than you or your feelings, and protecting yourself accordingly. I mean, who knows what she's up to with L; maybe she's just tone-deaf. But I don't think C is fraternizing with the enemy so much as she…is the enemy herself.
So, you have a few choices. You can give in to the drama, inform her that she's dead to you, and let the mutual-friend cards fall where they may. (Don't pick this option; it's a hassle, and exactly what C thrives on as well.) You can maintain your friendship with C, but at more of a wary distance, and see how things go, with the understanding that sometimes people are just Like That and you should try not to take it personally (or at least not blame yourself). Or you can sit C down and say, you know, I don't have a problem with you rekindling your friendship with L — but some of the references to it on social media do make me uncomfortable, given how close you were to that whole situation. Then, just sit there and see what she has to say. Resist the urge to apologize; just tell her how she's making you feel, and hear her out. She's not going to admit that she just enjoys creating soap plots, but it's possible she just doesn't get it, and you can talk it out from there.
But I would go with the middle thing. That entire quartet of friends: enough already. The easiest thing for everyone is to ease C out of the cone of trust without making a big deal of it.
And not for nothing, but you don't mention discussing L's comments directly with her at any point. I'm not saying the friendship could have been saved, or should have been, and I'm not saying she didn't talk shit, but now that it seems like C had an agenda in retrospect…if this sort of situation comes up again, try not to base actions or reactions on secondhand information. Because I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that you and L did not get the same information a year ago.