As stated in earlier blog entries, I've had two main frenemies in my life. The first one was obvious in her behavior, but the second...well, she was sneakier, staying under the radar for many, many years before I clued in to her true nature.
When I started writing about this subject, it was because of this second girl. Let's call her Jill. Now, Jill is a charmer. She'll smile and hug a person she's just met as if he's her long lost, favorite cousin. When Jill and I first met, it was for a cruise ship production, for which we'd both been hired as dancers. She was bubbly, outgoing, and when she learned we had a few things in common, gushed about our similarities and how we were sure to be good friends. Through two weeks of rehearsals on land, Jill was never without a smile and friendly banter.
A few days before we were to board the ship, management called each of us in separately to discuss the cabin arrangements, and who we would prefer to room with. Initially I'd thought of Sam, a male dancer I'd also clicked with. I was told no co-ed roommates, despite the fact that Sam was gay. (And still is, of course. And is also still a very dear friend these many years later.) So instead I discussed it with Jill, and when I went for my meeting, requested her as a cabin mate. I was quite surprised to find out hours later, that they'd paired Jill with another girl, Maurine, in the cast. Maurine had what I would call, "a bit of the snotty" in her.
"What happened?" I asked Jill. "I thought we were going to share a cabin?"
"Well, When I went in for my meeting they told me Maurine requested me also, and I figure I'm the only one that can put up with her, so I should room with her instead."
This was not a red flag to me. I chalked it up to Jill being "overly nice," and how could I fault her for that? Still, I felt that if Jill was going to worry about someone else, she might just have well worried about me not getting a good roommate. In fact the girl I got, was very nice, but a horrible roommate for a number of reasons too dull to mention.
As we worked on the ship over the next several months, Jill continued to gush about our friendship. She would throw out phrases like, "You're my soul sister!" She also decided that as I was moving to L.A. after our contract was up, she would move out with me. She'd always wanted to go there. Since I'd learned years before not to rely on others to follow through on joint plans, I told her to suit herself. It would be lovely if she moved out too, but I was going--either way.
The thing was, no matter how much she raved about our "wonderful friendship", she almost never spent any free time with me. There was always some boy or another that had her time. I chalked it up to Jill being "co-dependent" specifically on men. Well, she's boy-crazy, how could I fault her for that? I likely would have been the same, if there wasn't a serious boyfriend waiting for me onshore. (Well, Jill had a serious shore-side boyfriend also, but that's not really part of my story.) In fact, in over six months on the ship, one of the very few times she went on a shore excursion with me, was a day I had plans with someone else. A new boy, Billy, had replaced one of the other dancers. He was an intellectual and we connected right away through philosophic discussions. I was really looking forward to having someone to spend the day with. Usually, I spent shore time alone.
We had just headed down the dock, when who should come bounding up behind us? Jill. Things were "off" with her flavor-of-the-week boy, and she happily invited herself to join Billy and I. We had a fairly nice afternoon, but that was the last I saw of Billy. The two of them were glued at the hip after that day, with Jill declaring him the next great love of her life...until he left for another contract. She pined for him for days, maybe even a week or two, before moving on to the next guy. Just for clarity...I had no romantic interest in Billy, but I did miss his company when Jill took him over.
An extension on the performance contract was offered. Since I had a serious boyfriend (and future husband) to get back to, I declined. Jill stayed. On one of my last nights on board, Jill offered to take me to a send-off dinner. Finally, I thought, a fun, hang-out evening for Jill and me. We were supposed to meet at my cabin. I sat on the lower bunk, dressed up for a night out. Rare for me, since I always ate on the ship to save money. Jill was late. Very late. When she did arrive, it was to tell me that a very nice guy had asked her out to dinner. I don't remember what she said to try and make it sound okay, but she gave me a present, from him, to make up for it.
This is the point that an older and wiser version of me would say, "Enough! Don't bother calling me when you get to L.A. You can find your own place. I don't need to be anyone's 'back up plan' anymore!"
Sadly, it was another 10+ years before I reached that point, with far, far more devastating let-downs by then. When I had reached my limit of all the lip service she continued to pay, and all the cancelled get-togethers that followed 99% of the time, I wrote her a letter. I cried while I wrote it. My tears splashed on three pages of explanations of why our friendship was too painful to me. I wished her only good things. I knew she was a wonderful person but with all that was going on in both our lives at that point, I just couldn't take any more disappointments.
There was no response, and years went by. During that time, I always thought of her as a kind person, who was "just a bit thoughtless." I was the one at fault. I was too needy. I wanted her to be the close friend/confidant I could turn to in times of great joy or sadness, and she had many other people in her life. It was really rather selfish of me. Still, it was best we'd gone our separate ways. Life was easier for me that way. And honestly, life was much better.
Now we come to Spring of this year. 8+ years after I sent Jill that three-page, tear-stained letter, she contacted me on FB. Her words were full of the honey and flowers that always flooded her communications with me. "How sad that so many years have passed us by," and, "I always treasured our friendship," and so on and so forth. We exchanged a few friendly PMs on Facebook, and "friended" each other. In a day or two after connecting online, she said she wanted to get together. Her weekends were booked solid for the next three weekends, but what about the following Sunday?
This is improvement, I thought. She's checking her calendar. She's making sure nothing else is scheduled. We set the time and day. Three days before our planned reunion, my children and I made sure the house was straightened up from top to bottom. I went grocery shopping and planned what food and dessert to prepare. All along, I told my children that we might have company coming. After all, Jill had a history. I thought it unlikely though, that she and her children, whom I was looking forward to meeting, would not come. We had planned 3 weeks in advance, and It had been 8 years. What could come up that was more important?
The answer...nothing. Nothing was more important. But on Friday night, while settling down for the evening in my clean, and well stocked house, I got another FB message. "Oh no!" It proclaimed. "Our perfect plans are ruined! I forgot my son has a birthday party to attend, and a class. Can we meet another day?" Never mind that she could have had her husband take their son, and offered to come without him, or offered to come later, or earlier, or for a shorter time. Or if it was me, just skip the other engagements all together, because I was meeting with a dear friend I hadn't seen in years, and whose children I wanted to meet.
No. It was the same old thing that had prompted me to write that letter all those years before. The same action that screamed that I was just a backup plan. Something she might enjoy, IF there was nothing else she'd prefer to do. I shook my head when I read the message. I replied, as kindly as I could, that if it wasn't a priority this time, it would never be.
Then I had an epiphany! She was never going to change, but I could. I would change my expectations so that we could both be happy. "Let's just not plan ahead. If you are free one day, just call. Here's my phone number. My door is always open. Just know that the house may not be clean, and the kitchen may not be stocked, but you are always welcome." I was awfully proud of myself. After all these years of frustration, I had finally found a solution. I wouldn't change my plans for her, and she wouldn't let me down, because there would be no plan to cancel.
Jill agreed. This would work much better with her personality, since she was so disorganized, she said. After a few more pleasantries were exchanged, with things well-sorted out between us, we signed off.
Several days later, I noticed that I hadn't seen any of Jill's FB posts in my newsfeed. I went directly to her page, and found that she had "unfriended" me. That was the end.
I expect Jill will never know how grateful I am that she contacted me. All those years apart, I respected her, and blamed myself for being too needy. Yes, I was better off without her, but she was a good person, and I could always be thankful for the friendship we had while it lasted. But now I see her for what she is, and what she has been since the start. A woman who gets off on having someone waiting for her, and then letting that someone know that she must cancel, because Jill, and her plans, are so especially important. As soon as I stopped being the someone who would "wait the wings" for Jill to grace me with her presence, she had no more use for me.
"Unfriended" without a word. But I am grateful. Forever after, I'll know it wasn't me with the problem. It was her, a passive-aggressive frenemy. Those kind are much harder to spot, but no better than the blatant frenemies. I am now free to move on with my life, and instead of feeling melancholy over the loss of a friendship that I believed was good at times, I feel nothing but happiness, to be free of the bitch. It's so clear to see now, when I look back to the early days of our "friendship," that her actions showed disrespect and contempt from the very beginning.