Long-time reader, first question. I have been having a tricky time navigating adult friendships lately. I feel like I keep getting surprised when my interactions with other adults (parents of my kids’ friends, from the neighborhood, etc.,) suddenly seem to remind me very, very strongly of junior high school. I have an amazing therapist who is helping me on my end, to learn how to see and heed the red flags of immaturity and Mean Girl stuff. Basically: I grew up with horrible siblings in a very challenge family situation and I keep “re-meeting” them in friends.
I have a friend whom I enjoy, our kids are in the same activities, our husbands are friends, you get the picture. She is very delicate in social situations, so much so that we have a friendly nickname for her, that we all call her, the Delicate Flower. She laughs, we laugh, she says it fits her to a T.
Then, something happened this past weekend that is not so funny. Her demanding, clingy, super duper amazingly high maintenance behavior went full on Olympics Gold Medal level. She was whining to me and another mutual friend about how she couldn’t get out of bed, she NEEDED a day off of “life” and to go downtown and have an impromptu, fun, frivolous afternoon. We said, sure, made a million arrangements for our kids and made it happen. We did every single thing she wanted to do (the mutual friend and I are natives to this city, she is a transplant) and pulled out all the stops of what she requested and insisted upon.
We had cocktails for the train ride into the city, I had one. She had more and…kept on drinking all afternoon, very aggressively and in really large amounts. I only had that one because I didn’t want any more, thanks but no thanks, FULL STOP.
This is when she started asking, “Are you ok?” She asked me over and over again. I kept saying, yes, of course! And truly, I was! I was having fun and enjoying myself. But she wouldn’t believe me, apparently. All afternoon, she asked me that. All afternoon, I smiled and said, YES! She kept drinking and the questions became a little more belligerent and by the time we caught he train home, she was quiet and kept fucking asking ME if I was okay. By this point, as you can imagine, I was finally NOT okay.
When we got off the train and were standing on the platform about to go to our respective homes, she asked me again, if I was okay. This time, I said, “Yes, now please stop asking me that.” She took immediate offense.
I saw her that evening at an event for both of our kids, she was very weird to me, and possibly, still intoxicated. The next day, we had a big event for several families, we were both hosting it. She showed up very passive-agressively late and didn’t help, so I did most of it. While there, she had her husband come up to me and ASK ME IF I WAS OKAY THE DAY BEFORE. For fuck’s sake. I told him yes, it was a great afternoon. When he kept asking, are you sure? I answered, “well, you know, I just couldn’t keep up with your wife’s drinking, maybe that was it! We had a great afternoon in the city, though!” and then I looked over at my husband and my friend was ASKING HIM, “was LW okay yesterday?” to which he relied, “YES! She sure was!”
WTF do I do now? We have plans to attend an event together this Friday and HOLY SHITBALLS if she asks me if I’m okay again, I will punch something. We all arrange everything around her very precise needs and desires and wants–so much that she has her nickname. But this is the dark side of that: if everything doesn’t go exactly her way, she is going to do this?? Why do I have to keep up with her? What if I have different intentions of a fun afternoon (i.e. not getting shitfaced)?
Do I handle this honestly or do I smile and nod and back the fuck away? It will be a mess if I do that but she has some seriously funky stuff going on right now which she is projectile vomiting onto me. Our mutual friend form that day thinks our delicate flower was behaving very oddly that day and that I did not do anything to warrant this (I asked, in case I was missing something.) She thinks perhaps Delicate Flower is having some major depression or something else going on.
Advice? Do I say something or say nothing and just keep insisting that I AM OK?
I’m SERIOUSLY okay, You’re SERIOUSLY okay.
Dear Seriously Okay,
My read is that your friend has something strange or stressful going on in her life and wants attention from you. It’s possible that you have the totally scientific and real condition known as “B.R.F.” and your friend felt like you were disapproving of her drinking and behavior. It’s possible that your friend wants you ask her if she is okay. In fact, that’s what I suggest you do. Scripts:
“I am fine. Are YOU okay?”
“I am okay, but you are behaving very strangely right now. Should I be concerned?”
“It is very strange that you keep asking me that. What answer are you looking for, since ‘yes!’ clearly isn’t it?”
“Is there something we need to talk about, or something else you want to ask me?”
“I am fine, but I am getting annoyed by this question.”
“I am very well, thank you, but I think you’ve had enough to drink.”
“I am fine, thank you, but I need to talk to Hearty Perennial and not Delicate Flower right now. WTF is going on with you constantly asking me this?”
She sounds to me more like a friend of proximity and circumstance than a true friend of the heart (“Her demanding, clingy, super duper amazingly high maintenance behavior” tells me that while you may enjoy her company sometimes, you don’t actually like her that much), so it’s really up to you how much you want to probe and find out why she is drinking, why she is behaving strangely, and why she is so fixated on you or whether you want to pull back on making plans with her and stick with neutral topics like your kids and the weather when you do see her. I agree with you that something is up, but I’m as confused as you as to what it could be.
Thanks for the continued Pledge Drive donations! I really appreciate the support. Here are 96 seconds of Baby Elephants. Here are Shakespeare’s plays as three-panel comics. Here’s Jess Zimmerman’s great piece on women & midlife crises. Here’s an orangutan family I filmed several years ago. Here’s probably the best picture I’ve ever taken. Thank you.