thresholds crossed

“I know you’ve been spying on me for her. I know you have. I just want you to acknowledge it so we can be friends. I think we can be good friends.”

Imagine you’re at work, doing your thing, and some woman you barely know–who happens to know, independently, two friends of yours–calls you up and presents this as her “Hi, how are you?” The woman was convinced that when I attended a party at her house as a guest of Friend 1, I was doing so because Friend 2, now dating this woman’s ex-boyfriend, had encouraged me to do so, so that I might “report back.”

The woman went on and on, for a few minutes, which to me, felt like about four hours. She went from sounding very mean to very sweet in every other sentence. It was extremely unsettling, not to mention the fact that her claim was utterly absurd and seemed to be due to her very raw state after a very bad break-up. And also maybe a little case of paranoia.

“What the hell are you talking about? Did you really just call me at work in order to say this? I did no such thing, I happen to be friends with 1 and 2, and this is crazy. No, we will never be friends.” And I hung up on her.

Another person, a nicer, more compassionate person, might have helped her navigate her way through her fears, calmed her down, and then gently ended the conversation, promising to have lunch in the near future, and then, given the magic of passing time, never see her again. She was, after all, a friend of a friend.

Not me. She called me at work and accused me of being a spy in some stupid love triangle. She questioned my motives, and thus my character. At work. Game over.

Now, it was pretty easy to end that “game,” since I had no prior relationship with this person, no time invested, no feelings expressed, no experiences shared. But I’ve ended the game with one who could reasonably be called a friend. I’d been to her home, she’d been to mine, we’d spent time together over drinks with several like-minded friends. But she’s one of those people who needs to be in charge of everything, even if the thing in question needs no management whatsoever, like a happy hour gathering. She’s one of those people who, no matter what you say, will somehow turn the conversation back to her.

Maybe you’re thinking, ‘We’ve all got people in our lives like that. No big deal.’

With her, though, there was more. Maybe it was when she pulled me aside at a party and said, “My husband and I were talking about you… We think you’re really bright and intelligent, it’d be good to spend more time together.” Or when she said at a happy hour to me, “I can’t have kids, I don’t have kids, you should bring your kids over to my house, they can play with the dogs and we can have lunch, I’d love to be around your kids.” Now, I don’t know what you would make of that, but I got the distinct impression that for her, I served a purpose. Her purpose, whatever that was. She made me uncomfortable.

When I’m uncomfortable, I get prickly. At subsequent gatherings, if she said something ridiculous, I’d counter it. If she said anything at all, I’d counter it. I wanted to serve her no purpose. And then she and a dear friend of mine, S. (a kinder, more patient, more accepting friend than me), had a falling out. A couple months later I contacted some friends to get together for a happy hour, and I did not include the woman who hurt my friend S. Game over.

My threshold is low, I guess, when it comes to relationships. It’s perhaps too low. But the relationships I have with people are mutual at minimum, and luckily, none make me even remotely uncomfortable.

Why settle for less?

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