Saturday, May 21, 2011

Of all the gin joints...

Lest you think I spend all my time mooning about babies, here's something different. But let me start with a quick apology to CGD, whose best friend is about to move away. She'd probably love to have the problem I'm about to complain about.

A while back, I mentioned that BFB (goodness, that should really be Best Friend with Toddler now) was interviewing for a permanent position in my department. Well, she got the job. She's taking another year in California, so won't start until next year, which I am super glad about. I've promised Mr. Bunny that I'll work my way around to being happy about this development, but at the moment I don't see how that's going to happen. I think I'll need every day of that year to effect the psychological shift.

There are a couple of reasons this news is not filling my heart with joy. The first has to do with the way she got the position, but I won't say much about that on the off chance that she's found this space. (Though if you have, BFB, you're an IDIOT for reading it.) I will say this: it's made me hate my job and the people I work with a whole lot more. Right now the idea of ever going back to work makes me want to puke. The second has to do with our relationship. She has a certain Single White Female tendency where I'm concerned. This makes me sound so egotistical, but I'm not the only one who thinks this is the case. It ranges from trivial things like I'll start wearing contact lenses, she'll start wearing contact lenses. I'll switch back to glasses, she'll switch back to glasses to larger things, like I'll start studying X in grad school, she'll start studying X in grad school (she has totally redefined herself so that she is now squarely in my field), she'll find out I'm trying to get pregnant, she'll start trying to get pregnant (and succeed instantly, the whore). And now...I'll get a job in the Department of Q at Mediocre Institution, she'll get a job in the Department of Q at Mediocre Institution.

I feel like she is always watching me, always sizing me up, and always measuring herself against me. If something good happens, I don't want to tell her for fear she'll say something to undermine my happiness. Because she often does. And worse yet, if something good happens to her, I struggle to be happy for her and to not say something to undermine her happiness. And I don't even consider myself a hugely competitive person! With most of my friendships, I can appreciate others' superior qualities and skills without feeling threatened by them. Not this one. There's something about this friendship that brings out the worst in me. It's like my identity is so much at risk that I can only feel like I'm doing okay as long as I can convince myself I'm doing better than her.

Of course, her pregnancy and my infertility didn't help. She made a great effort to be sensitive, but ultimately, it was still horribly painful for me to be around her. And then we took that break, and after the kind of lame way we got back together, I didn't feel like telling her about my pregnancy. I sure don't feel like telling her about my early experiences with parenthood. And the two poles of her world are her kid, whom I continue to find completely boring, and her job, which I sure as hell don't want to hear about.

For these reasons, I really don't relish the thought of her being a presence in my life again. I worry that the competition will be carried to new ground: Do our shared students like me or her better? Do our colleagues value her or me more? Is her child smarter and more successful and prettier than mine (impossible, of course, but one worries)? I just want to live my life without that scrutiny and comparison. The whole thing makes me want to pack up and leave town...or just put an end to this worthless friendship. But right before I'm about to be her senior colleague (assuming I get tenure) is not a good time to decide we should break up for good. And it wouldn't really solve the problem anyway.

I'm actually considering taking this to a therapist, but I'd feel like such a jackass. Dear therapist: I hate my friend. Please help.

Anyway, thanks for reading and (I hope) resisting the impulse to smack me. I just wanted to let you know what fills in the intervals between applying antibacterial ointment to my nipples.


  1. I don't think you're a jackass for taking this to a therapist. Quite the contrary (and it's thanks to this blog that I started taking my $hit to a therapist some time ago, something that has made a massive difference in my headspace and for which I never thanked you).

    Anyway, back to BFB. I think there are friends who get under our skins, who function a lot more like sister than friends. There's jealousy, copying, that measuring stick of which you speak. I have one like this. We've known each other since we were five. And reaching adulthood - and supposed maturity - did nothing to improve the situation. I also think that I'd find it very, very tough if she started working at my university. There's a territorial thing to it, but there's also just...a need for space. That's healthy.

    (Hope that antibacterial ointment is working wonders).

  2. me no likee BFB. i'm on this new kick where i'm letting go friends like this. if they give me more headaches than not, then i can't be bothered. i know you guys are in the same field, but it does seem strange that she follows you around like this. what are mr bunny's thoughts on bfb, i wonder?? boohoo that you have this on your mind when bun bun has just arrived. the timing of her news about coming back is just ANNOYING! i can't wait for you to get tenure and be her senior :o) xoxo.

  3. Dump toxic friends. Life is short. Don't waste an ounce of energy trying to make a forced friendship work. (Armchair therapy is free of charge.)

  4. Ooooh, I have been wondering what happened with this situation. This might sound mean, but I was hoping BFB would NOT get the job. I'm just going to go right ahead and agree one hundred per cent with what JB said. You really don't need this kind of relationship in your life, it sounds toxic.

    I also wanted to thank you for you very kind and generous comment on my last post. All teary. :)

  5. 1. I hope you got Newman's All Purpose Nipple Ointment.

    2. You gotta have SPACE, no need for BFB's to be up in your job! WTF.

  6. I have a bf, who at one time, was truly my bff. We talked daily. We were therapy for eachother. I'm her son's godmother. Over the years, however, she's stopped answering my calls--so i've stopped calling. When she does call and I say, "I tried to call all 3 of your numbers last week, even left a vm and didn't hear from you...?" Her answer is ALWAYS "I never saw any missed calls from you or got a vm." Then blames her cell provider. To which I cough and say "Bull$&*#". At any rate, I do now have a very wonderful BF that I would pack up and move in with at any given minute. All that to say, if current Bff says something nice on my fb, other bf gets all snarky in her 'cute, southern way'. It tears her up that I'll drive 10 hours to stay with bff for 3 weeks, but won't drive 4hours to see her. YOU DON'T ANSWER MY CALLS + YOU NEVER CALL ME??!! WTCrap am I suppose to do.How am I suppose to know that said bf has been laid up in the bed for days being sick???I lost my psychic powers years ago. I just roll my eyes and icnore it. For pete's sake I am thirty-freakin-nine and have no patiences for such juvenile behavior. 6th grade was a long, long time ago. SO VERY THANKFUL that I live 4 hours away.
    I would totally do everything I could to talk BFB out of moving. Be the saboteur, if you can't, hire someone to be the saboteur!

  7. P.S. This Single White Female business could be very, very bad for your academic life (as I'm sure you know). Given how you feel about her anyway, I would say the benefits of trying to maintain a friendship with her are greatly outweighed by the risks. She probably WILL try to poach students, postdocs, and perhaps even grant app ideas from you and that's Not Cool. Since you have a year, my suggestion is to not make any contact at all, and if/when she reaches out to you, be as short and sweet as you can be with your replies, and superficial. Like, "Oh, hey, been super busy with Bun Bun and whatnot. How time flies!" The more deliberate distance you create between now and then, the easier it will be to keep it up when she arrives. Just ALWAYS be busy. I mean, having a kid is perhaps THE greatest reason/excuse to get out of doing anything you don't want to do with other people. If she ever breaks down and confronts you, you can either be straight with her (Single White Females don't respond to this well) or just throw up more excuses about how busy life is now, and how your responsibilities have multiplied with tenure (!), etc. It's still work to put up and maintain these walls, but it also protects you.

    Man, it sure does suck when you're on the receiving end of a relationship woe you didn't ask for. Super sorry you have to even worry about this.

  8. When I read posts like this or hear people complain about it IRL, it sort of boggles my mind. Why continue being friends with someone like this, much less call them your "best friend"? You're an adult; she's an adult. Be cordial, be civil, but let that one go. It's not worth the drama and the headaches.

  9. I know, Anonymous, I know. It IS ridiculous. I just feel like when there's a long history and a lot of happy memories it's harder to do as you suggest.

  10. Bunny, you are the sweetest to think of me (I had to read the first part like 5 times to make sure I got what you were saying). i am not even a little bit bothered by this post. My relationship with my BFF is different. While we stared out in the same spot in college, things diverted big time after that. Our lives are so not alike that it is almost impossible to compare of feel jealous.
    In your case, I would feel like somebody is trying to steal/ live my life. That would very much bother me.
    Given that she is moving closer to you and you will be seeing more of each other, not to mention working in the same department, I think therapy might be helpful for you to sort through your feelings and figure out how you want to deal with your BFF. I do think anonymous has a good point (cannot beleive I am even saying that), I think it might be time to consider what you get from this relationship. Perhaps there is a way for you to preserve your history together without needing to be such a part of each other lives? Not sure.
    Keep us posted and I hope you can continue to use this space as a sounding board.

  11. This is so tough. It's always so hard to imagine walking away from friends, but sometimes it's best to realize that it's time to move on. Very tough though!!!

  12. I'm a different Anon. but I have had a friend like that and I slowly let it drift apart, it felt better, she recently contacted me (by snail mail, no less) after about 2 years and I felt my stomach start churning. I have not reached out yet but I still might. I would like to be civil, past BFF's but I will never have it like it was.
    I predict as Bunny grows up you will have even less tolerance for her. Children bring perspective in suprising ways. For me, it was my capacity to deal with BS is non-existant now. Friends make you feel good and if they don't then it's time to let it fade to black.
    There is no shame in that.

  13. I really sympathize with this situation. When you have such a past with someone, it's REALLY difficult to "just let them go," as so many suggest. I can't say I have great advice for you, but I hear you loud and clear.

  14. It kind of boggles my mind that she got the job. I mean, I'm sure she's good and everything, but it does sound like she is trying to insert herself into your life.
    I think that if this situation was straightforward, you would have put an end to the friendship already. But it's not. You obviously have a long history with this person and care about her on some level. And on the other side, there are all the downsides to this friendship. And that list is long. Will your friendship continue in the future? Who knows. But in the meantime, don't be too hard on yourself for how you feel about her.

  15. Struggling to comment because I find her to be a bit of a fucker.

  16. I read this over the weekend and have been trying to find a good bit of uninterrupted time to come back and comment...

    First, ARGH to Anonymous #1. I can only assume that this person hasn't really followed your blog for very long or would understand the complicated, storied past of this particular friendship. Boo. Own your comments.

    Second, I love me some Roccie.

    Third, I hear ya. And my assvice mirrors Jen's. I had a high school friend with creepily similar SWF characteristics. It became worse once we went to college, and guess where she ended up going? Same school as me, natch. We ended up rooming together for a semester sophomore year. WORST DECISION EVER. Or perhaps best decision ever because it was only then that I clearly saw her for the specimen of insanity that she was. She did poach friends. I've honestly never known anyone so fucking lusty for attention in my entire life. I totally relate to that bizarre dynamic of friendship where someone seems to effortlessly erode your sense of security when any other time you're just fine and normal and healthy.

    Long story short, I excised her from my life. I drew the line. She was unhealthy. Our friendship was unhealthy. We haven't talked in yeeeeaaaars. She keeps sending me FB friend requests, and I will fucking ignore them forever and ever, amen. I just don't have the energy or patience for that kind of shit anymore.

    And as another commenter previously stated, I think you'll find that you're even less willing to suffer fools now with Bun Bun.


  17. The whole single white female thing is uber creepy. I guess in a way you could take it as a compliment up to a point but really, getting a job back in your deptartment via means that are dubious is taking it too far.

    And I dont think its as simple as anon#1 points out. You cant just cut all ties and move on. She is still your friend. You have a history and its complicated and you're allowed to complain about someone and still consider them a friend. And because she's been quite passive aggressive about her behaviour its much harder to address and 'fix' without you coming off looking like you have the problem, not her. She is crafty that BFB of yours.

    I dont have any advice or answers but I do think your feelings are justified and that you have every right to feel a bit smothered by her.