I have a problem. I have a friend. They're mutually inclusive. Let's call him Greg.
posted by piratesriding to Human Relations (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Greg and I went to college together, we were pretty tight, part of the same larger social group. Greg's a big dreamer, a hard worker, and that's the kind of person I love to surround myself with. After school he started his own traveling theatre company. I thought it was such a cool idea that I offered to help him get it off the ground. I had a lot of skills that he didn't have, and was willing to do a ton of "grunt" work--making budgets and forms and schedules, as well as physical labor like driving from state to state, hunting down props, building and hauling the set... Really anything that needed doing, I was his right hand woman. I easily spent upwards of one thousand hours over the past two years making his dream a reality. I was sooo happy that his big dream was finally coming true.
Then...something along the way got seriously out of whack. I noticed that he never talked to me about anything other than our shared work. When we relaxed at the end of the day with a cold beer, he would be agitated and unable to relax, still fretting about the next day, the next task, even the next show or the next season. Simultaneously, his attitude towards me was becoming brusque, dismissive, even a little mean. I would show up at an appointed time to work on one of my assignments only to find he'd been there for the past three hours, doing it alone. He seemed defensive of his position as artistic director, snapped at me if I gave instructions to others--even things as small as "guys, don't forget to wear closed-toed shoes tomorrow" or "can everyone get me their schedules for next week?" Things that were, you know, my job.
I was startled and hurt in these situations. We would talk it over at the time, reach an agreement, then he'd wander back into the "barking orders at me" mentality. So I backed off, only came when I was called, avoided even the appearance of wanting to usurp his authority. And when he noticed my enthusiasm level had dipped, he more-or-less accused me of not working hard enough, took many of my duties away from me, and gave me mindless drudge work for the rest of the season: namely, I became queen of the laundry.
Now I should say that I'm one of the most confident, self-respecting women I know. In the workplace I have no problem with setting firm boundaries, pushing back against oppressive behavior, asking for raises when I've earned them--all the stuff that women are supposed to struggle with. Point is, I'm nobody's pushover.
...Except for my friends. I will go to the ends of the earth and back if you're my friend, just to keep you company, give you boosties up the obstacles in your way, congratulate you when you reach the top.
After the last season wrapped, I decided I needed to take a lot of time away from our working relationship to rebuild and focus on the friendship. He must've felt a similar need for a break, because he stopped contacting me for a few months, including canceling a meeting we had to air our professional grievances. So we entered a mutually cool period, and I found that the less time I spent with Greg, the happier I felt. I have a boyfriend who's just the coolest cat in the universe, like literally nicer than Goku. We adopted a dog together and love nothing more than lying around doing nothing together. The rest of my friends are all so supportive and thoughtful...we watch movies and play board games and embark on failed cooking experiments together. I have a new job with a huge salary hike and a breezy commute. My mom survived stage 3 cancer, my little brother's graduating high school next year...
...Basically everything in my life is coming up Milhouse! I'm so happy, I go to bed every day with a smile and wake up the same way. Except the days where I have to interact with Greg. He's like a high-maintenance raincloud that won't take a hint. When we're at social functions, he dominates the conversation towards theatre, specifically his theatre, or acting in general, or plays in general...and many of my friends are, as I said, art school kids, they get sucked in even if they're tired of talking about it. If we're watching a movie, he opens up his laptop and works or falls asleep on my couch. I've tried walking our dogs together but it somehow becomes a therapy session that's focused on him-him-him. I'm basically exasperated that I let myself get suckered in by a guy who is clearly a serial taker.
At this point you must be thinking: why? Why bother? Piratesriding, you should just ease him out of your life and never look back. And the truth is I'd like to, but here's the catch: he has responded to my general coolness by involving the rest of our friends. I had a movie night planned with a half dozen friends, and one of them didn't show up despite RSVPing. Turns out Greg found out there was a gathering he wasn't invited to and basically guilted her into taking him out instead. I felt awful and couldn't apologize enough for putting her in that position, even if it wasn't intended as a snub--I just didn't want to hang out with him, as should be pretty understandable at this point.
(I should say that all his friends would agree with my assessment of his character: high-maintenance, needy, self-involved, fickle, generally ambitious and interesting and occasionally really fun, but all-in-all a total handful. Honestly many of them have confided to me that they're very exasperated with him, but almost all of them have some degree of a working relationship with him and his company, and they can stomach him as long as they keep him at arm's length.)
Fast forward to this morning. He's asked for a meeting. It's in a local coffee shop, our designated sit-down-and-work-things-out area. He's going to ask my why I've been cold to him, why I haven't been inviting him to 100% of my get-togethers among friends, why I haven't volunteered to work more hours. And the truth is, at this point, I don't care to go over the hurts and angers of six months ago that he hasn't made himself available to talk about until just now. They're old, healed wounds for me, provided he leaves them alone and just doesn't pick at them. I will never do work for him again, because he was such an asshole to me, and as Dubya so wisely said, "fool me twice, can't--can't get fooled again." I'd like to tell him that I just don't see the value in trying to repair a really broken friendship that with someone that doesn't offer me much in return.
But we are neighbors. His friends are my friends, and their industry is his industry. He will still come over all the time, to talk with or hang out with my roommates. I don't want it to be a pick-sides event, nor a they-can't-be-in-the-same-room-together outcome. There are tons of birthdays and weddings and house parties that we'll both be in attendance at, and I'd rather just greet each other politely, chat about the weather, and move on to greener pastures. But I don't see a way that can happen now that he's finally forced the issues.
I feel that if I refuse to tell him why I was upset so long ago, the mutual chilliness will continue because he'll feel I'm being evasive and unfair, and he'll badger my friends (even my boyfriend) for clues.
I feel that if I do tell him why I was upset so long ago, he's going to get incredibly defensive and upset, as he always has when he perceives that I'm criticizing him.
Somebody help me. I just want Greg to chill out and let our once-close friendship wither into acquaintanceship. I don't want to excite his defensiveness, but I also refuse to let him take one more step over the boundary that was drawn between us when he was too self-absorbed to look down at my feet. What would you do, random strangers of the internet? We're meeting tomorrow at 6PM, so I need guidance.