We're not friends, please stop talking to me.
August 17, 2009 12:20 PM   Subscribe

"Please excuse me...No really, don't follow me, I don't want to talk to you." How do I politely get out of having to converse with someone I was friends with for a long, long time but am no longer? Person is inconsiderate, dismissive, and generally a bitch who thinks she's funny when she says mean things.

All of the above being reasons I'm not friends with her anymore.

A mutual friend (Susan) has invited crazy lady (Lily) to her wedding and shower out of a feeling of obligation, since in better days, we were both in Lily's wedding. Just to be clear, Lily is NOT in the wedding party, there is not a wedding party.

Susan and I haven't talked to Lily for over a year. Susan stopped being an all-the-time friend quite some time ago for much the same reasons I only came to realize a few years ago. Susan has not talked to Lily in the past year due to lifestyle decisions Lily was making that Susan just could not be around.

So Lily will be at the shower and the wedding (we guess, havne't gotten RSVP back yet). Susan is not inviting anyone else that Lily knows, except me. Lily has taken it upon herself to let Susan know that certain people havne't rec'd invitations to the shower and wedding and maybe Susan "didn't have the right address". (yes, yes, please roll your eyes.)

I am more than willing to be nice to her in public, but I do not wish to give the impression I wish to rekindle our friendship. I know that I cannot control other people's actions. However, I know that she will come up to me and say her typical rude, sarcastic things and I just don't want to deal with it.

How many times can I say "Excuse me." and walk away? What if she follows me around? I would not put it past her to start telling everyone who will listen that I "ditched her" for my boyfriend. (I got a job after college which took me a neighboring city, which happend to be where my boyfriend lived.) Which is what she kept saying about Susan when she stopped hanging so much. And what she says about anyone who gets a life not centered around Lily. After years of listening to her bitch about her/our friends to me, I can only imagine what she has been saying about me.

She has said really hurtful things to me in the past and been incredibly inconsiderate. I don't want to be a bitch to her at all, but she's a drinker and she tends to get even more inconsiderate when drinking. She thinks she's being funny.

I just feel sorry for her. I realize her life hasn't turned out like she wanted to. But she was like this long before she got married and had babies.

Oh yeah, and she's pregnant again (which apparently was not planned and which Susan didn't know about when she sent the invite). So she'll probably be drinking at these events. All the time proseletyzing about it's ok to drink after the 1st trimester. Which while true (in moderation of course, a glass of wine here and there is ok), showers and weddings aren't the place to start "educating" everyone about it. She's got this attitude of "I'm going to do whatever I want when I want, to hell with what other poeple think." I'm all for being empowered, but that's just an immature attitude.

And I still feel like I'm apologizing for her, even in this post. I'm tired of it.

Help me please be nice and calm my flustered-ness and politely defuse anything that may happen. We are all in our mid-30s. Susan and I don't talk to anyone from our hometown anymore nor do we talk to anyone that knows Lily. We both grew up, got jobs, and stopped hanging at the bar every night.

Ok. I've rambled on enough now....askme, do your magic!
posted by sio42 to Human Relations (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a feeling that if you just continue to keep on as you are -- politely, but firmly, excusing yourself, and just letting the crazy stuff she says roll off your back -- that the public opinion will come to regard her as a total train wreck, and you as a paragon of civility.

So you're good when it comes to the court of public opinion. When it comes to this one shower, maybe just line up a close friend to take you out for a really stiff drink afterward, so you can let fly with all of the pent-up venting you were maybe tempted to unleash during the shower. You know -- you'll stay on your best behavior during the shower, because it's only a couple hours, because afterward you know you'll be heading down to the bar for a margarita as big as your head, and you're going to spend the next four hours telling stories of "OH! and then guess what she said NEXt!"

Maybe Susan will need to do the same thing, and you can invite her to join you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:25 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Sounds like Lily does what she does because she doesn't know better, not because she doesn't care about other people. If that's true, you might bite the bullet and be very frank with her and say that "exactly this behaviour hurts people and makes them want to avoid you"; and that her jokes ain't funny at all. She doesn't get all the nice subtle hints you're sending. Sometimes you have to take the medicine that tastes awful.
posted by flif at 12:30 PM on August 17, 2009

She sounds like a tragic wreck of a human being. Just let your eyes glaze over when she talks, walk away when you can, and remember that weddings don't last forever. Just one night. For one night you can put up with her crazy. As for not rekindling the friendship, just don't rekindle it. It takes two to kindle!
posted by Neofelis at 12:31 PM on August 17, 2009

empress - ha ha! i already told susan i'm bringing a flask for us :-) but that is a good way to think about it.

flif - seriously, i have had to sit her down a number of times during our years of friendship and say "Lily, you are really hurting people's feeling when you ________. I know that you don't mean to and that's just how you are, but it doesn't mean people aren't hurt." I've had to do this after having repeated incidents over the years of several people coming up to me and asking me what was up with my friend and why was she being so rude the other night. Or that they didn't want to hang out with her at all but that I was ok. i really, really tried. i would wait until the next day or week, and do it when we were alone and as nicely as i could. her husband has had to have similar convo's with her about the way she treats his family. i'm surprised that no one has ever slapped her. it just got to be too much work to be her friend and very little reward. i felt like a babysitter.
posted by sio42 at 12:36 PM on August 17, 2009

Very annoying, I agree. She is simply someone you do not like, so you don't need to talk to her past a polite "hello, how is the weather" out of respect for the bride and the wedding event.

Just nod your head, agree, and excuse yourself. Be conveniently on the other side of the room, if you can. Mostly, be sure to make it clear to the bride to seat you as far away as possible!

(It sounds like you have created a bit of drama here, from left over anger, and be careful with that. If she is an ex friend, her being pregnant, for example, should be none of your business, just as you wish what you do is none of her business.)
posted by Vaike at 12:36 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

"It was nice catching up with you. I have a few other people I want to say hello to. Enjoy yourself." And split. Just like that.
posted by contessa at 12:37 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

How many times can I say "Excuse me." and walk away?

Literally an infinite number of times.

What if she follows me around?

Keep movin', man.

Keep these phrases ready:

"Oh, I gotta talk to (____), I'll be right back."
"Pardon me, I have to hit the bathroom real quick."
"I do believe I'm gonna get myself another glass of (____)!"
"Oh, hell, looks like (small child 1) and (small child 2) are up to no good. Pardon me."
"Oh, shit, I ain't seen (____) yet! I gotta go say hi! Sorry, be right back."

Just think of it like Lily's trying to put a jacket on you throughout the whole event; all you gotta do is keep slipping your arms back out of the sleeves. No need to confront, no need to make a scene, just pull your arms out and step away in one fluid motion. Again, and again, and again. Keep this image of the jacket in your head to stay focused on your task, rather than why you should feel like you need to justify that task to yourself.

If she actually calls you on this ("You keep avoiding me"), just tell her it's a big wedding filled with lots of people, you want to make sure you see everyone before it's over (And in fact, walking around and talking to lots of different people is what I do even when I love every single person at a large social event, so it shouldn't look super-weird, just like you've got a lot of people to say hi to. Which you do, and which you would be doing even if you thought Lily was the bee's knees.)
posted by Greg Nog at 12:37 PM on August 17, 2009 [5 favorites]

neofelis - i know - that's what i keep telling myself. the wedding i was ok with - the shower...there's going to a lot fewer people. i guess i was just concerned about her thinking that any polite chit chat was more than that.
posted by sio42 at 12:37 PM on August 17, 2009

vaike - sorry - the pregnant thing was really just an example of how she acts - i don't care that she's pregnant. it's just that she's the kind of person who will drink while visibly pregnant and go on and on about how it's ok.

yeah, she is pretty tragic. and i just feel bad for her.
posted by sio42 at 12:40 PM on August 17, 2009

At the shower, appoint yourself to an official role: photographer, thank you note list keeper, bow-bouquet maker, game wrangler, grandma helper, etc. That way, you greet Lily at the start and say "see you at the wedding" when it's over, with no extended contact in between. The wedding will be easier because of the spouses and the dancing.
posted by xo at 12:42 PM on August 17, 2009

How many times can I say "Excuse me." and walk away?

No matter how many times you end up doing it, the answer is always "one more time". Be polite, but direct and assertive when it comes to stopping/leaving conversations you don't want to become a part of.

Everything else: it doesn't matter. This woman will be a blip across your life and current circle of friends. People will be focused on the usual wedding stuff. No one will remember her or her stories or actions a week after the event, and they'll never see her again. Chances are you won't either.
posted by mikepop at 12:43 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

First of all: the anticipation of these things tends to be a much bigger stress than the thing itself. As you say, there hasn't been an RSVP yet, nor has Lily yet made any attempt to communicate with you -- right? So the first thing is: don't worry until/unless you know for certain there's something to worry about.

Second of all: it's a wedding, so there will be a large number of people there to dilute the crazy. Standard annoying-person-at-wedding strategy: if the annoying person comes and talks to you, take one for the team and put up with it for, say, between five and fifteen minutes. Then excuse yourself ("I told my husband I'd bring him a drink" [bonus: increases the chance of her writing you off as having "dumped" her for your husband]) and let the annoying person find another target.

The years have changed you; maybe they've changed her too. She may have mellowed, or acquired a tiny bit more social skill, or something. Anyway, it's only two days out of your life, and after this there'll be no obligation to see Lily again, correct? Many good and fun things will happen in those two days, and Lily will only be a minor drawback. She only has the power to throw out your groove if you give her that power-- e.g., by getting worked up about it.

To sum up: it's not certain that this annoyance will happen. If it happens, it won't take up that much time and it's only as big a deal as you let it be. You can do this. You can.
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:52 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I will politely disagree with flif above. People know what's right and what's wrong to say and what things they say hurt other people and are obnoxious. It's in their nature to take advantage of what people will let them get away with as long as no one tells them off.

I'm not recommending you make a big scene, because I can't imagine that's what your friend Susan will want to remember at her wedding. In fact, I would agree with the advice given here to remain civil, noting that, if she goes around telling people that you ditched her for your boyfriend or other such nonsense, people are more likely to disregard her and realize that she's the only one between the two of you making a scene. People with common sense don't take those sorts of accusations seriously.

That being said, if you have to continue interacting with her over the next [period of time], it might be time for more drastic action. I have a friend who can be obnoxious in some of the same ways you describe and there have been occasions where others and I have called him out on it, telling him outright that his behavior is rude and that we would not defend him if that's what it came down to. We've been friends for over half of our lives. There really comes a point where it's up to you, after a particularly inconsiderate statement of hers, to tell her off. Do it around other mutual friends. Embarrass her. People know what kind of behavior is wrong, but will never change their behavior if everyone around them sits back and lets it continue.
posted by jgunsch at 1:08 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can't control her behavior. If she wants to tell people that you ditched her for the Martian Marlon Brando, you can't stop her.
posted by kathrineg at 1:14 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

wow, jgunsch, i actually never thought about that last bit of advice.
i should have thought of it years ago. i just never wanted to escalate a situation. i guess sometimes it's ok to escalate.

i'm pretty sure i can remain civil at these events, but was afraid of letting her fluster me.

i really appreciate everyone's insight. i feel a bit more confident now and will keep this thread in mind during the shower.
posted by sio42 at 1:17 PM on August 17, 2009

actually, i now have a mnemoic device for this thread...Martian Marlon Brando (thanks kathrineg!)

it will remind at how silly the whole thing is and that i can Grace Kelly my way through the whole thing :-)
posted by sio42 at 1:18 PM on August 17, 2009

I would not put it past her to start telling everyone who will listen that I "ditched her" for my boyfriend.

No, I just ditched you.
posted by benzenedream at 1:46 PM on August 17, 2009

On the other hand, if she likes attention, a big scene will be like a tasty treat for her and she'll want more.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:42 PM on August 17, 2009

Yet again I'll put in a vote for pseudostrabismus's Ding Training, just because I think it's such a beautiful idea. I think it would work extra well if a bunch of people were all prepared to use it at the same event.
posted by flabdablet at 5:29 PM on August 17, 2009

A mutual friend (Susan) has invited crazy lady (Lily) to her wedding and shower out of a feeling of obligation, since in better days, we were both in Lily's wedding. Just to be clear, Lily is NOT in the wedding party, there is not a wedding party.

This is the part I don't like. She should not have been invited to the wedding.

I was so enamored with the following askmefi quote, by Lolie, that I kept it:
We owe nobody our time and attention. Life's short enough without wasting it on people whose company we endure rather than enjoy. Friends are the people who enhance our lives, not the people who diminish them.
-Lolie, a wise metafilter user

To be blunt: screw the b*tch. A wedding is supposed to be fun and exciting, and the thought of her being there is creating dread for you. Do whatever you have to do to feel better, up to and including convincing your friend to uninvite her. To spend even one second talking to her is to be putting her welfare above yours, which neither of you deserve.
posted by dualityofmind at 5:42 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

And to that end, it's not too difficult to ditch someone "for good," without being awful about it:

"I'd love to stay here and talk to you...but I'm not going to," and then walk away. The other person really doesn't have anywhere to go with that.
posted by Brak at 5:55 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Whatever you decide to do actions-wise, don't worry about what she might say; everyone either already knows she's crazy, or will soon figure it out. There's no need for you to make sure anyone knows, or worry about your reputation. Go to the event, have fun, and excuse yourself every time she tries to talk to you. If she does confront you to ask why you keep excusing yourself (which, let's face it, she likely won't do), there's nothing wrong with being point-blank: "Lily, if I'm being honest, there are a lot of people at this party I want to spend time with, and things I want to do to have fun. It's nice to see you, it really is, but I'm mingling, and you should do the same."
posted by davejay at 6:01 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Understand that most women (and some men) cannot abide the idea of ending a friendship. It's so far from the standard permissible vocabulary of women that they'll do anything to avoid it.* Usually women feel it's their job to fix all relationships with other women, so guess which "friendships" they wind up spending the most attention on? The friendships which are easy and enjoyable get the least attention while the truly crappy onese get loads.

If this woman starts to bug you at the wedding, say: "Well, I'm glad I got to see you (polite lie). I have a lot of people to see." Then turn and walk away. Nothing. More. You'll probably be shaking with anxiety so walk away fast. Then never make eye contact with her again or check to see what she's up to.

*True story: My friend once taught her 4th grade class the Oscar Wilde story "The Devoted Friend." One character, the Miller, insists that little Hans is his devoted friend and, as such, owes him a lot of menial service. He winds up literally working poor little Hans to death then complains at little Hans' funeral ... just a vile character, this Miller. My friend asked her students: "Why can't Hans just tell the Miller to leave him alone?" The girls in the class were horrified: He should try to tell the Miller how he ought to change, maybe draw some boundaries and work it out with him! It was almost impossible for them to conceive of one person telling another that they are not friends anymore. This explains a lot of the pain girls go through in school.
posted by argybarg at 9:35 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Wow, argybarg - that is incredibly fascinating. I've heard before of elementary school kid experiments on the difference in male/female reactions to things. Something about a guy needing medicine for his wife but can't afford. Boys nearly always said he should steal it. Girls nearly always said he should try to talk to the pharmacist and that the pharmacist would understand and help him out.

Weird. I thought I had been pretty clear to her that I didn't want to be friends but I guess she felt she needed to "salvage" something. It was really hard to just walk away after all of the trying on my side.

Thanks too for pointing out that's it's ok to politely lie. I really didn't want to say this sort thing since it's not true.

She's also a personal space invader and I'm kinda worried about that but I've seen all those threads on here :-)
posted by sio42 at 10:40 AM on August 18, 2009

I would additionally bring this question to your friend, Susan. She has sent a really mixed signal, by not contacting Lily (not outright ending the friendship, but just not talking to her) and now inviting her to the wedding. It is reasonable that Lily would think this is a true invitation to join others in celebrating Susan's marriage, not fulfilling a "social obligation" with a hope that Lily will RSVP with a "no" or have the common sense to speak to nobody there (since she knows only 2 people, who do not want to talk with her).

Inviting people with the hope that they will either not show up, or show up to be shunned, is a pretty catty move. I'd ask Susan how she would like you to handle it, since she's the one that set up the conundrum.
posted by Houstonian at 12:36 PM on August 18, 2009

And you know, this might turn out to have all been wasted worry anyway. If Lily hasn't RSVPed, it could be because she has no intention of attending (some people just don't have manners).

I had a similar kind of situation as you when my sister was planning the guest list for her wedding. She'd invited a person who used to be a mutual friend of ours out of a sense of obligation. We'd been mostly out of touch this gal on purpose because this she was a little too high maintenance for either of us and had a history of testing the limits of our patience and our friendship. I lobbied against inviting her; my sister thought it was worth any potential drama to offer her this olive branch. I stepped back because it was my sister's wedding, not mine.

Long story short, after much agitation and imagined nightmare scenarios in my head, she plain old flaked on the whole wedding. (There's WAY more to it than that, as it always is with this sort of person...but that's basically the gist of it.) Lots of worry about nothing.

So....you could also be as lucky. Keep that in mind.
posted by contessa at 2:44 PM on August 18, 2009

update after the event:

she showed up and sat at the same table with the bride to be and myself and some other younger folks. which is fine. i had to interact with her more than i would have liked to, but it was ok.

she was her usual shrill, overbearing, outspoken, self-centered self. only this time, i made a concious, almost physical effort to not intervene. i discovered that i had attempted for years to mediate her behavior by interrupting her to let others finish, by drawing people in to the conversation when she dominated, by trying to downplay her "pronouncements".

it was exhausting to not do all this, but made me realize why i'm not her friend anymore. because it's exhausting to be her friend. it was really hard to NOT to do those things anymore because i know that underneath it she's a good person.

she does have a lot great qualities as human being and can be very thoughtful but very often, interacting with her is like being hit with a brick. thankfully she left earlier than others due to not having a baby sitter for as long as she needed.

i realized it was very hard to see the distinction between being "mean" and just choosing to not interact with her the way i would with a friend. but i think i was able to do it. susan said she was very proud of me for the way i handled msyelf and we all commented that lily was obviously trying very hard to be "behaved".

thanks again everyone for giving me encouragement and sharing anecdotes. (i have to say again, the story about the girls and their reaction to the Little Hans was a real eye opener into what i was feeling. )
posted by sio42 at 11:55 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

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