Justified anger, or plain paranoia?
October 13, 2006 8:09 AM   Subscribe

[HighschoolDramaFilter] Am I justified in my mistrust of this person who has lived a complete lie and now claims to be reformed, or should I bury the hatchet? Much, much, much

I am in my senior year of high school.

There is a guy whom we shall name Bob. In grade 10, I found out that Bob had a terminal heart illness. Halfway through grade 10, Bob started going out with "Jill", a girl who came to the school at the beginning of grade 10 from across the country.

Fast-forward to grade 11. Bob and Jill's relationship seems to be on the fray, with Jill feeling stifled and Bob overreacting and controlling everything that Jill does. He gets mad if she goes to a party and drinks, and tried to make her promise that she won't every touch alcohol. He gets mad at some of the company she keeps - among others, a pothead. In the meanwhile, his condition is getting worse. From what he told me (and a group of friends) via our little blog circle in November: His doctors gave him six months to live, tops.

So Jill, naturally, is terrified of breaking up with him - not only due to his anger issues, but because Bob seems to have a really unsympathetic family, and because if she does break up with him, the shock might push him over the edge, so to speak. His blog posts are increasingly depressing as the relationship continues to peter off.

Keep in mind that this isn't an unbiased accounting: I get my information from a) Bob himself and b) Jill's best friend, who is also one of my closest friends. Both sides are incredibly skewered, and I don't exactly get the "outsider looking in" objectivity that I would like to have.

Around beginning January, Bob talks to Jill's best friend (Hmm, we'll name her Andrea) around 1 AM and makes a comment that alludes to suicide, before logging off unexpectedly. His cell phone was turned off, and we're led to believe that he left the house to clear his mind. Since Andrea's father committed suicide between the summer of grade 10 and grade 11, this was an extremely sensitive topic, so she freaks out and calls Jill and Bob's then-best-friend, "Sean". I was with her on MSN at the time. Jill ends up driving out with her mom to Bob's neighbourhood to find him, get him back inside, crisis averted. As his parents didn't seem to have noticed, or didn't notice till it was too late, it only reinforced Bob's previous tales of a very cold familial life. And so the blog posts continue.

Two weeks later, there was a volunteer event at school. A large group of us stayed after school. Jill finally ends up breaking up with Bob. He tells me and my boyfriend (a close friend of his) that he's going out for a walk, and doesn't respond to our entreaties for him to come back around 7. Jill leaves for a previous engagement, and Andrea stays with us.

An hour later, he's not back, and we start calling his cellphone. He doesn't pick up. The frantic caling and texting continues for around another 50 minutes, before Andrea receives a voice mail that goes along the lines of "Thanks for everything, it's been good." When we finally do reach him, around another 20 minutes later, he posits that he's on the roof of a five-floor building and seriously contemplating jumping. It's Andrea who reaches him. My BF offers to talk to him, but Bob refuses. His mother came to the school, worried that he wasn't home yet, and we had to explain the situation to her. Andrea stays on the phone arguing with him for another 30-40 minutes, while his father is driving around the city looking for potential places where he could be. Around nine, they do find him, and bring him home. Crisis averted.

Next day, he doesn't come to school. His blog claims he's been checked into a hospital. A follow-up post contained a very long accounting of how much he's hurt everyone, how truly sorry he is - especially to Jill - and how he plans on changing himself into a better person. He returns to school about two days later, completely mopey. He did come and talk to me at one point in time, and maybe it's paranoia, but I did notice that he seemed to be watching my face extremely closely while trying to pretend he wasn't looking at me, almost as if to gauge my reaction.

During this week, it came out that his heart condition is all but made up. He had one heart palpitation about five years ago, and has been fine ever since. He is completely healthy. As a result, Andrea - who'd previously been a friend - and Sean pull away completely, having been hurt thoroughly. My BF sticks with him, because he believes that Bob really has changed, and that further mistrust is unwarranted. As a result of this, Bob, who had been clingy as hell to Sean, suddenly turns around and loudly proclaims how my BF was the true friend after all, never mind that he flatly stated that he didn't want to talk to him, night of the "Incident."

Through March, there is a bit of yo-yo-ing between people. Bob is going to elaborate lengths to try and win his friends back, including being liberal with his money and leaving flowers on Jill's doorstep regularly. He also at one point in time claimed hypnotherapy, but that lasted for all of two days. People are drifting away and back again, but around April and May the loyalties are made clear. Jill, Sean, and Andrea want to have nothing to do with him. My BF is more or less his only friend in his previous circle, and I am, by extension, a friend.

I can't stand being around him. I've talked to my BF about this, because Bob is after all his best friend and I don't want to lie about it. There is, of course, a bit of jealousy mixed in - how well they get along, especially since my BF and I don't have a lot of common interests even though we'll listen to each other talk. But mostly, my problems with Bob stem from the following factors:

1. You don't lie about dying. End of story.
2. The way he manipulated Andrea, using her most vulnerable point.
3. Nothing he does seems genuine, i.e. giving 80$ gifts for no reason at all.
4. People don't tend to change, unless absolutely forced to. He still has friends, therefore he won't change.
5. A lot of the things he does are very openly ploys for attention.

There are other factors which would take even longer to get into, so I'll spare you, but those are the main ones. My boyfriend writes my mistrust off as female second-guessing, to paraphrase, because the people he actively sees shunning Bob - Andrea, Jill, and myself - are all girls, and he does know we tend to overanalyze. I'm civil to Bob - more so than I am to many people, and AFAIK Bob has no idea about my loathing. And though mentally cringing everytime I'm around him, I could've put up with it if it weren't for a few things. Jill has moved on, and no longer cares either way. They speak civilly, even if their paths rarely cross. Andrea still hates him, but is also too tired to care. Sean hates him even more than I do, but he has moved to another city. There still are a few people who think as I do, but they weren't directly involved in the "Incident" and get their info from me or Sean or Andrea, which doesn't bode well.

The fact that Jill, of all people, has moved on, makes me wonder: Is it actually female second-guessing? Am I beating a dead horse in prolonging my complete mistrust? At a time when it seems like everyone is too tired to care anymore, should I follow suit? I could, if I truly wanted to, try to forget about what happened. But it seems like forgetting, and letting my guard down, would be very dangerous things to do. I was in Bob's band for a short while in August, and while I had a lot of fun at the first practice, afterwards I felt completely miserable and ended up backing out. I don't really know what's right and what's wrong anymore, and as this is a sore point between my BF and I, I would like to know that when we do have disagreements over Bob, I can honestly say I'm justified. Otherwise, well. (avoiding him is not really an option, given his friendship with my BF and all...)

Further questions can go to askmefi.2812@gmail.com, thanks!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Be civil with him, because he's friends with your boyfriend, but you don't have to trust him or believe what he says, or even be his friend.

Also, it is inappropriate for your boyfriend to dismiss your feelings as "female second-guessing." That shows a lack of consideration that I personally would not tolerate.
posted by muddgirl at 8:19 AM on October 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Why do you have to be so involved in this drama? This is not your life. Don't get involved in that high school mob mentality (that never dies, btw) where everyone has to hate the guy one person does. Be civil to Bob when you see him, but don't hang out with him. If you don't like your boyfriend's choice of friends, you don't like your boyfriend. Deal with that issue first.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:20 AM on October 13, 2006 [5 favorites]

This is unbelievable. Do exactly what ThePinkSuperhero said. The end. No need for all this typing.
posted by dead_ at 8:26 AM on October 13, 2006

TPS is wise.
posted by muddgirl at 8:30 AM on October 13, 2006

Lordy, no. Being skeptical of this creep is not "female second-guessing," which is dismissive, not-so-useful phrase in the first place. This situation is a case of serious manipulation of other human beings, and you are right to no longer trust him at all. No one should stand for it, and it appears that he will keep doing things like this as long as others let him.

In a similarly manipulative fashion to the story you just outlined, my roommate in college invented "friends from high school" and then claimed that they died in horrible accidents, whenever he suspected that his girlfriend was going to break up with him. It happened three times. We would all marvel at how unbelievably horrible his luck was. We'd have to be really careful around him, because he was "emotionally fragile" as he "grieved." It was only a year later that his girlfriend (ex- by then) went down to town hall and discovered the "friends" didn't exist that we all found out the truth. It still gives me chills that I lived for a year with someone so untrustworthy.

The point being that this case, like the situation you just described, is a high crime of friendship. It is betrayal. Total social isolation until college seems like a small price to pay for what your friend has done.
posted by umbĂș at 8:41 AM on October 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

High school will be over soon and you can grow away from this emo bullshit. Keep your eyes on the prize!
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:42 AM on October 13, 2006

Man, I can't tell you how much I *don't* miss high school. Trust me, in 10 years (or 5, or 3) you will look back and just shake your head at all the unecessary drama.

I had a long winded answer, but on preview I realized I was just duplicating what ThePinkSuperhero said, albeit not nearly as concisely.
posted by cgg at 8:43 AM on October 13, 2006

Step away from the myspace. Go take a walk. Read a good book and have some spiced cider.

In 5 years, or even fewer, that entire tale and it's details and players will be a blip. It's a lot of insignificance for that many paragraphs.
posted by pieoverdone at 8:47 AM on October 13, 2006

Personally, I would write off anyone who lied (or exagerated for sympathetic benefit) about a condition that serious for that long. Personally, I would write off anyone who manipulated the emotions of their supposed friends by playing victim games and employing "cries for help".

I've seen three close friends make the decision to remove themselves from the population via firearm discharge to their brain cavity, so really, that is beyond a sick joke on his behalf. Two of them were in my last year of school, the third was a year later, if you need any context. No cries for help, no mucking around with cell phones, no juvenile instant-message angst filled rants and blog posts. Painting the walls with grey matter, end of story.

Do what you can to remain amicable in his presence due to your boyfriends relationship, but know that you have the justified prerogative to disregard anything he ever says in the future. I'd be very skeptical of my significant other if they completely supported this individual at this juncture (as TPS notes), but that's another issue entirely.

My point is, life is too short, and life is way too short to be jerked around by emotionally stunted people grasping for answers and support in all the wrong ways. You guys are barely out of highschool, and I can gaurantee in a year when you all go your separate ways and more serious things happen in your lives you'll be amazed looking back on this ridiculous fiasco.
posted by prostyle at 8:48 AM on October 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

Why do you and BF have to agree about Bob? Seems more prudent to agree to disagree on this subject. And I don't buy that you can't avoid Bob because of his friendship with BF- if you choose to not respect or trust your own instinct/feelings/emotions then own up to your choice and don't lay the blame on your BF. If you don't want to be around Bob, then don't. Simple as that. BF can respect your choice or take a hike.
posted by LadyBonita at 8:54 AM on October 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

There will be Bobs everywhere you go for the rest of your life. Do not engage them, do not accept roles in their dramas, keep a straight face and deal with them when you must, then move on.

The hard part is that these dramas are really compelling and they make you feel like you're a part of something and it's all very exciting, which is how people get so caught up in them. The charge is like a drug, it's very addictive.

Eventually, as most people grow up and have more life experiences, it stops being all that interesting or worth your time, and the people around you will also stop getting caught up in it. But there will always be a Bob, so adopting a drama-free policy sooner rather than later will buy you back years of your life. Not to be all "in my day I walked barefoot in the snow to talk MY Bob down off a roof" or anything, it's just one of those life lessons that most people eventually learn.

For now, don't badmouth him, don't badmouth your friends who are still being kind of dumb. Just quietly make your decisions about who should be in your inner circle and who shouldn't, and pull away from the ones who aren't giving or taking anything good.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:54 AM on October 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

One of my strongest memories of high school social life was the sense everyone had that frendship was absolute: that someone either was your friend, and so deserved your full trust and loyalty all the time, or wasn't and so deserved nothing at all.

It just ain't so. There are miles and miles of middle ground. You can hang out with this guy and distrust him and be civil to him on days when he's nice enough to merit it and tell him to go fuck himself if he acts like an ass. You can like or even love your boyfriend and dislike his friends and hang out with them anyway sometimes and refuse to other times. It's all possible.

(Another place where you see this sense of all-or-nothing friendship is geek culture. In fact, there's an article on geek social fallacies that you might be interested in. Even if you don't consider yourself a geek, you might recognize some of the points the author makes. All of them would have applied to my high school experience, where I had both geeky and non-geeky friends.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:55 AM on October 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

You're completely justified in not trusting a word that comes out of his mouth or the sincerity of his actions. You're not overreacting.

Confronting Bob would be overreacting. Letting yourself continue to be upset or angry is not worth your time. Let it go and move on, but minimize contact and, as muddgirl suggests, be civil. On preview, what Lyn Never said, too.

If anyone (your boyfriend) wants to know why you don't talk to Bob, just say that he makes you tired. He sounds tiring. Tell your boyfriend that Bob makes me tired, for pete's sake.

I'd love to say that college or a job will cure him of this rabid need to manipulate his friends, but it's likely not true. A friend of mine in college went out with a Bob (who wasn't really a student at neighboring college, despite ID and textbooks. And his parents didn't kick him out. Or abuse him.) I was briefly acquainted with another Bob years later (it's even more pathetic when they're pushing 30 and aren't actually a reformed addict, just a lazy SOB.)
posted by desuetude at 9:05 AM on October 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

Wow, that sounds like a really tough situation you are in. This guy tricked and manipulated you and your friends for a long time. And now, your boyfriend is the only one who hasn't completely shunned him, so you have to hang out with him, too.

I want to say that, even though you are in high school, this kind of manipulation does not just occur in high school. Manipulative and insecure people exist at every age and in many situations. I don't agree with some of the other respondents in dismissing this as just a piece of high school crap you have to deal with.

With all the information you have, all the experience you have with this guy, I think it's a bit inconceivable that your boyfriend dismisses your distrust as female second guessing. I am a firm believer in trusting your instincts, but in this case you don't even have to trust your instincts. There's plenty of facts in this situation! It would be folly not to remember them. I'm not saying that you have to completely ignore this guy. But if you are not comfortable being all buddy buddy with him, don't feel like you have to be. Sometimes the best way to discourage someone from being friendly with you is not to ignore them, but to acknowledge them while maintaining a cold distance. you don't have to chat, you don't have to make plans to hang out. Just a simple, cold hello and a response to questions is sufficient. You are wise to not want to let this guy have the opportunity to manipulate you further.

Now, on to the other point in your statement that to me seems important. You say you and your boyfriend don't have much in common, but are able to talk to each other. But then you say that he dismisses your feelings and encourages you to hang out with people he knows you distrust. I understand that sometimes things might come out differently in writing than you intend, so maybe I'm reading between the lines too much, but it sounds like you are thinking about your relationship with your boyfriend as well. That's okay. If you are feeling like he is dismissive not only of your opinion but of you as well (I've always found the second feeling to follow from the first), then you definitely need to talk to him about it. Tell him not only that Bob makes you uncomfortable, but also that BF is making you feel bad. Or hurt. Or however you feel.

Good luck with this. I hope everything works out.

On preview, what everyone else just said, but I'm going to post anyway. Ha!
posted by mosessis at 9:14 AM on October 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

Bob's about as toxic as powdered Plutonium.

Your instincts are absolutely sound; if you feel like engaging in thankless tasks for the common good, continue to warn people about him as best you can.

But please do be aware that Bob has a great gift for manipulating other human beings, and his ability to see them clearly and know their motives is probably at least a match for yours (or anyone else's, for that matter). This means he is already well aware of your hidden feelings about him, and he will move against you whenever he feels like he has the opportunity and can get away with it, because you are a threat, and I don't think he has any capacity to tolerate threats whatsoever. So try to anticipate what he will do, and try to limit your vulnerability. I think your post shows you to be one of the very few high school seniors who has the intelligence and sophistication to pull that off.
posted by jamjam at 9:28 AM on October 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

Can I just mention that I find it very disturbing that you all thought this guy was about to leap off a roof and, after over an hour of trying to call him on his cellphone, you still hadn't called his parents or the police? I realize it was a bluff, but you didn't know that then. No wonder this Bob goes to great lengths to get attention. I suspect much of his manipulation is just habit because it has worked for him and, sadly, maybe it works on his family as well. And your BF is the guy who always sticks with guys like that out of guilt. The Bobs of this world count on that sort of thing. They are parasites and your BF is Bob's host. The older Bob gets, the more sophisticated his maniupulations will become. It's wise to steer clear of this type of person.

Lyn Never and nubulawindphone are right: there will always be a Bob in your life somewhere. Just learn to recognize them and avoid them if you can.
posted by Lockjaw at 9:32 AM on October 13, 2006

Bob is a manipulative person. High School is full of people that are learning how to manipulate others. The good news is now you can spot them and avoid them for the rest of your life. I have, and have never been happier.

P.S. I have never spoken with anyone from high school since a couple months after graduation. This is probably the best choice I ever made in my young adult life.
posted by mathowie at 9:36 AM on October 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

p.s., you've been meta'd, but for what reason I'm not totally sure.
posted by mosessis at 9:45 AM on October 13, 2006

You are right not to trust Bob. It's unlikely that he has changed, but even if he has, you are under no obligation to be understanding, especially when his behaviour continues to make you uncomfortable. I see the gift thing as extremely manipulative.

Your BF is allowed to have friends you don't like. Be civil to them as long as they are civil to you. You don't have to spend time with them or believe things they tell you.

It concerns me that you say your BF dismisses your concerns because you're a girl. WTF is up with that? You are allowed to be angry about that, or hurt, or however you feel. Even if you are wrong about Bob, your BF has no excuse for treating your opinions as though they're stupid.

I agree with the poster above who said Bob probably knows you don't like him and will be gunning for you. Manipulative people are very good at picking up on subtle body language - they have to be, in order to be good at manipulating people. He is probably aware of your dislike. He might not do anything about it, but he might be threatened by your relationship with your BF or just try to punish you for continuing to distrust him. Be (emotionally) prepared for him to lie to your BF about stuff you do. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do about it until and unless he does something.

It's nice that your BF wants to believe the best about people, but it means he is probably a prime target for Bob's manipulation. If Bob starts pulling the suicide drama again, treat is very seriously - call his parents and the police (which is what you should have done the first time). That way, in the unlikely event that he's seriously contemplating killing himself, you do the right thing, and in the more likely event that he's just playing your BF and his new friends, you bring adults who are trained to deal with this sort of thing into the situation, who are likely to require he get some sort of counselling.
posted by joannemerriam at 10:04 AM on October 13, 2006 [3 favorites]

No, you don't have to deal with Bob. Just be blunt. The thought that you are overthinking things is a valid criticism, given my time in high school, but it doesn't seem to be the case here. Either way, man, Bob and your group of friends are manufacturing drama. Drama takes up time and energy. It's better sometimes to be boring and get shit done than to get caught up in all this crap.
The real secret? It doesn't matter what Bob does. Don't react. He's not your problem. The "boyfriend" who sounds dismissive and that you don't have a lot in common with? You know, you don't have to date him either.
The vast post-high school secret is that you don't have to hang out with these people, you don't have to look for drama, and you can simply live your life. For now, focus on being an over-achiever and drop this bullshit. You'll be happier later.
posted by klangklangston at 10:06 AM on October 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

I cannot believe I just read that entire post. Just ignore Bob but be civil. To thyne own self be true. Don't worry about the other folks. Do what you think is right.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:21 AM on October 13, 2006

Lots of good advice here, but I gotta add (and ref. JohnnyGunn above) you tell a very good tale, anon -- I kept reading all the way too, and I have my own teenagers, I get enough of this at home, as they say. I almost have a hard time believing you are in high school. My advice: screenwriting.
posted by thinkpiece at 11:03 AM on October 13, 2006

Follow the advice and learn to deal with it now as described above. You will deal with people like this all your life. At a previous job, I took over a managerial position for someone whom I thought was a decent enough person. After hearing stories about him, it turns out he was no less manipulative towards his co-workers and bosses that Bob was. And this guy was 37 years old.
Either learn to tune out this drama now, or you will be dealing with it your whole life. Learning to spot it is key though- nobody wants to admit they're being manipulated and thus we often times ignore the fact we are. If you spot a manipulator, don't try to get involved with their personal life. Be civil, but be guarded.
posted by jmd82 at 11:17 AM on October 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone above who says to ignore this guy and don't let your boyfriend's friendship with him bleed into your life.

But I'm also concerned about your boyfriend's dismissal of your feelings. This "female second-guessing" crap is BS. Your mistrust of someone who has lied repeatedly has nothing whatsoever to do with your gender, and your boyfriend is being ass by writing off your feelings as some kind of hysterical female fretting. Do not allow him to minimize your feelings, and especially do not allow him to tell you that your feelings are worth less because you're a woman.

I personally think that Lying Bob and Sexist Boyfriend deserve each other, and that you should dump them both. They're both trying to manipulate you (albeit in different ways), and I don't think you should stand for it. But if you plan to stay with your boyfriend, you should make it clear to him that any attempt to write off your feelings as "female second-guessing" in the future will not be tolerated. Period.
posted by decathecting at 11:41 AM on October 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you haven't read or seen "The Night Listener," you might do so. (And so should your boyfriend!) Being taken in happens to nearly all of us at one time or another.
posted by Carol Anne at 11:42 AM on October 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

The Vine is a great advice column for Drama, for future reference.
posted by goo at 12:40 PM on October 13, 2006

Seconding thirteenkiller:
High school will be over soon and you can grow away from this emo bullshit. Keep your eyes on the prize!

Why do you and BF have to agree about Bob? Seems more prudent to agree to disagree on this subject.

And nebulawindphone:
There are miles and miles of middle ground. You can hang out with this guy and distrust him and be civil to him on days when he's nice enough to merit it and tell him to go fuck himself if he acts like an ass. You can like or even love your boyfriend and dislike his friends and hang out with them anyway sometimes and refuse to other times.
posted by salvia at 1:52 PM on October 13, 2006

I knew someone like this in high school. She had "suicide" attempts and even had a brief period of "amnesia". We dismissed her as a pain in the ass and a drama queeen.

In retrospect, though, I realize that she was a very, very fucked up girl. She'd been seriously abused physically (she had scars I knew she hadn't faked or inflicted on herself) and - given the custody issues she was going through, particularly with respect to her father - I strongly suspect she'd been sexually abused. At the time, though, because she was basically normal, I didn't really make the connection between her home life and her weird behavior.

I wish now I'd had more of an understanding of what was going on with her, so I could have been a little more sympathetic. It wouldn't have made her behavior any less annoying, but I'd like to think I would have handled it better if I'd been able to see her as someone who was damaged instead of someone who was desperate for attention.

Anyway, try to do that with Bob. It sounds like his home life is pretty bad; at best, he's being ignored and he's not getting any kind of guidance on his behavior. He may be abused, or his parents may be fuckups (consider where he's getting his attitude about controlling people, and about drug use), or both. Not to mention that suicide attempts - even fake ones - are signs that he's probably got a lot of bad stuff in his head.

So, keep your guard up, and don't take his behavior personally. The things he is doing have more to do with him than they have to do with you, your boyfriend, or anybody else.
posted by stefanie at 2:44 PM on October 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

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