Thursday, January 14, 2010
Girl Bullies: Part Two
She courted me, although I didn't see that at the time. which of course means that what she did was seduce me. It may come as a surprise to you but I'm a bit of a loner. I mean, I like people and I do have friends, but I tend to keep to myself, lie low, just read a book or something like that when I have spare time. I do love good conversation though. I can sit and yak with someone for hours if we have lots to talk about with each other. This would generally mean an interest in talking about the ways of the world, the things people say and do and what does it all mean, sorting out the meaning of life, solving all the world's problems and stuf like that. My ideal yakking buddy would not be religious-pretty much athiest but open to and interested in all the spiritual possibilities of the meaning of the universe. She would enjoy discussing recipes, home decor, raising children, the social/political aspects of ones work life, the family stories and histories of both of us would be gone over with a fine tooth comb, as the saying goes (I like that one and it is quite archaic now so that makes it even more appealing to me) and we would accompany all this yakking with coffee which might turn to wine if we were at it long enough.
So I first met psycho woman when she moved into my neighbourhood and our sons began to play together. Her son was a nightmare and before I met her I was not that crazy about him. My son liked him however, and I began to suspect that this kid had some Aspbergers tendencies and so approached it from that whole village raising a child thing. My husband couldn't stand the kid because he was always getting up to some mischief and then lying about it. I convinced him that the kid had social deficits and we should be helping him. I think a whole year or more went by during which the kids parents might come and knock on the door to get him when it was time for him to go home, and we always had a nice friendly chat at the door but that was it. I began to sense that they wanted to be friendlier. I have to admit I was somewhat intimidated by them. They were obviously wealthier than we were and had a significantly nicer house. Our plans for renovation were in the works but still a few years away at that point. Psycho woman was obviously older than myself but quite pretty and well dressed. She seemed very confident and I felt quite inferior. I'm pretty sure that it was flattering to realize that she was looking for a friend. I should have wondered why someone so apparently put together needed a friend.
She invited me over for coffee one day and it wasn't long before the courtship became a honeymoon. Of course she did have some friends after all, but the other women she knew weren't in quite the same stage of life as she and I were (I mean with kids the same age) and psycho woman was a stay at home mum, while I was working part time. Our kids were together all of the time, either at her house or mine so it came to be that she and I were together every day too. I learned about her dysfunctional family background and she described to me how it had damaged her sisters and that she was the only sibling who had it together. (I now know that is not true.) She was like a second mother to my son and so I convinced myself that I cared about hers too. We began to drag our husbands into the socializing and summer evening wine drinking, sitting around outside long after dark, became a very enjoyable pattern. We included them in our extended family gatherings such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. We began to talk of taking a trip together.
I'm trying to edit the lengthy details yet still give you the picture of what this friendship looked like. Psycho woman and I were beginning to be inseparable. I didn't see that I was getting somewhat lost in it. As I got to know her better I became aware of her little peccadillos, the quirks that I attributed to her difficult background. I thought I was a good friend. I accepted the quirks-nobody is perfect- and focused on her strengths. It was difficult for me that she spent money on my child. Mostly in little ways but ways that added up quit a bit. Psycho junior was a bit spoiled and every trip to the store seemed to result in a toy or treat of some kind. It wasn't long before the same toy or treat was purchased for my son as well regardless of whether he was with them or not. My son loved this. I felt uncomfortable because I couldn't reciprocate. I wanted to say something about it but I already knew that it was a touchy subject. She didn't like people to view her as wealthy, or feel uncomfortable about it. She didn't like to make a big deal out of gifts and even expressed that she didn't like to be given gifts (except by her husband of course) I couldn't figure out what to do and soon she began getting things for me too. Not really expensive but quite often if she bought something for her house, a fancy candle or a picture frame, she would get me one too.
Sometimes I detected a hint of pride in her tone when she talked to someone else about me-as though I were an adorable little sister. I remember hearing her telling someone that I ate oatmeal and blueberries for breakfast. I hugged her once after one of the summer evening wine events and felt her stiffen. I think she mentioned that she was uncomfortable with touch, but not long after that she took to hugging me and kissing me on the cheek after two glasses of wine. I think you get the picture. We had developed a best friend/sisters sort of relationship. I thought I had found the perfect friendship. I thought she was someone who understood me and I her. We talked about everything, bared our souls and started a book club.
There was a member of the book club whom she didn't like. I made excuses for her but I shouldn't have. He was one of two members who joined the club through me. The other was a dear friend who not only has forgiven me for abandoning her to psycho woman for a couple of years but who did not stay with the book club because she was too uncomfortable. The member PW did not like was our token male. Most members of the club were really interested in exploring spirituality and philosophy. As one woman put it, they wanted to read life changing books and so we were open to non-fiction as well. Our token male was a catholic (converted in adulthood because of his wife) who just wanted to read great fantasy/adventure novels. PW was quite critical of and condescending towards him. While I would agree that he wasn't a good fit because of the religion issue, she tended to give him the cold shoulder and spoke unkindly of him when he was not around. He quit the club.
She had an adult child from an early relationship which she rarely spoke of. He had a wife and two children. Yes, she was a grandmother. There was one photo of her grandchildren on the fridge. In the four years that I knew her she never traveled across the country to visit her son and grandchildren. They visited her once. I was told many stories about how the daughter in law was selfish, immature and lazy and how her mother was even worse. The son, who was her current husband's step son and had been since he was about ten years old, had not made a great success of himself and sometimes asked for money. Without completely becoming estranged they PW and her husband had cut themselves off from this part of their family, essentially taking the attitude that they didn't owe them anything and the in-laws were so awful they just couldn't stand to visit.
Oh my fuckin Gawd (how often do you see me swear?) I don't know why this didn't make me walk away from the woman. What excuses did I make for her? Her grandchildren didn't get love, attention or awesome gifts because she was punishing her son for marrying a fat, lazy, ugly girl. Her second son, with hubby number two who was making god money, was spoiled and pampered. It wasn't fair to ask this successful hubby to give up his hard earned money for the children of ugly fat lazy girl. IF I HAD GRANDCHILDREN I WOULD BE SO IN THEIR LIVES-SO BUYING THEM STUFF, TALKING TO THEM ON THE PHONE VISITING THEM AS OFTEN AS I COULD GET THERE and I don't know how I had any respect for this woman! Blinded totally by her admiration of me!
Well, eventually I made some missteps and saw the true psycho emerge. They had taken our son with them on a week long summer trip and as usual, it was explained that their child was so much happier when mine was around that their lives were actually easier when my son was around. I must mention that while psycho junior was monopolizing my son's time as much as his mother was mine, my son did have other friends and we made sure those friends weren't forgotten. These boys had been with him for a few years before psycho junior and are his best buddies to this day. We took one of them on a camping trip for a few days and it quickly became apparent that PW thought we should have taken her son. Well, I thought, there will be plenty of trips, all the boys can have turns being taken with us, she'll see we haven't forgotten him and she has to realize that these other friends are just as deserving. I thought wrong.
Christmas came and there was the usual issue of needing to arrange a gift for my son to give psycho junior because PJ would be giving him a gift. I want to point out that the boys were around 10 or 11 years old, which in my experience isn't a time that boys are usually thinking about giving gifts to their friends so I have always been suspicious that there was a significant amount of parental involvement here. Christmas was a few days away and PJ was too excited to wait so he gave my son his gift. It was a mug with a sea otter on it and it was filled with candy. Yes, my son has always loved sea otters and of course he loves candy, but he doesn't even drink hot chocolate so a mug was not the most amazing gift to give an 11 year old. I'm not looking the ol gift horse in the mouth here, I'm trying to set up the ridiculousness of PW objecting so intensely to our gift that it ended the friendship.
It was a boxing day tradition (still is actually) to attend a Christmas Pantomime performed each year by a local amateur theatre company. My mother buys the tickets in early December and often has to decide whether or not to buy a ticket for a relative from out of town who may or not be visiting us that year. I suggested she go ahead and get the ticket and if that relative couldn't make it I would buy the ticket from her and we would give it to psycho junior for Christmas. If not, I'd have to figure out something else. There wasn't much this kid didn't already have. I thought it was a good gift because it was including him in a family experience. I really wasn't expecting this relative(my husband's sister) to come so I was feeling pretty certain about the ticket and sure enough I was right.
Because an 11 year old boy doesn't always understand the delicacies of social intercourse, he quite cheerfully explained that since auntie couldn't come we were giving the ticket to psycho junior. That made it sound much more like a second hand gift and offense was greatly taken. Ticket was returned and the door closed in my face.
I guess I am a simple person. I tend to assume that people are easy going, willing to give others the benefit of the doubt, look on the bright side of things and be hones about their feelings, talk about what's bothering them, forgive, forget, generally build a bridge and get over it. Of course I should have know better in the case of PW and hindsight being what it is I can shake my head about it now, but before I even got to a state of shock over her reaction I didn't even notice the reaction. Okay, I did begin to find her behaviour odd. For the month of January she stopped initiating contact with me and when I called her up she brushed me off but it was actually politely done. I knew she was busy with some new projects so I let it go. Eventually it got through my thick head and a few experiences with icy shoulders and did I hear that correctly sort of brief exchanges of unfriendly words lead me decide to check in and find out what was wrong.
I went over and knocked on the door. "Hi. Can I come in? I think we need to talk. Something seems to be wrong."
Psycho woman: "Yes, you're right but now isn't a good time. We'll talk later." Door closed.
A few hours go by and I can't stand it so I phone. "I really can't do it this way. I've got to talk to you."
Psycho Woman: "Well I think that our friendship is over. We can say hi as we pass on the street but that is what it has got to be now."
Me: "What?!!! What do you mean? What happened? I don't understand? Surely we can work this out."
Me: "I don't get it."
PW: "PJ was really hurt by your thoughtless Christmas gift. You have a lot of problems you have to work out and I just can't deal with it any more. Your husband is anti-social and we are always hosting the get together. You drink all of our wine. That night when I had the Saint Nicholas Day party and your husband didn't come. You said he had the flu but I don't believe him because I saw him outside putting up Christmas lights."
Me (thinking) But he did have the flu. He was getting sicker by the minute as he put up those lights but he put them up because you always said how you liked it when they were up in time for your party. Then he crawled into bed and crashed.
"But he was sick; he was looking forward to the party. He's more into Christmas than I am and he loves singing carols, just like you do."
PW: "You have a lot of problems. You need to look inside yourself and figure it out.
Me(thinking) AArrgh...but the whole issue of you guys having more money is just as much your problem. We can't afford all of the wine you drink but you keep coming over to our place, bottles in tow.
PW: "Junior was so hurt by that thoughtless Christmas gift. I had to spend ages comforting him. He didn't understand how you could be so mean."
Me (thinking) He's 10 years old. I doubt that.
"I think you misunderstood and my son also misunderstood about how we got the ticket. Why would you just go with an 11 year old's explanation?"
PW: "Don't send your son over to play anymore. And I won't be sending Junior over to your house. I don't trust you. You aren't a good influence. You aren't safe."
Me (thinking) What the fuck?
I had some odd encounters with her after that during which I attempted to return something of theirs lest she accuse me of having stolen it. I approached as she returned home from grocery shopping and she stood in the garage rather dramatically closing the door like a stage curtain going down on the final scene. I guess I was poking the tiger with a stick but I just couldn't believe it was all happening. I kept thinking that any day I would wake up and find it was all a bad dream. There were a few more angry exchanges as we returned a few borrowed items to each other. She returned a book to me after telling me on the phone that she would put it in my mail box and I should not DARE to open the door and speak to her.
As with the friendship gone awry which I wrote about previously, there were mutual friends and acquaintances involved who insisted they were remaining neutral but in my opinion were shockingly failing to realize what this crazy bitch was doing. She bad mouthed me quite frequently to one woman whom I am fairly certain thought poor fragile PW had been misused by callous if not calculatedly so, me. I found out two years later that she eventually put this woman through a similar and devastating experience as she did me, accusing, criticizing and rejecting her.
I don't want to suggest that I am completely innocent and blameless. I'm human, I'm sure I made mistakes and misjudgments in my interactions with Psycho Woman. I know I did. True friendship has room for that because it is understood that nobody intends to cause any pain. What I have to offer my friends is loyalty, a desire to be honest, a depth of caring that allows them to be human. I might not be great at getting gifts but I do try. I will admit, dear bloggy friends, that I cried over that friendship failure. Cried over the hurtful things she said. Then I became angry. Finally I found it funny. She would stand in her front yard watering her plants, while I was not more than 10 feet away in my own yard and she would completely ignore me. Wow, I thought. She's giving me too much power. I'm so evil she must muster up all of her strength to pretend I am not there.
I reflected on her treatment of the miniature dachsunds she had purchased in the last few months of our friendship. She alternately spoiled them by feeding them cheese and hit them angrily, yelling ridiculously verbose instructions when they misbehaved. It seemed to say quite a bit about her. I stopped mourning the friendship.