DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: A few years ago, I was at an extremely low point in my life. I’m a special education teacher in an elementary school (which is a great but emotionally draining job even at the best of times), and was dealing with the mess of making CPS reports regarding a couple of the children as well as training to support a student’s emerging medical issues while running a severely understaffed classroom. In addition, I was spending a lot of personal time watching a neighbor’s kids while she and her husband filed protective orders against the kids’ old babysitter, and the support those kids needed took an emotional toll as well. In addition, I was being stalked by a neighbor, as well as a man from church, both of whom I’d caught looking through my bedroom window on occasion and both of whom had been following me and making a lot of unwelcome, pushy advances. It was a stressful time.
One of my close friends, K, who knew everything that was going on, asked whether there was anything he could do for me. My school was starting Spring Break, and I asked if he would come hang out with me some time during the week. I have epilepsy and can’t drive, and since my neighbor had been following me when I went walking, I’d been avoiding going out and felt a little cut off from my friends. K agreed, cheerfully I thought, and told me he’d see me in a couple of days.
When the day we’d planned to hang out came, he sent a text to reschedule. On the day he rescheduled, he never showed. I called and sent a couple of texts, but he didn’t answer until the next afternoon, when he told me he’d been “dealing with stuff.”
I know people get busy. I’m not the only one who gets stressed! So I let it go. We stayed fairly friendly, although my physical and mental health were going downhill and I was a little less available. We still made time to talk once in a while and occasionally saw each other at the grocery store or the gym. We weren’t as close, but it was all good.
Then one night after a mutual friend’s birthday party, K casually mentioned that week and how he felt bad about flaking, but he had met a hot girl at the bar and “had to see how that would play out.” Apparently he’d sent her a few texts over the week, and had spent most of the week at home playing Xbox and waiting for her to reply (she never did).
Maybe it’s petty of me, but I was mad. That seems like a frivolous reason to blow off a friend under any circumstances, and I really needed some support at that time! I didn’t want to be needlessly dramatic, though, so I just said that I’d been pretty disappointed when he didn’t show up that night, and then ended the conversation quickly and headed home. After that, I’ve nearly stopped speaking to K. I’m polite when we see each other, but I make no effort to see or contact him and end our conversations as quickly as I can without being rude.
That last talk was two years ago, and I’m now totally indifferent both to what happened and to him. Since that night I’ve gotten more help in the classroom, moved to a safer area (those kids I was babysitting have really flourished in family counseling, by the way) and met and married my husband. Life is good. I am safe and happy.
Which is why it pissed me off to no end to hear that K is griping to people that my husband forced me to stop being friends with him. He claims my husband is too insecure to let me make my own choices. He’s hinted at possible abuse.
I don’t understand why he’s doing this. Maybe I was wrong to ask him to visit me, or wrong to be upset when he brushed me off cavalierly, but neither of those things are my husband’s fault! I know K doesn’t like the fact that my husband wears drag occasionally, but that doesn’t seem like something to make up abuse allegations over either. And the allegations are completely bogus. My husband is happy to spend time with my friends—but only the ones that I want to see.
So what gives? And what should I do?
Triflin’ Friend Indeed
DEAR TRIFLIN’ FRIEND INDEED: First of all, TFI, congratulations on getting help, helping those kids and getting to the point where you’re safe and happy. That’s huge!
Now let’s talk about K.
What gives is that K doesn’t seem to have ever had a moment of self-awareness in his life. Or, for that matter, that people don’t exist merely at his convenience. Ultimately, K doesn’t realize that he did anything wrong or why this might piss you off. And you have VERY good reasons to be annoyed at K, TFI.
The issue isn’t even the flaking, though that in and of itself is pretty selfish. The dude volunteered – offered, even – to help you at a time when you were in need and your safety was quite possibly in question. This isn’t quite “forgot he promised to give you a ride to the airport and now you’ve missed your flight” levels of “what the hell, dude” but his leaving you high and dry – AFTER rescheduling – is pretty awful of him.
It’d be one thing if his “dealing with stuff” was legit. Maybe there was a medical issue, maybe he was having a migraine, his brother was having a meltdown and he had to help… all of that would be understandable. It still sucked for you to be left high and dry, but s
t happens and the gods laugh at the arrogance of man making plans for the future. But the fact that he blew you off – not “wasn’t able to make it”, not “had responsibilities that superseded his promise”, blew you off – to wait with sandwiches by the phone for the POSSIBILITY of a text that tells you what you need to know about this dude.
(I mean, seriously: he’s waiting on a text. Unless you live in a cellular deadzone, dude could’ve received a text at your place as easily as his.)
But hey, we all make decisions. Nobody said they were good decisions. Decisions have consequences though, and his consequences include “F
k this guy and the mustache he rode in on”.
K seems to be the sort of person who is blithely unaware that other people might not see things his way, so when he deals with the fallout of his choices, he decides they can’t possibly be his fault. And since it can’t possibly be that you’d begrudge his right to try to bank-shot a hook-up with someone from the bar, it must be someone else’s fault. And the fact that his interpretation of events makes him the potential hero – the guy so cool and awesome that the jealous abusive husband must lock his wife away in a tower lest she be tempted by his manly vigor – well… that’s just gravy, innit?
What should you do? Well, honestly, unless these rumors are gaining traction somehow, I’d suggest just rolling your eyes at ’em and go about your life. But if he’s bringing it up to mutual friends of yours, airing them publicly on social media or otherwise causing people to side-eye your husband? That’s when it might be worth putting him on blast and dragging him for all to see.
It probably won’t change the narrative in K’s mind; it’s too easy for him to just decide that your husband “forced” you to say that. But at least it’ll put the truth out there, so everyone else’ll see what a s
tbird K’s being.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)