IS SHE REALLY MY FRIEND?

by Ann

I met her in an art gallery, years ago, to discover we’re from the same town. We went to upper-class rival schools and belonged to the same country club. I was the serious, ballet, student type. She a social club, smoker, drinker, hangs with the ‘cool’ kids type.  So, back then, our paths never crossed. 

 

She was overly thin with long, blond hair and wore jeans with lots of jewelry in an effort to show her ‘wealth’. I only noticed her because she flaunted what she was buying. At first glance, I thought she appeared phony. A couple of pieces of good jewelry are all a ‘real’ lady wears. But, we liked the same art and began a friendship on the commonalities of being from the same city and now living here.

 

She’s divorcing a doctor and dating a man that she eventually marries. She has two children and he has many. His divorce and bad business deals, once wealthy, leaves him, bankrupt. She has a couple of million from her divorce. I’m newly married living in a large house in a posh area.

 

We lunch, shop, talk about life, money, and men. Discovering my husband is controlling and abusive, I divorce.

My friend, her husband, and I attend black tie and social events together. They become a part of my comfort that a good relationship is possible in my future. He like a brother to me with a blond on one arm and a brunette on the other. They smoke and drink lots.  I’ve never smoked and only occasionally drink wine or champagne. I spend holidays with them enjoying what I ‘think’ is a contented family. She begins to over indulge in food and liquor. I work out, and take classes to focus on myself and try to understand why my life isn’t going as I planned, which is to be in a healthy, fulfilled relationship.

While I pinch pennies, she flaunts her husband’s success as she shops and puts on pounds. Then one night under the influence of a bottle of wine, she complains about how he’s going through her money and the many issues with his children and his ex. The mother of his kids is apparently crazy and the kids are of that lineage. Meanwhile, I date many, but as soon, as I see some dysfunction, I bolt. 
 

One hot summer evening, my doorbell rings. It’s my friend’s husband who just happens to be in my area, while she is out of town.  He’s been drinking and wants to take a swim. Outside, in the dark, I sit by the pool averting my eyes as he peels off his clothing and swims nude. “Hey, take a swim with me?”, he insists.
“No thanks.” I uncomfortably respond.

 

He swims to the side of the pool places his arms on the edge. “I bet you’re a good kisser?”

‘What?’ I think, but say stunned. “Um, I guess, I can be. It’s been awhile.”

He goes on. “You’re great looking. I’m really attracted to you.”

I answer dumb founded. “Thanks but…”

 

He then jumps out of the pool, wraps a towel around his waist, and pounces spider-like quickly, to kiss my cheek then my neck. I freeze in disbelief, with the certain knowing, that this man has done this before and probably allot.  He sits beside me kissing my neck. “You are beautiful and God, your body is so great.”

I jump up and push him away. “What about Maggie?” I walk into my house. “Please, leave!” He follows.  “Yes, okay.” He exits to a bathroom. Walks out dressed then quickly down the hallway to the front door, it closes. I take a deep breath and begin to cry.

 

As life goes on, Maggie alternately brags about his successes, how they’re soul mates then complains about his drinking, taking care of his children, and money woes. I listen, but say nothing in my knowing.  She gains more weight.

I keep fit, date, am a bit lonely, but hold true to myself and what I want, which is to heal so that I will recognize dysfunction and attract a healthy relationship. She’s always late when we meet. I call her. She doesn’t answer the phone or call me back. Then suddenly, she resurfaces. We lunch. She stuffs food into her swollen body and shops buying everything in sight. I eat lightly and don’t waste my money.

 

Then one day, she’s late for lunch and no apology. She overeats, saying. “I’ve got to get this weight off. I also want to get my eyes done, but no money to do it.” We ride to a discount shop in her car that smells of cigarette smoke. “Smoking, is aging Maggie.  Stop smoking and maybe, you won’t worry about your eyes.” She laughs arrogantly. “All the really wealthy, international people smoke. Maybe, that’s why you weren’t in with the popular, wealthy kids in high school.” Now, I’ve had it, so respond. “Smoking is disgusting and has nothing to do with wealth or class and who cares about high school. We’re middle-aged.” She slams back, “Well, all the international people smoke.”

 

I am feeling total disgust as I look over at her. This woman is married to a man who’s gone through all her money. So now, she’s dependant on him. They live on credit cards. She takes care of his kids and talks about them all the time. I guess to prove to herself her value. If she is talking about and caring for kids, she will have less time to worry about  herself and what she has gotten herself in. She’s more overweight and with more wrinkles appearing, each time, I see her, add to that a double chin. All this on a woman, who spends hours putting on make-up and frets about her appearance and who wears what and who buys what and who’s who and on and on.

Had I been of low morals, her husband would have had an affair with me. I chuckle to myself. And now, this woman is trying to put me down for not smoking. My family is one of the most successful in the town that we once lived in and hers? Well, she likes to pretend that she is from great wealth or some such. And she didn’t even know me in high school. So, what she is saying about me is her fantasy.

 

As we shop, I watch, as she scours the bargains, hungrily filling her basket with faux jewels that she doesn’t need, because she has real ones from her grandmother. Or are they real?

 

On this day, I see my friend with fresh eyes, or are they the same eyes, that were accurate, when I first saw her and thought her phoney? She’s everything, I’m not, and would never want to be. Who she is, shows me, all that I am. I like me. I don’t like being with her, don’t like me when I am with her and have nothing more to say.

 

Back in the car, she blabs “Men don’t look at a middle-aged women.”

“Really, I date all the time and men at aerobics,  younger than me, come onto to me.”

“Well, they’re not really after you.”

“Oh then, what are they after?” (Might this be projection on her part?)
 

Here this woman who went from one marriage to another, has never been alone or dated or … and she puts me down for taking care of myself and not settling. Then in the next breath states because of my age that no man is interested.

 

In her pouting silence, I think to myself, ‘Goodbye, ‘friend’, I’ll leave you to the international, wealthy smokers. I’m tired of your smokecreen!’

 

Can anyone relate – keeping a friend too long that tries to make you feel bad about yourself? Then you wake-up and realize…

 

  

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