How to Gently Burn Bridges With Your Family's Awful Friends


Welcome to Friendzone, Jezebel’s column devoted to dealing with the valuable people in your life who you’re not humping. Got an issue and looking for guidance? Email [email protected].

I have recently realized that I need to terminate a friendship. What makes it complicated is that this person isn’t just a friend, but a close friend of the family who is my mother’s age. Over the years, she has morphed into a fundamentalist/tea partier/birther. She’ll make racist comments knowing that it upsets me, and she’ll only comment on social media to tell me that I’m “EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG WITH AMERICA.” When I get irritated and tell her to knock it off, she says, “I just want to be a part of your life.” She doesn’t “like” good news or comment on innocuous posts. She only comments on things to tell me that “abortion is murder” or to “stop being a feminist.” I realize now that our relationship has always been unhealthy – she used to criticize me for gaining weight, and it would trigger a relapse of my eating disorder. How do I burn this bridge as painlessly as possible?

If this were a Flannery O’Connor short story, she would die of a heart attack on a city bus or get shot in the woods by a psycho killer after her family eats it, and we would all feel vaguely unsettled and strangely moved. But since this is Real Life, she will most likely just go on being racist and dumb until she dies of old age, probably cared for in her final days by the people she so despises (brown folks, immigrants, etc.).

Here are two plans for getting her assholery out of your life.

Plan A: Since she’s so fond of communication via social media, I suggest you unfriend her and block her on Facebook and then email her about it. Here’s a sample of what you might send her.

Dear Dottie:
I’ve chosen to block you on Facebook, and I want you to know why. Over the years, you’ve proven yourself to be a false “friend” to me. You used to make comments about my weight [feel free to add verbatim quotes here] that really hurt me, triggering a relapse of an eating disorder. You seem almost obsessed with making hateful racist comments in my presence. And your behavior on my Facebook page is embarrassing, to say the least [you might want to cite specific instances here]. You never make an effort to celebrate my good times; you’re only interested in making negative, hurtful comments. Then you hide behind the idea that you’re just stating your opinion. I’m fed up with your rude, uncaring behavior. I have tried to be a good friend to you, but you haven’t been one in return. I will always care about you, but I can no longer consider you a true friend.
– Jen

If you want to really go for it, quote a Bible verse and tell her that her nastiness makes you question her commitment to a life in Christ. The results will be hilarious. Then tell your family members about the letter, and explain that you’d like to limit your contact with this person as much as possible. You’ll probably still run into her at weddings and funerals and stuff, but you can always sit far away from her and just nod politely to acknowledge her presence.

Plan B: As an alternative, you might consider writing the letter just for therapeutic reasons and then ripping it up. I do think you should still unfriend her and block her on Facebook, and then tell her, “I think it’s better for our friendship if we don’t stay connected on social media.”

I like to surprise my boyfriend with trips and tickets to cool events. His gestures are more DIY, like breakfast made at home or a picnic in the park. Recently, my friend learned that I helped purchase my boyfriend’s mom’s plane ticket to come visit us. I love his mom and I’m the one right now who can afford it. My friend flipped out and snapped, “You bought that for him? What did he buy for you? You took him to Mexico! Where has he taken you?” I simply said, “I think you and I have different ideas of what happiness is.” She responded with, “WHAT ARE YOU SAYING, THAT I’M MATERIALISTIC?” I wish I had yelled at her. I don’t want to speak to her ever again. Am I overreacting?

My first thought was, “Would this girl have questioned your generosity if you were the man in the situation? Probably not.” I think you responded with class and decency. Look, it’s good that your friend doesn’t want to see a man take advantage of your benevolence. But her prickly attitude was completely unnecessary.

Now, for just a moment, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and try to see her point. What if she had raised these questions in a calm and tactful manner, rather than in such an aggressive fashion? Is there any merit to her concern? Think on it a bit, and if you conclude that your financial relationship with your boyfriend is perfectly alright, I’d advise you to have a little chat with her. Tell her that from now on, you’d prefer that she not make comments about your finances. It isn’t her place to judge how you spend your money. Then send her “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry and tell her to write a five-paragraph, double-spaced essay on the true meaning of love.

My best friend got pregnant to trap a rich man into marrying her. I’m not making this up – she told me, “Ron was on the fence about taking things to the next level, so I stopped taking birth control and got pregnant.” Is that crazy or what? I have no idea how to react. Am I supposed to feign excitement that Ron proposed and that they’re getting married? Am I supposed to tell her that I think her actions are deceitful and disgusting? I can’t listen to her go on about the baby and the wedding and the house in Beverly Hills without feeling totally disgusted.

While this situation would make the basis for a great Edith Wharton short story, it feels rather out of place in Los Angeles in the year 2013. I mean, the guy could’ve just said, “Okay, you’re pregnant. I will provide child support and be a great dad and co-parent. But this doesn’t mean I’m going to marry you.” But I suppose he did what he felt was the “honorable” thing.

The real issue here is not the baby, or the wedding, or the house in Beverly Hills (which is so heinously crowded at rush hour; why would anyone choose to live there? East side all the way! Highland Park represent, am I right, gals?) The issue is that your friend committed an act that you find morally reprehensible.

If your friend’s recent choices gross you out enough to outweigh your love for her, then you need to back away from the friendship and concentrate your energies on other relationships. But if you can accept her for the person she is, try to focus on the good things about her.

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