Maybe you are that friend – or perhaps I should say “acquaintance”.
I’m going to call this person Lee-Anne and refer to her as a she. However, Lee-anne could be either male or female because her type may be instantly recognisable.
Lee-anne is the kind of person who looks fabulous on paper. Her CV is shiny and clever. She always gets an interview and often gets the job. All the jobs. Because, let’s face it, she has had quite a few and so it pays to leave the majority of them off the resume. Lee-anne is charming and funny. She dresses nicely, is reasonably attractive and presents well. She is obviously very capable and likely to fit in.
A week or so into her new role, Lee-anne calls in sick. She has two sick days in a row. Ah well, it’s bad luck. It could happen to anyone. A week or so later, the same thing happens. Often she walks in late, full of apologies and with embellished, yet reasonable explanations. Over the next few months, Lee-anne’s attendance and behaviour becomes more and more erratic and unreliable. She seems unable to manage or complete her tasks. Other people are making her cranky. She begins to have issues with her colleagues and takes these complaints to her boss who by now is having serious doubts about her appointment. Eventually (thankfully), having created a bit of workplace unrest that will take a while to settle down, Lee-anne resigns only to begin the whole process all over again.
I have met and know of a few Lee-annes – both the male and female version. When they are in my circle, I feel terrible for people who get involved romantically with them, because I can predict exactly how things are going to roll out (and it’s not much different from the account above). I now realise that the inability to show up regularly without dramatics and/or to live life as a committed, healthy, fully-functioning adult has often been due (but not limited) to some kind of addictive behavioural tendency; for example, adrenaline, gambling, internet porn, sex, alcohol, drugs, (inc. prescription meds and pot).
I met this particular Lee-anne about 20 ago when I was going through a divorce and needed a flatmate. We worked together and she moved in to my spare room. As flatties go, she wasn’t the worst in the world because she liked to drink and take drugs and so was out quite a lot. But she was also quite confrontational which meant either putting up with her inconsiderate behaviour, or, feeling as if you should apologise when she turned things around on you! But this was Lee-anne all over. If she’d had friends over and left a pile of washing up including pots, pans and plates and other greasy mess and then disappeared for the weekend without cleaning it up, well, how very dare you upset her by sending a terse message to let her know that you are Not Happy Jan! “You ruined my whole weekend”, she would whine. “Seriously, YOU really upset ME”.
Poor fecking me
Because it is all about me. (Oh, sorry, was that bit not in my CV?)
Anyhoo, time rolled on as it does and I met my current partner which meant Lee-anne moved out and he moved in. We had a baby and moved away from the city but kept in touch. Every now and then I would head back to visit friends but generally, when we arranged to meet up, she would message me while I was waiting for her to say she couldn’t make it now because she had some kind of illness or pain or her house was on fire or something along those lines.
A year or so before I had my second son, Lee-anne had her first child, a little girl. She’d ended up in a relationship with a good friend of hers; a man who had more or less left his wife when things with Lee-anne started to evolve. This friend was reasonably established; he had his own unit, a great job and all was looking good.
For a little while anyway.
*Jack wasn’t allowed much say as a parent (he had no idea apparently) and, by now, it was clear that Lee-anne expected a partner to pre-empt and act upon her needs at all times, as well as consistently predict the way she might be feeling at each moment. Nobody is perfect of course; there were financial and other issues supposedly, and she eventually left him and moved to Qld to be closer to her parents. Shortly after, he sold his flat after being made redundant from work. He followed Lee-anne to Qld – obviously hoping he might be allowed to spend some time with his daughter. You may be wondering why Jack wouldn’t fight for his right to see his child, but Jack wasn’t really the fighting type. I am guessing he found his opponent quite formidable and by this stage, probably considered himself to be quite worthless.
As for us, she was still a friend who now lived interstate. We didn’t see or speak to each other very often, and so, at that time I supported her version of events. I knew she wasn’t exactly a chilled-out warm spring Sunday arvo walk in the park, but I was loyal because I barely knew him and only had her word for what had happened. Suddenly she was the one making more effort to visit me and always the one who called. It’s hard sometimes to keep in touch once you have a family and move away, so this kind of stuff I do appreciate and value in people.
By now, she was Mum of the Year and nobody loved their child as much as she loved hers (yes, she actually told me that parents who had a tough time were obviously not as in love with their child as she was….!). As a co-dependent, obsessive mother, she was still the same self-centred Lee-anne who thought nothing of plonking her one-year old on your nice clean rug to squish a cheese stick between her fingers. She once tore strips off me because I dared to give my new baby a drop of Panadol. He hadn’t wanted to eat all day and I was in agony because my boobs felt like they were about to fall off. It was out of character and I thought maybe he had a sore throat. But no, actually I was a terrible mother who was medicating her child for my own benefit!
Apart from this typical stuff though, and aside from the fact she was always moving house, she did seem to be much more reliable and together in her head. I didn’t see her drink anymore; she was just more-or-less your average, sensible mum with a challenging side. For a while I forgot all about the capricious acquaintance she used to be.
Lee-anne was always coming to visit me. Did I mention that? One day I just felt guilty and thought I should make the effort to go and visit for a long weekend. I needed a break from the kids and from my house. I had been working hard and looked forward to a relaxing weekend. It didn’t matter that Rachel was going to be around because she wasn’t my child or my responsibility. I also had an old school friend from the UK living in Brisbane and was also hoping to catch up with him.
Lee-anne picked me up from the airport with Rachel in the car. It was Friday eve. We said our hellos all around and then started chatting and catching up. I was quickly told that I really needed to include four-year old Rachel in the conversation so she didn’t feel left out. She wasn’t used to “Other People”.
When we got back to Lee-anne’s little place, I unpacked and plonked myself on the couch while she had a shower. Rachel began smashing me with cushions and pillows. It was a hilarious game. For about five minutes. Then, I was a bit over it to be honest. Can we stop now? Another five minutes of being smashed and bashed and Lee-anne came out the shower. She too thought it was hilarious. A great game! Rachel was just So Funny! Had I noticed? She was also Amazing! Wonderful! And Smart. Finally she got bored and I picked up a magazine and started to read. But I was quickly told off. Why was I reading a magazine? Why wasn’t I playing with Rachel? I mumbled that I was a bit tired because I’d had some big weeks and Oli still wasn’t sleeping very well . “Oh really!” she exclaimed, :”YOU’RE tired?”. “Oh poor YOU, you should try being ME. I’m a single mum. You have no idea! Please don’t tell me that YOU’RE tired”.
Well I was here for three days so I just had to let it go. Rachel had her dinner in front of the TV and we sorted something out for us. The rest of the evening passed without incident. We talked about how we might arrange to meet up with my school friend at some stage and Lee-anne had also arranged for a girl we’d both worked with before to pop over with her kids the next day for lunch.
I don’t have girls, I have boys, but I do know that lots of little girls like to change their outfits twenty times a day. In the morning, Rachel couldn’t make up her mind what she wanted o wear. It was like a comedy skit; Lee-anne would hold up something and say “this one?” with a please-say-yes look on her face only to be told no. It went on and on until Rachel got cranky. She hid behind the curtain and her voice changed to a whine.
“Oh my goodness”, I said in my best mummy-to-little-person voice. “I can never understand what C and O are saying when they speak like that!”
Well, that was it! Game over. I was very angrily pulled up by Lee-anne and told that I was NOT to speak to Rachel like that; I needed to be sensitive. She was four and didn’t know me. She wasn’t used to Other People. I had no right to say such things to her. I should apologise. Right now. Please.
It’s not often that I go silent, but this was definitely one of those times where I didn’t know what to do or what had happened. I walked out of Rachel’s bedroom with my heart pounding. I was by now completely freaked out about having to be there for the next two days, but knew I had no choice but to make the best of it. I told Lee-anne it was a meaningless and normal exchange between an adult and child and I certainly was not going to apologise. In fact, I was going to have a shower. She didn’t let up, but I told her we would have to agree to disagree since I absolutely was not going to talk about it.
Our friend came with her three kids and I made soup for us all for lunch. I noticed that Lee-anne was now drinking again. Midday was obviously wine O’clock.
Later, Rachel had her own dinner again and we discussed getting some Chinese takeaway which I said I would shout. Lee-anne told me she was worried about Rachel’s appetite because her father (Jack) was obese. Rachel quite obviously liked to eat and Lee-anne was very conscious of having to limit her intake. Not surprisingly, and no doubt because of the way Lee-anne had carried on to me in front of her, Rachel refused to stay with me while Lee-anne went to pick up the food. I also discovered she refused ever to stay with her Grandparents without Lee-anne there.
When she got back, Rachel wanted some of our food which we were planning to eat once she had gone to bed. Despite what we had been talking about earlier, Lee-anne removed the lids from some of our dishes and gave her a fork so she could ho in. Lee-anne’s beaming face indicated that her daughter was so incredible that this was not an issue at all, but once again, our opinion differed. I could only watch and grimace inwardly as someone else’s snotty, phlegmy four-year old dribbled and double-dipped their cutlery and spillage into my dinner.
Finally Rachel went to bed and we settled down to eat and watch a movie. All was going well until Lee-anne started up again. There’d been a few more wines by now.
“Nik”, she said, ” I really do think that you need to think about what you said and apologise for what happened before. I just want an apology”.
“You know what, Leanne, I can’t believe you’ve started this up again. We’ve had this conversation. I actually don’t agree with you and so I am not going to apologise, but, I’ll tell you what, I’ll head off to see Steve first thing tomorrow morning and we can just leave it at that, Ok?”
“No, it is not Okay! You need to apologise for what you said! She is only four years old. When my other friends come and visit, they get down on the floor and play with her. You haven’t played with her once. You haven’t spent any time with her!”
“I’m sorry Leanne, but I am not that kind of a person. I’m actually not even that kind of a mum. My kids and I go out and we do lots of things together but I don’t play on the floor with them and I certainly didn’t leave them at home so I could come and play with yours. She is very sweet but she is YOUR princess, not mine. You and I are not related, we are not sisters, we are friends and I came to see you. That is all”.
“Well, I find that VERY sad, that you do not play with your children…. yadda blah, you are this, that and the other…..”
…..And plenty of other stuff along those lines. I do believe that at one point I offered the opinion that having only one child should totally be against THE FECKING LAW!!
Seething, I left the scene, went to my room and packed up my stuff. It was pretty late anyway, so I hopped into the bed and willed the morning to come. Five minutes later there she was. She switched the light on and started again (this was familiar I might add because my mum had been married to an alcoholic at one stage). She left and came back, left and came back and eventually, I stopped being polite and fairly reasonable and lost my shit. I gave her as nasty as she was giving me and was very truthful. I told her she was was a serious alcoholic and substance abuser. She always had been but had obviously been on the wagon for a while. Now that Rachel wasn’t a baby anymore, she was quite obviously slipping back into her old, shitty ways.
You can’t argue with a drunk though and in the end, she grabbed all my stuff and threw it and me outside on the front lawn. And then she shut the front door and locked it.
I changed quickly into clothes and wondered what to do. It was 1am. I knew I needed to get a cab from somewhere and quite possibly go to a hotel. This was before proper smart devices but I checked my phone and noticed that my friend, Steve, had recently posted on Facebook. I called him and he didn’t answer so I started to walk towards the five-lane highway – to me, the epitome of what makes Queensland Queensland! Yep, there I was, in the middle of the night, in the middle of God Knows where, waiting for at taxi to take me 40km or so into Brisbane. Thankfully, there were plenty of cabs and on the way, Steve called back.
“What’s up babe? Did you call me?”
I gave him the very short version and he told me that I was not to go to a hotel but should immediately get to a point in the city and meet him and then we’d go back to his place. It was such a relief, I can’t tell you….
I hadn’t seen Steve for about 15 years and after giving me a massive hug, he grinned and put his hand up to stop me speaking. “Don’t say anything yet; the Missus is up and she’s dying to know what happened!”
All I can tell you was that after the last couple of days, hanging out with Steve and K was light and easy and normal and funny. I finally relaxed and exhaled. I realised I had been treading on eggshells so as not to get in trouble for something or other ever since I’d been picked me up at the airport. It was only now I was away from Lee-anne that I realised how aggressive and toxic she was and how awful the past day or so had been.
I didn’t hear from her so she obviously wasn’t worried if I was safe or not. When I got home, I deleted her from Facey and then blocked her number from my phone. A few weeks later I was gobsmacked when she included me in a smiley catch-up email with photos of Rachel. I reported it as spam.
I haven’t seen her since, although she has tried to get in touch once or twice as well as try to friend me again on Facebook. I blocked her. I also discovered that there had been plenty of weird incidents with other mutual acquaintances, including something quite similar. In that case, Lee-anne had been the one staying over. However, she verbally abused and attacked this friend in the middle of the street after a night out and was consequently abandoned right where it happened. It was the end of that friendship too.
Obviously she has survived. Lee-annes often do because they rarely establish long-term connections and are used to moving on quickly. Their initial charm means they will always land on their feet and find new friendships plus an enabler or two. People who may not realise until it’s too late that the relationship is unhealthy, one-sided and potentially abusive.
In this case, I do hope it won’t end up being her daughter.