Monday, August 17, 2009

Those who cling

I've been connecting to lots of old friends in Out-of-Town and it's been quite nice.

Last week, we were invited to a couple's house for Friday night dinner, and imagine my surprise when I saw Jessie there. Who's Jessie? Jessie is a great woman. She's fun. She's funny. She's nice. She's offbeat, interesting, and always great to talk to. I was quite friendly with her a few years ago when I first lived in Out-of-Town, but I had to let our friendship fade and disappear. See, the problem with Jessie is that she never lets go. Never. Lets. Go.

When we invited her for Shabbos meals, she would always stay for at least an hour to two hours after everyone had gone home. At first, I was sort of pleased and flattered that such a nice, funny woman would choose to hang out with me (The Husband always went to take a Shabbos nap) when she could have gone home any time. But it got tedious and old really quickly. I too wanted a nap, or at least to have some facetime with The Husband. But every single time we invited Jessie over, she hung out long after it was time to go home. She was The Guest Who Never Left. Sometimes, if we had her for lunch, she would end up staying for Shalosh-seudos, and then eventually for Havdallah, and then one time even went to the movies with me and The Husband on Saturday night ("I'm such a third wheel! You don't mind, do you?"). Sometimes she would ask me to go out during the week, and occasionally, because she was a fun, likable person, I'd willingly agree. But then she'd come back to the house with me and hang out for hours. Of course, eventually, I would start gently hinting, and she almost always took the bait. Almost always.

Sometimes she'd bring a ridiculously extravagant hostess gift, like the $80 Sharper Image corkscrew I'd mentioned we wanted but would never buy for ourselves, and then I'd feel horribly guilty about hinting that she should leave. She was single (never married), lived far away at the very edge of the eruv, and her kashrut was definitely not up to our standards, so she really couldn't reciprocate and invite us back, and so was always trying to do nice things for us "to pay us back," which we insisted was not necessary, but there she was. She called too often and sometimes at odd hours, and was hard to get off the phone.

Finally, I introduced her to some other friends of mine who had large lively Shabbos tables, and they started inviting her too. As soon as I realized that she had other places to eat on Shabbos, I stopped inviting her, and, I'm a little ashamed to say, stopped returning her calls. I'm not very proud of the way I handed her off.

My friends reported to me that she did the same thing to them in terms of sinking in her tenterhooks and not letting go. It was pretty clear that no matter how great Jessie was, she had some major self-esteem issues. I was willing to bet that this was one of the reasons that she never married, as I find that most guys like clinginess as much as they like garlic breath, and tend to run quickly from both. One of my friends that apparently had taken a real liking to Jessie even decided to get brutally honest with her and talk to her about her slightly obsessive clinginess, and how it turned people off, but Jessie was less than receptive, and told her that people liked to be engaged by other people. Yes, but....

So, it was with mixed feelings that we ran into Jessie last week. As usual, she held up her end of the conversation with wit and humor, and was a pleasure to talk to. She asked me about going out for coffee this week, and (after The Husband delivered a gentle reminder kick under the table,) I politely declined, though she was so engaging and interesting, I was tempted. But coffee with Jessie was practically a long term committment, and I could not afford to fall into that abyss again. We bade her a goodnight and good Shabbos as we left, and she was just settling in on the couch with the newspaper, even though our host had already retired to bed and our hostess was about to get into a robe. Jessie clings like liquid soap.

I wonder about people like Jessie who have so much going for them, but don't know when to let go. It is so utterly against my nature to impose myself into other people's lives, I can't even get my head around why she does this. I can understand why someone with less going for them would do it, but Jessie seems to have it together. As I said, she's very likable, and she's attractive, with an interesting job to boot. She could have a great circle of friends if only she stopped the clinging. Sad. Self-awareness is everything.


SuperRaizy said...

It sounds like she's really lonely. Some people just cannot tolerate being by themselves.

frum single female said...

i've had friends like this. they come over shabbos afternoon and then leave at eleven pm if i dont have real or made up plans later shoo them out with.
i agree with raizy that they are probably very lonely.

Jessie said...

this is Jessie-
well, you hurt me deeply, but I'll try to be less clingy next time.

WebGirl said...

LOL Jessie, (especially considering that I totally used a fake name for this person), but yes, do try to cling less. ;)

Jessie said...

You see, I'll try to explain you my side of things:

In general, there is a discrepancy between singles and married women (especially with children) as far as the "extent of friendship" is concerned: the wife with children has already a family that clings around her, so there is not so much space left for adult friends who do not belong to the family.

So right from the beginning, there is an imbalance.

The best way to deal with it - if both sides like - is to let your children cling on her and to go a bit out of the picture. Not only because this would give you numerical superiority, but also because in general children have a higher clinging potential than adults.

WebGirl said...

Ah Jessie, you're not a regular reader, are you? No children yet, I'm afraid, though we are still hopeful, God willing. And I have spent much (most)of my life being single, having married in my thirties, divorced and then remarried my Ex again. So I'm actually pretty good at my female friendships, or at least I'd like to think so. Yes, I realize that having a husband gives me a home to return to, and Jessie doesn't have that, and that makes a difference. Maybe that accounts for some of the clinging...wanting to be part of a home. Not sure.

Liz said...

Oy. I have frequently blogged about a clingy friend of mine. Nay, *screamed* about her (annonymously of course) and I am sorry to say in a lot less of a polite and gentle way than you have so eloquently penned here. Clingy friends to me are the pits. My personality is SO different that way. Even as a single person (I am into my 3rd year of marriage) I simply *never* needed people (almost too much so). Its not that I dont enjoy people (I do a great deal and find people fascinating. Probably the reason why I have a blog and roam the web) but I have real issues when people start needing me SO desperately that way. My friend too is talented, attractive, but slightly bi polar and has lost a lot of friends because she is a bit obsessive with the people she's friendly with and does exactly what Jessie* does. I had a baby in April and I am mortified to say that I didnt return my friend's phone calls for quite sometime. Then one day I said to myself - wait. I dont want/need my daughter to learn from her mom to be this way with people. To some extent I was afraid that I was wounding the friend deeply and who needs that on their concsious? So I reached out to her and we are due for her to come for Shabbat in September. GOD. If only I had a way of producing NICE GUYS for these girls/women. But as you put it so brilliantly,

"I was willing to bet that this was one of the reasons that she never married, as I find that most guys like clinginess as much as they like garlic breath, and tend to run quickly from both."

Amen, sister. You dont have what to be ashamed of. You tried to do and be the best friend you possibly could be. In the end, you deserve your space with your husband and you have the right to try and make your personal life as comfortable for yourself as possible.

(sorry for the length. Im quiet in real life and a real shmoozer at a keyboard :-) )

jennie said...

Well, often people give me the wrong signals: they go on talking, act as if they were interested, so I want to benefit them with my presence.

Perhaps it would be easier for me if you were less polite.

I have a friend who likes to cling on the phone, but I found a remedy: when I want to stop, I tell her with enthousiasm about the latest classical concert or about a book by Emile Zola or Giorgio Bassani, and immediately, she is very busy and hangs up...

In general I noticed, that people like to speak about themselves, so if you start to speak about something else, you are not attractive any more...