Sunday, February 12, 2012

I need a break

"I'm so glad I never had a hysterectomy." That's what Kathy said to our friend John and me. Over her 65th birthday dinner. After asking us if we knew the address of Lover's Lane because she wants to buy herself a vibrator.

Aside from the fact that I'm really not crazy about eating mashed potatoes with the mental picture of a grandma who wears a knit cap that ties under the chin masturbating, it was a mean comment because she knows I had a TAH (total abdominal hysterectomy) back in September. She wanted to make sure that John and I know she still gets aroused whereas I am just a dried up old crone.

Part of her cruel shot across the bow stems from how she has always felt about John, who is gay. Because John and I have always accepted one another as we are, our relationship is very comfortable, while his and Kathy's is fraught with disappointment and thwarted, one-sided sexual tension.

This has been going since the autumn of 1981. That's more than 30 years. It's tiring.

To make matters worse, Kathy's made some bad choices that left her feeling very competitive with me. When we first met, she was a single mother in her 30s and I was in the wildest phase of my 20s. We were both copywriters and she looked upon me the way people look at puppies who haven't quite grown into their paws yet. "Oh! Look at her antics! Isn't she cute!"

Then, right around my 30th birthday, I began taking myself seriously as an advertising writer. I won a couple of prestigious awards and started looking at each new job as a wrung in the ladder. I wanted a career, not a paycheck. This is the time when she decided to go out on her own, representing herself as a free lancer rather than working for an agency.

I tried to be supportive.
When I had to take a few days off to have my wisdom teeth removed, I convinced my boss to hire Kathy as my replacement. It didn't go well. I don't know all the reasons why -- my team just told Kathy she didn't need to come in on Friday and begged me to, instead (swollen jaw and all).

Kathy said there were no hard feelings, but there were.
She resented me, or was embarrassed, and that's when the digs began. I was building a niche for myself as a financial writer, and that was fine for ME, but she was too creative. She couldn't be bound by all those restrictions. She was an artist, really, and was happier pursuing her own, more varied clients. OK. Whatever. I wanted to do a good job, and in a very Becky Bloomwood twist, financial writing actually comes easily to me (even if my personal finances don't).

Shortly thereafter, Kathy had to file for bankruptcy.
She made an innocent but incredibly costly mistake on her taxes. The IRS didn't penalize her, but they did insist she pay back taxes with interest -- after all, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. She started having painful, menopause-related medical problems then, of course, when she had no insurance.

It was at this time she began teasing me because I have a dentist (whom she went to in an emergency when she was in more than a little pain) and a GP and gyne and a shrink.  It's OK for ME to run to the doctor and take medication whenever something bothers me, but she chooses to become more in touch with her own body, listen to it, etc., without becoming a puppet of the medical establishment. I avoid saying, "What you're really saying is that you're pissed that I have insurance and you don't." But it's hard.

So she took a job at a local supermarket. In the bread department. She went in planning just to log enough hours to qualify for insurance. But it turned out to be much more than that. Kathy was in her element. Because by now she was over 50 and a grandmother, she was more mature than a lot of the other checkers and stock people in the store. She was soon a manager, in charge of schedules and new employee orientation, etc. Then she became the store's liaison with the community -- scheduling the charity "shop and share days," making sure that the store was fair to all the Girl and Boy Scout troops when it came to selling out cookies or popcorn out front, giving tours of the store and explaining the value of organics to school children or cooking classes. She was happy and she felt she was contributing.

The store was suddenly under new management, and Kathy had a hard time adjusting. That's when she decided to be her own boss again, so she went into real estate. She lost her group insurance benefits with this move, but she thought that with menopause her health problems were behind her. Besides, real estate was the new dot-com. Property values were rising and buyers were in bidding wars for terrific properties. How could she not succeed?

I showed my faith in her by having her handle my condo purchase. This is my first home and the most expensive thing I have ever -- will ever -- buy. And I was her very first client, her first closing.

Yet she didn't couldn't make that work, either. Unable to pay rent on her own apartment, she's been sleeping in the dining room of her adult daughter's house. (I bet her daughter will be thrilled to hear that vibrator humming in her dining room, huh?) Her daughter wouldn't allow her to bring her two tabby cats along, so I found her a shelter that would "foster" them, free of charge, until she could reclaim them. The cats came down with a virus and died. Because of her tenuous finances, Kathy is unable to repay the shelter for the vet bills her cats ran up. I have kept quiet about this because I know her grief. But there's something crummy about sticking a charity will an expense like that.

So that's how her life looks at 65. And, even though I'm a big fat moo-cow, she still feels the need to compete with me. Lash out at me. It's mean and it's hard to take.

I can't do this anymore for a while.

I'm inspired by this, something I found over at Snarky Pants' ages ago. I'm not going to play with Kathy anymore. Not for a long while.


  1. Reading this post made me feel a great weight that got lifted at the very end. Good for you, Gal!

  2. She sounds exhausting..but I think everyone has had a Kathy in their life at one point or another. There's always that one person in your life that is toxic, you know they are toxic...yet, because they have been in your life for so long it's really really hard to just "break" up with them or even just take a break.

    Hopefully you can figure out a way, you definitely need to step back from that friendship.

  3. if they don't enrich our life...what is the purpose? I know it sounds bad...but really sometimes it is just too hard to deal with the craziness of their actions.
    you truly are a better friend than i can be...i have a low tolerance for this behavior.

  4. Too much. No one should put up with this mess. I am sorry she felt the need to hurl insults. We've all had to deal with such things.

    Bitterness becomes no one. Unhappy people become vindictive people. And vindictive people only know how to insidiously bully...jealousy is a dangerous motivator. Glad you're "done"...

    You'll feel much better soon!

  5. Is this a true story? Unreal. I've found a good, happy medium for people like these is to just take three gigantic steps back. I try to keep them in my life, just for the sake of preserving history, but I refuse to get caught up in it.

    Snickering over the daughter and the hum of the vibrator.

  6. You tell a story well, giving us all the important pieces. And yep, we are all responsible for the choices we make (or fail to make). Like others have said, if being friends with her doesn't bring you joy, what's the point?

    Thanks for the shout-out! :) And yeah, Grandma in the dining room with a vibrator gave me a giggle.

  7. Good for you, deciding to back up and away from cantankerous Kathy.