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Ask Polly: My Friend Keeps Dating My Exes!

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It’s Ask Pollypalooza: In honor of the paperback release of How to Be a Person in the World, the Cut brings you a new Ask Polly column every day this week.

Dear Polly,

Growing up, I was always my friends’ chubby friend. Chubby is a softer way of putting it, though. I was often called fat. On more than one occasion, I was told that my friends were hot — without any hint of interest in me. Looking back on it, I think men’s response of just disgust and general annoyance if I ever seemed interested in them has totally influenced the guard I put up as an adult. Anyway, that all sucked, but I survived, and then in college I lost weight. The world may see me differently now, but I still struggle, too. I’m saying this because it’s one of the best ways to really justify why what I’m about to say next is bugging me so much.

See, about two years ago I was hanging out with a guy who very publicly announced he was in love with another woman (who was everything I wasn’t), right in front of me and people I knew. It was kind of my nightmare. The moment I started attracting interest from men I couldn’t stop thinking that they’d rather be with someone taller and thinner and totally different from me. And she was all those things. I was embarrassed and filled with shame, and felt all those things I felt as a teenager — of not being good enough or attractive enough or enough enough, and my brain couldn’t stop thinking I wasn’t the only one who believed that either. It was hard and gross and definitely a bit self-involved on my end, but that’s how it felt.

Slightly after all of this happened, I made a new friend. She seemed nice and fun, and I have great female friends, so I had no reason to expect she’d be otherwise. But then, over time, I noticed she would contact any man I paid any attention to. If I said someone was attractive, by the end of the night she would have friended that man on Facebook and started to send him messages. If I mentioned a man from my past — who didn’t even live in the state — she would do the same. She befriended all the men that I dated. And then, recently, the tool bag of a human who publicly made me feel shitty started seeing her, in a sneaky but also super-obvious way. I should mention that for the past year I have been in a relationship with a lovely, wonderful man who is amazing and I have no interest in the tool-bag human AT ALL. But still it all makes me feel gross. It’s as though she’s taking over parts of my life (I’m not kidding when I say she has found a way to be romantically involved with at least six to eight men I’ve been involved with or mentioned since I’ve met her). But this current one feels worse. And to top it off, she keeps inviting me places they’ll both be, so I’m constantly preparing for the moment she springs their relationship on me with an audience around.

Long question short: All of this makes me angry and frustrated and mad and filled with a shitty hate feeling and I don’t know how to get over it. My life is great, why should I care? My ego however seems to feel otherwise.

Feeling a Bit Single-White-Femaled

Dear FABSWF,

Do you think the ideal is to get over this? Would your “best self” rise above this and forgive your friend and embrace whatever crazy adventure comes next, because after all, you’re loved and happy and your life is great, so who cares? A year ago I would’ve said yes. I would’ve told you that your best self can rise above these petty squabbles with friends. Your best self can accept this woman for exactly who she is, warts and all. Your best self will lead you away from hate feelings, into the promised land of joy and forgiveness!

But today I say this: Fuck your best self. This woman is not right in the head, and you need her out of your life, because, eventually, she will grab hold of someone you truly care about and you will kick yourself for keeping her in your life this long. Right now, she’s getting warmer and warmer. She’s onto you. I don’t mean to make you paranoid, but Jesus. Who reaches out to someone’s exes on Facebook? Who approaches and seduces not one of her friend’s exes, but several of them? And now she’s found the one person who humiliated you the most? Is this a coincidence? Unless you’re wildly distorting the facts on the ground, you’re dealing with a next-level wrecking ball of a human being.

If you ask me, your narrative about this being about your ego is an intellectual story, not a story about your true feelings, and it’s blocking your ability to treat this situation the way it needs to be treated. You’re not honoring your feelings. You’re not treating yourself as precious and important. You’re saying to yourself, “If I were better, I would rise above this.” You’re saying, “If I weren’t overweight when I was younger, I wouldn’t feel so vulnerable right now. I would be able to applaud each of her new relationships. I would be a better friend if I weren’t so damaged and ego-driven.” But no. Any human alive would be unnerved by this so-called “friend” of yours.

This is the problem with walking around defining yourself as an irreparably damaged person. You start to get confused by your own self-diagnosis and use it against yourself. “Too bad I’m too weird and too sensitive to be friends with this careless person,” you say. “If I were tougher I wouldn’t make mountains out of molehills.” Or, “Maybe it’s my ego that’s threatened, and I need to transcend that and be more loving to this openly competitive human.” But instead you should be asking, “Why do I want to be around anyone this careless?” Why is the answer to every bad situation BE BETTER?

When you treat all of your feelings like they’re the twisted side effects of your damage, you never stand up for yourself.

Maybe part of no longer being that sad, rejected, “chubby” girl lies in daring to see that your need for respect and care and support doesn’t spring from some needy “chubby girl” place, it springs from BEING A REGULAR HUMAN WITH FEELINGS. You deserve to be treated with respect.
You deserve to be free from garbage people. You don’t have to be “better” anymore. Rising above this makes no sense. Rising above, in this case, means sinking lower.

You’ve already been way too patient and given her too much of your time, considering her bizarre obsession with hunting down your leftovers and fucking you over with them. What the hell is her major malfunction? Stop the madness! You’re actively hurting yourself just by allowing this misfiring, broken-down, confused person into your life.

It’s really hard to end friendships, but it’s even harder to go through your life never drawing clear, hard boundaries. When you don’t draw clear boundaries, you never know the shape of the next day. Everything you do is based on your minute-to-minute impressions of each new situation. You don’t honor any principles because that would require honoring yourself. You don’t trust your principles because you don’t trust yourself. You think you’re being accommodating and trying to improve, day by day, but built into this “constantly improving” notion is the sensation that you will never, ever be enough. You have to work harder, you tell yourself. You aren’t good yet. And when something upsets you, it never means that SOMEONE ELSE fucked up, it always means that YOU have to be less ego-driven, less threatened, less angry.

Your preoccupation with how good you are is leading you to be very, very bad to yourself. And who wins? This dumpster fire of a person wins, at your expense.

I almost never paint these pictures in such stark colors, but this situation you’re in is so deeply wrong I can’t help it. Run away from this scary motherfucker right now and never look back! Explain or don’t explain; it makes no fucking difference. If you start blowing her off and she tells you that makes you a bad person (expect it!), don’t pay a bit of attention. This woman wants to get under your skin. It’s her thing. She’s dangerous. Keep her far away from you.

And when she’s gone? Look at your other relationships closely, historical and present. Ask yourself if you undervalue people who love the hell out of you and overvalue people who don’t care as much or listen or even want to spend time with you consistently. An obsession with past rejections can rule your whole life if you let it. You’ve got to realize how confident you are, deep inside, in the absence of garbage people. It’s possible that your ego is a healthy ego, and it’s telling you that this woman’s behavior is unacceptable.
This isn’t your insecurity talking, it’s your HEART. You’ve got to learn to love and trust your heart, above everything else.

Now let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that this friend is actually perfectly wonderful and she just happens to be curious about your exes and friends and she’s just very enthusiastic about new people. This is the radical LISTEN TO YOUR HEART advice I would still have for you in that situation: It doesn’t fucking matter. You feel like shit and this is not working for you. Being around your tool of an ex and your equally toolish friend bugs the hell out of you. Even if you are in fact totally off your rocker and she’s the absolute greatest best person alive, it doesn’t fucking matter. This situation doesn’t work for you.

Life is so short, but you’re in charge. You get to pick your friends. You get to stand up for what you want. Are you too sensitive? Are you too insecure? Are you too ego-driven? You are exactly who you are, and you will always be that person. It’s time to honor whatever strange funny quirks and needs and secret desires are kicking up heat inside of you instead of always pushing it all down to make other people happy. (This is not the advice I would give to a dumpster fire, mind you. It’s the advice I’m giving to you, someone who interrogates her own motives a little TOO much and is too hard on herself most of the time.)

This is what can make anyone the most gorgeous human being in any room: the ability to take the longing and the fear and the madness of living inside your particular skin and to say “this is how I am” without smoothing anything over and sugaring anything up for public consumption. The time for squeezing yourself into a corner is over. You are more radiant than you know, but YOU need to believe in that radiance. No one else needs to do that. YOU do.

The second you stop spending time with people who are dying to show you that you’re not quite there yet, you’re not quite good enough, you’re not quite exciting or special enough, that’s when you’ll know that YOU HAVE ARRIVED. You don’t need to be better. You don’t need to justify your choices. You can walk away from this ship of tools and never look back.

Polly

Order the Ask Polly book, How to Be a Person in the World, here. Got a question for Polly? Email askpolly@nymag.com. Her advice column will appear here every Wednesday.

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Ask Polly: My Friend Keeps Dating My Exes!