The Ladies in My Life

I’ve made a concerted effort to extract myself from relationships that I feel are negative, energy-consuming, and difficult. Interestingly, most (if not all) of those were with women. I don’t mean sexual relationships, though that’s about the only thing that was missing. A lot of my former girl friends took so much time, effort, and maintenance, that we ended up “breaking up.” Whether it was me saying I just can’t do this anymore, or them saying I wasn’t putting enough of myself into our friendship, they ended. Even my relationship with my own mother was toxic and exhausting.

Having very little contact with any women around my age where I now live, I have no idea what sorts of friendships I could forge, but I have come to realize how lucky I am to have so many supportive, honest, independent women “back home.” Despite the fact that I no longer see them on a regular basis (and let’s be honest, many of them I haven’t “seen” in quite some time), I appreciate them now more than ever. Mostly because the women with whom I do have regular contact right now are passive-aggressive and difficult for me to deal with.

There are two who come to mind – our landlady and a friend who calls me on a regular basis. I say she’s a friend because our relationship isn’t completely one-sided, but it is one that takes some energy on my part because I’m not sure how to communicate with her.

The friend who calls is a bit of a Type-A personality. She feels she has to micromanage every part of her life, including the people in it, because she has to do it at work. She will call “just to talk,” which is not something I have found myself doing since I was about 16 years old. And, though the conversations may start with her asking me how I’m doing, the minute I pause to take a breath, she launches in to the same complaints about work I’ve heard a hundred times. I should also point out that she’s been doing this the entire time I’ve known her, not just since I moved. During these marathon phone sessions, she frequently complains about how much she’s on the phone . . .

I’m the type of person who wants to help my friends solve their problems. I’d like to identify the problem, address potential solutions, and help you apply the best one. I’m not great about doing that with myself, so maybe I do it too much with friends.

I am working on “just listening,” but it’s hard to hear the same complaints over and over and over again without the complainer attempting to fix any of it. Granted, some of her work difficulties are un-fix-able. She works with some real idiots and you can’t fix stupid. But some of them do have reasonable solutions. She just chooses not to do anything about it.

Of course, I’m more than aware that you might think this blog is just me complaining about the same things over and over, but I would like to think that what sets me apart is that I consider my friends’/readers’ solutions and, when possible, apply them. I also tend to think I’m not super passive-aggressive or a liar.

Which brings us to the landlord. On a regular basis, she refers to herself as a “good Christian,” and likes to talk about what behaviors she exhibits make that statement true. Sometimes — even in the same breath, she’ll tell me how she lies about things to get her way. Playing (or making) up a disability to get special assistance, fibbing about certain requirements necessary in the city of Chicago for different licenses (cars, dogs, apartment, etc…), bending the rules to benefit herself, refusing to apply for permits and then trying to weasel out of the inevitable punishment by playing dumb. She’s even gone so far as to smash a box of glass bottles on a neighborhood bar’s doorstep, then pretending to be deaf so the manager wouldn’t yell at her.

She seems proud of her lies when she tells me about them. It wouldn’t be that much of an issue for me if she didn’t try to play herself off as a poor, honest, ethical, good Christian widow who’s just trying to get by in this cruel world. Owning up to your choices is one thing. Rationalizing the behavior is hypocritical.

But the problem with her corner-cutting is shoddy, unreliable work  — you can’t run the microwave and a hair dryer at the same time — and neighbors who resent her — they let their tenants throw trash all over our yard because they think the landlord is just a crazy old deaf woman. No one takes her seriously and there’s really no need for accountability. We are only two months in to our lease and already know we don’t want to stay. If she wasn’t the kind of woman who wants to be your best friend the minute she meets it, it’d be a different story. But we don’t get much personal space in our apartment. She’s always in the yard, pressing her face against our door to tell us one thing or another. An email would suffice to let me know the plumbers are coming. You don’t have to pound on my door at 7am when everyone is shuffling around in their underwear.

Those plumbers? The ones who worked on our sewer drains last month? And left a bunch of tools, a wheelbarrow, a three-foot-tall pile of dirt that was several feet wide (and took up most of the back patio area where Bea would play) for at least 3 weeks? She pays all these guys under the table, but none of the work is on the up-and-up so they do a half-assed job and leave a mess.

Charlie is watching a co-worker’s dog this week and has to get up early, go walk the dog before work, take his lunch at the co-worker’s apartment,  walk the dog again after work, and comes home even later than usual. He feels like crap, we’re all sick, and I’ve been struggling to get through 12-hour days taking care of a snotty, whining toddler who refuses to blow her own nose. I’ve had a headache for three days straight and can’t sleep for Bea’s coughing, crying, and congestion.

This morning, Anne came knocking on the door at 9:30. Her business partner, Jane, is supposed to have the parking spot behind our house from 10am until 4pm, Monday through Friday. And, once or twice per week, Charlie goes in at 10 to make up for the days he works until 6:15 and 7pm.

They both were all frazzled, asking if we’d gotten new plates or if someone else had taken the spot.
A.) Anne knows we got Illinois license plates, and has acknowledged that she knows this in the past. We’ve had several conversations about it, including her paying us in advance to care for her dogs next weekend so we’d have enough to cover the surprise fees we didn’t know about.
B.) We’ve had the exact same car the two months we’ve lived here with the exact same Apple decal in the back window.
C.) Jane was 30 minutes early.
D.) Jane is supposed to call or text us in advance if she’s coming earlier than usual.
E.) Anne then said it wasn’t a big deal since the plumbers were coming later and would need that spot, anyway.

If Anne had just knocked on the door and said, “Jane is here, you need to move the car,” we’d have moved the car. Instead, she said, “Oh, I was just worried someone else had parked there! Did you get new plates already?” They could have just said nothing at all since Jane wasn’t going to use the spot.

Why can’t women just be honest? Why does it always have to be a thinly veiled insult, or a passive aggressive accusation? If Jane wanted to spot, she should have called ahead to say she was going to be early. She could have parked in a temporary space behind the house and said she needed us to move. And all of Anne’s hysterics served no purpose since Jane would have had to move when the plumbers arrived later on this morning. Except the plumbers haven’t shown up yet and it’s 3 in the afternoon now.

This is the kind of stuff I was talking about a few days ago when I said Anne sometimes reminds me of my dad. You hear one thing, then they tell you something different. When you call them out on it, they act like you’re the crazy one.

Something I will never understand about women is why it is so hard for them to tell the truth. We don’t want to hurt one another’s feelings, so we say something that isn’t completely what we mean, but something gets lost in the translation and then no one is happy.

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