I used to only have crazy friends

#2, of course, has mellowed considerably over the years.  :)  [But is no less entertaining!]

When I was younger, I enjoyed being friends with dramatic people.  People who always had crazy things happen to them.  Who thought crazy things.

Crazy people were interesting!  Normal people, not so interesting.

Some of those crazy friendships in the past came to bad ends, and pretty much always for the same underlying reason (at least according to my decade and a half later armchair analysis), whatever the external catalyst.  I have a strong personality and crazy people, even super-popular crazy people, tended to get a little co-dependent on me.  At about the time that I decided they didn’t really need me (my work here is done, fly little birdie) or I got uncomfortable with the situation and I wanted to let go, they would come to that realization as well but wouldn’t see that I wanted to let go too.  So they’d do one of those crazy blow-ups that people do or I’d get the silent treatment that people do when they don’t want to have a crazy blow-up.  (Or, most recently, one let me know that her therapist told her to stop associating with me.)  And I’d cry (because I care and because I feel like I’m in middle school and I wonder what is wrong with me) and move on with my life.

These days I’m old.  After the last incident (the coauthor whose therapist thinks God knows what about me), I said, that’s it, no more crazy friends.  And that was that.  My work is interesting enough that, unlike Matilda, I don’t have to find new ways to keep my super-agile mind occupied anymore.  (Although I did do a geometry proof during a really bad job-talk last week, but I digress.)  My life has been much more peaceful since then, probably because almost all of the drama in my life was vicarious through or directly caused by said crazy ex-friends, and with them gone I didn’t create my own.

The person who started this pattern, a college friend, emails me every few years to apologize for what she did to me back in college.  I always email back saying no worries, great to hear from you, and basically ignoring the crazy part of the email.  And that’s that.  She also put me on a mailing list for her business a few years back (I took myself off multiple times).  I hear from other folks about some of the more major dramas in her life, husband cheating, new husband, a baby (I think), and so on.  I don’t need to know the details.

In college she was surrounded by adoring fans.  She was beautiful and vivacious and popular like a movie-star (and a little bit of a user).  I wonder what must have changed that she feels the need to keep contacting me.  Or if nothing has changed, and she just needs more adoration than most folks have once they leave the institutionalized environments of high school and college.

In any case, I’m about to write my standard, “Great to hear from you… [broad personal and professional updates].”  But nothing more.

Tell us about your friends from the past and what has changed as you’ve gotten older.

32 Responses to “I used to only have crazy friends”

  1. eemusings Says:

    T’s friends are definitely in this camp (and so are his family, so I get a sense that this is never going to change). Sigh.

  2. First Gen American Says:

    I have loads of crazy friends and I still love most of them. They are the ones who dare to think beyond the norm and lead unconventional lives. The main thing that’s changed is me. I don’t get as involved in the day to day drama either emotionally or financially. It’s still awesome to see them but it is less frequent now because they all live at least 2 hours or more away. Similarly with dysfunctional family, I put my own family first now. I would always turn my life upside down to help someone out of some crisis but I realized that even though I was okay with it, it’s not fair to drag everyone else in my life into these things as well.

    I like helping people and there definitely were many instances of codependency but it wasn’t always appreciated and certain people managed to blame me for things not going well. Like when I got up at 6am (because of a 2 hour drive) to help someone move and I dragged 4 of my friends with me and the recipient and wasn’t packed at all and showed up over an hour late with the moving truck and the moving didn’t get all done in a day as planned. That was my fault because I pressured them to move before they were ready (ie. offered to help and only had certain dates I could help). I still help a lot of people, it’s just in a totally different way (though community service work) and that I can manage a lot better and it excludes my family from being affected.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I haven’t broken with all of them, but I don’t live in the same town with any of them and it’s easy to not be involved from a distance. What’s changed is that instead of being drawn to new crazy people I aim towards new relatively-sane people. Low drama rather than high.

      My helping has definitely shifted more towards organized work, including through my job.

  3. SP Says:

    I’ve never had crazy friends – I guess i don’t have the patience for them? I value sanity. :) If your life is a mess, I’m going to back away slowly (unless it is just a one-off mess and you are a generally capable and adult like person.) Note I have a lot of adventurous friends, but that is completely different.

    I guess I had one friend in HS that was a little crazy, but nothing like what you are saying here. i think she was just a teenage girl, really. Not so crazy. :)

    Why do you think the crazies gravitated to you?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s what my mom asked when I got this most recent email communication. Really I don’t think they did gravitate towards me, I think I gravitated towards them. (#2 and I have a lot in common, so we would have been friends even if she hadn’t had a side-order of extra-crazy as a teenager. It’s like #2 says, some people are only interesting because they’re crazy and some people are still interesting once you subtract the crazy. I’ve kept the latter as friends, and many of them have worked through their issues as we’ve gotten older, although I have not cultivated new ones.)

      As to why the co-dependence… I’m good at making decisions and fixing things. People don’t come to me when they want someone to just listen. And crazy people tend to have a lot more scrapes that they need help getting out of. (FGA’s example of moving sounds exactly right… and I’ve been in that situation before!)

  4. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    I still have those types of friends. I don’t really have time to go out much anymore but I do hear all kinds of crazy stuff on Facebook, which happens to be my only source of updates on these people. Marriages, failed marriages, cheating, missed child support payments, etc. Nothing is off limits apparently.

    I had to LOL about your friend’s therapist telling her not to associate with you anymore. That is insane.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It was definitely weird. I wonder what her therapist must think I was doing. At the time she had punted on a lot of things and was probably deep down feeling guilty about it (because that’s how she generally is with her coauthors but swore she wouldn’t be that way with me).

  5. hush Says:

    There’s a word for this type of drama that “friends” past or present may try to put on you: they’re trifling.

    Sometimes I think I have very solid friendship skills and tight boundaries, but then some trifling shizz goes down and I think “Whose problem is this really?” NOT MINE! Hooray! Like my local “friend” who gossips about everyone to the point I can’t stand to be around her. Not my problem!

    As for ghosts of friendships past: I say take it as a compliment. Years later, they’re still recognizing the awesomeness of your friendship qualities. Your calm, problem-solving rationality is probably something they’ve really admired about you. The older we all get, the more we realize a person who behaves like a real and true friend can be a rare find.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      People are strange.

      It is very odd for me to think of being admired. Growing up I was never particularly popular and I never thought I would be attractive to boys (other than the few I dated). But somehow people seem to be on their best behavior around me (from what I’ve heard from others). I don’t really understand any of this. Obviously I must humbly and unintentionally exude awesome rays.

  6. Viola Says:

    I think I felt the opposite – I’ve wanted really stable, competent friends for most of my life. I think this is partially due to the fact that my dad was fairly unpredictable and as “crazy” as most teenagers wish they were (complete with flings with eastern religions, inability to follow rules, general moodiness). I do sometimes fall into the roll of the ‘listener’ friend, though, just because I’m a good listener.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t think I’m a good listener, but people who don’t know me seem to think I am. Random strangers (including famous people in my field) will tell me their problems. That always weirds me out. And they don’t just tell everyone these things either, which would make sense if they’re telling one person they just met. I think I just look very non-threatening. But generally friends know not to tell me stuff unless they want a solution or they know to tell me in advance just to listen (“I just want to complain”).

  7. becca Says:

    My crazy friends seem to be radically more stable now. I must be the crazy friend!

  8. Rumpus Says:

    When I was in grade school I had crazy friends. That grouping was result of the social scene in a small town. I didn’t fit with or care to fit with most of the cliques so I ended up with a couple of crazy friends. I was very much the least crazy of my tiny group but different enough to fit in. (Probably from their perspectives each of them would say that they were the least crazy, but such things from so long ago don’t bother me.) Anyway, as soon as I was not limited to such a small group of people I seem to have settled on not-quite-crazy friends. All of my friends are definitely quite sane, but just a little cattywonkus. As soon as I recognize crazy in someone I start to distance myself because crazy causes randomness and chaos, which eventually will result in pain. On the other hand, if someone is completely “normal” then I have nothing to talk about with them and so no friendship will grow.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My DH is always able to figure out the bad kind of crazy the first time he meets someone. All my crazy friends that he liked the first time he met them (see #2, for example) have lasted and worked through their problems and are now interesting and at worst only mildly neurotic adults. All the ones he initially disliked end up badly. I really should listen to him more since I seem to totally be lacking that ability. (And these days, I think I do.)

    • Rumpus Says:

      Also, Veronica Mars was one of my most loved shows before it went down the tubes.

  9. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    These days I’m old.


  10. GEW Says:

    I’ve always been impatient with crazy, and I’ve always been pretty sane. As I result, I backed away from crazy friends *and* I didn’t date much or have long-term romantic relationships until my 30s. It always seemed that guys (in their teens and 20s) liked the tweakers. Guys stuck around for tweakers. I was sane and boring.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Hm, we’re both with our high school sweethearts. I wonder what that says about us…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      had to look up tweaker in the urban dictionary (something #2 probably would not have to do)

      We are not and have never been addicted to meth!

      • GEW Says:

        I just looked it up. That’s not how I (or people I know) use the word. Either we are wrong or urban dictionary is incomplete. I mean something like “a person who is needy, slightly broken, and prone to drama–both real and imagined.”

        As for my assumptions about guys, maybe I just hung out with the wrong guys. Or maybe I truly was boring.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Well, we did go to a special school… if we’d stayed at our usual high schools we probably would have found true love much later.

        Though the first time I met my DH he was agonizing over someone who fits that description *exactly* (seriously, we’d be walking somewhere and she would dramatically fall to the ground and need to be carried… much later at a friend’s wedding she kept getting hit by volley balls underneath a picturesque tree and didn’t move even after the second time, etc. And people would just go bonkers for her, “oh oh are you ok”… I was like why don’t you move. Also she borrowed one of my dresses and never returned it. Er Hem. /digression). Luckily for me she turned out to be lesbian and thus immune to DH’s substantial manly charms.

  11. NoTrustFund Says:

    You most definitely exude awesome rays, at least over the Internet. And I’d take it as a complement that people want to stay in touch.

    I’ve had crazy friends over the years although most of them now live far away. The ones who live close are harder to see regularly these days, but that’s true for most everyone right now. But they are usually good for fun and entertainment!

  12. Harry Campbell (@PFPro1) Says:

    I’m definitely friends with some weirdos/crazy’s but I’ve known them all since high school so I can’t do much to get rid of them now. I’m a lot more selective these days which is probably why most of my friends are old friends and not new ones haha

  13. Revanche Says:

    IIRC, I think I had an even distribution of sane to crazy friends. As a fixer/solver, I could deal with co-dependencies on occasion or cyclically and then there’d be a quiet detachment. But I don’t think I could have stood being around crazy-needy all the time or I’d have used up all my juice. (Though, it was great practice for the workplace!)

    I hit my I’m-too-old-for-these-sheets mode at 20, and too old for relationship drama at 21. My life had become the crazycrappy one and I didn’t have time or inclination to whinge about it so I *really* didn’t have time or energy for superfluous crazy.

    These days I’m happy to help with legitimate problems but stay away from the dramaz as much as I can and it’s rather nice. I have the internetz if I want insanity.

    RE: your coauthor….I wonder what goes on in the therapist’s office sometimes, or how people actually accept what they’re discussing in there. I gave it a try a few times and came out wondering what on earth had happened.

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