March 21, 2007

Social Problem

Short version, for people who dislike reading other people's long and not particularly interesting memories of their youths: Someone from my old teenaged social circle has reappeared and wants to start getting together socially, but I don't like him anymore and need a good way to say "No, you idiot, can't you see we have nothing in common anymore?" without feeling like a jerk.

Long version, for people who love long, unnecessarily detailed descriptions:
Back in high school, there was one summer where I spent almost every single evening with the same group of people. We all had daytime summer jobs, so around 5:00 we'd start calling around saying, "What are we doing tonight?" It was a lot of fun. I'd never been that social, before or since.

One member of the group was named Tal, and back when I was in high school I thought he was pretty great. He was bouncy and theatrical and outgoing and friendly, and the first day we met, he and I were assigned to go out on a snack run, and in the store he slung his arm over my shoulder. The first day we met! Plus, he was cute. Really cute. We saw each other a lot in our group, and he kept making me batiks and drawing charcoal sketches of me and sitting too close to me and so on. We did go out on one real date (he wanted me to meet his parents, who totally interviewed me as a Wife Candidate during that whole dinner--that would have freaked me out if I'd been a little older), but we never officially dated: he went off to two weeks of camp, and while he was gone, the ex-boyfriend I'd pined for all summer came back to me, that stupid loser, and I got back together with him. Later I kicked myself for losing my opportunity to date Tal, but LATER-later I realized it didn't really matter which of them I'd dated, because neither of them were going to work out anyway.

Tal and I lost touch when I went off to college, and in college I lost my taste for bouncy, theatrical guys, instead preferring quiet, environmentally-conscious, flannel-shirt-wearing guys. We wrote a few letters, he sent me a couple of mix tapes (mix tapes!), and that was nearly it: we did write once or twice in a "here's my new address" and "I got married" way, but nothing more.

This past fall, I got an email from him. He said he and his wife had moved to a nearby town, and that he'd love to get back in touch. He said his wife was pregnant with their first child, and he invited me to their baby shower. He hoped I and my whole family could come over some time for dinner.

I went to the baby shower, and here I am getting to the heart of this problem: I don't like him anymore. I don't like the theatrics, which seem even more abrasive in someone who is 32 not 17. I don't like his wife, who says things like "I consume very little sugar" and "I don't see why I have to get the same exact gestational diabetes screening as some obese woman who eats Twinkies all day" and "Yes, well, the way they do it in [country she spent a year in] is they...." She was snappish with him, and he was foppish and childlike. They referred to their cat as their "first baby." I found them both irritating, and their baby registry was annoying.

After the baby shower, Tal and I exchanged a few emails, mostly talking about people we used to know. I allowed the emails to taper off, and when he suggested getting together for dinner (meaning him and his wife, me and Paul and all the children--in their perfect house filled with their international breakable souvenir collection, I'm SO SURE), I put him off with an excuse about being busy over the holidays. Then I didn't email anymore, and I hoped that would be the end of it.

However, recently he emailed with an abject, bowing apology about being out of touch for so long, and reasserting his interest in booking a date for a get-together. I really, really don't want to. I thought he would have noticed at the shower, as I did, that we don't have anything in common anymore, but he hasn't. I'm not sure how to put him off. If it was someone saying, "We should really get together sometime" it would be easier, but he's saying, "Let's set a date and time! How about a week from Sunday?"

There are probably people who would say to him, "Listen, idiot, I don't even like you anymore," but what I need is something more subtle. Something that doesn't make me feel mean, but also doesn't let him keep trying to set up a time, because he's apparently not going to get the hint by me being all vague and "oh, currently too busy but maybe someday" approach. I could just not answer, but I don't think he's going to drop it. What if I wrote something like, "I don't think it's going to work out to get together, but let's try to keep in touch by email--I'd love to hear how your new baby is doing!"

What I really wish is that there were an emoticon I could use. A certain little face that communicated, "Hey, I know we used to be friends, but we're not anymore, and you really need to drop that whole idea before I have to hurt your feelings. Also, your wife is a humorless, judgmental bitch." Anyone seen an emoticon for that?


jen said...

That's a tough one. I never like to "officially" break friendships (for lack of a better word in this case) but I think I'd be inclined to just ignore his emails... put him on your spam list if you have to. Out of sight, out of mind. At least that's what my ex co worker did to me! I guess he figured we were only keeping in touch out of obligation and HE kept suggesting we get together and then never following through but that's a post of my own!

I'm interested in what other people say though.

Black Sheeped said...

I'm afraid I don't have any constructive advise. I feel sort of bad for him, though. He's probably not very happy, a bit lonely, under stress dealing with this woman and a new baby, etc. I might give it one more chance before I started ignoring him altogether.

nowheymama said...

Tell him you can't see him because you still have feelings for him. HA! Boy, I just cracked myself up with that one.

Seriously, I would try the "this isn't a good time, what with the pregnancy and four children and all" excuse one more time. I bet a big part of his renewed interest is because you have children and they have a new baby and he thinks this gives you something in common. His enthusiasm about getting together might die down once he makes other friends with children.

I also like your "I don't think it's going to work out to get together, but let's try to keep in touch by email--I'd love to hear how your new baby is doing!" idea.

JMH said...

I agreee with Jen. I had a similair experience with a friend from middle school. We had different "groups' in high school, but we were always friendly with each other. Then, after high school and college, she found my address, phone #, etc. After a few VERY awkward phone calls which only involved "remember when....." I just stopped answering the phone and answering her emails. At one point, I changed ISP's and got a new email and she just gave up. It felt mean, but I'm glad I don't feel "stalked" anymore.

Kathi said...

I kinda feel sorry for him too...but he completely lacks the ability to take a hint. I like nowheymama's idea of telling him that things are crazy for you right now with four kids and the pregnancy....who's going to argue with that? Well, actually, this guy sounds like he would. I would respond telling him that now isn't a good time, then ignore future emails until he stops. Once their baby is born, maybe he'll be too tired to want to get together.

penny said...

I'm all for blunt, and would have the guts to email something like, "My life is really busy right now, and I think we've drifted in different directions in our lives. I wish you and your wife all the best and good wishes for your impending child."

He'll think you're a jerk for it and so will his wife, but guess what: if you do the subtle non-communicative email thing he'll eventually think you're a jerk anyway, and in the meantime you'll be plagued with his emails in your inbox.

And who rants about a gestational diabetes screening anyway? or invites you to a baby shower after years of not even talking to you over the phone?

Erica said...

It sounds like he's the kind of guy who needs the hammer over the head approach. Like Penny said, he may think you're a jerk, but he probably will if you just ignore him, too. Better to be honest and upfront and get it over with.

Like pulling off a band-aid. Quick and relatively painless. Unless it's stuck on your hairy leg, that is.

Shannon said...

Uhmmm, hit spam so you don't get his e-mails. I am all for easy "fixes" that always come back to bit me in the butt later on.

desperate housewife said...

I'm with Penny. Who invites someone who is barely an acquaintence any longer to their baby shower unless they're a little strange and needy? Am I gonna call up every single person I ever used to hang out with and say, "Hey, I'm having a baby! Come play stupid games and buy me crap!"
No, I am not. That would be weird. Which means this guy is a little weird. Which means the only way to deal with it is be a little bitchy. And yes, he will THINK you're bitchy and so will his sugar-deprived wife, but who cares 'cause you think they're crazy anyways!
That said, I am totally nonconfrontational and passive aggressive, so I would probably not take my own advise in real life. But I hope you have the guts to! :)

nowheymama said...

"Hey, I'm having a baby! Come play stupid games and buy me crap!"

I am *definitely* putting that on my next baby shower invitation!

Bunny said...

You are like the queen of having to write the awkward emails! I am a chicken so I would probably just ignore him until he went away. But if I had balls, I would probably tell him I thought we were in different places and you are spending more time with only your family or, crap, I don't know. Yeah, go with he emoticon.

ZestyJenny said...

Hi swistle!

I am delurking to tell you to go with the direct approach and also just to let you know that I have linked you from my site and it seems like the polite thing to do.

Babyshowers should only be for beloved friends and family, otherwise someone leaves with the sort of impression you did, and who wants that?

I don't now about you, but I find it hard enough to make time to see the freinds I actually like. I wouldn't want to spend any precious social time with those losers.

Devan said...

"I don't think it's going to work out to get together, but let's try to keep in touch by email--I'd love to hear how your new baby is doing!"

Sounds absolutely perfect to me!

Jennifer said...

I like what devan said....I'm so not a confrontational person.

Mix tapes!!! ha, ha, ha!

theflyingmum said...

I'm wondering if maybe he's thinking that you'd be a good couple to hang out with because of the kids thing, you know? Like maybe they don't have friends with kids, and since he's back in your area and probably has the same fond memories of the past he's thinking that you'd have great fun sharing parenting experiences. If his wife is always that abrasive, they probably don't have people to hang out with. Yeah, sounds like he's lonely. But here's the thing - "Not your problem." You don't have to be this guys social hook-up. I'd just send him that very honest email and let him figure the rest out.

Christine said...

Oh, that's a tough one. I'm so bad at this kind of thing. I always end up doing the "ignoring" approach which is so junior high, I know. I like Penny's approach. He's definitely a guy who needs you to tell him like it is. He's not getting the hints. At least you can do it over email and not have to do it face to face.

jen said...

send him a mix tape with breakup songs on it.

Diane said...

I'd take the direct approach. Otherwise, he will always wonder and try. He deserves the truth and having a clean break.

Keeping old friends wondering what they did to deserve such treatment will only cause him to stew.