I like my alone time. I crave my alone time. I plan my alone time days in advance. Due to a hectic work schedule and extracurricular demands, I seldom get alone time anymore. Even when I’m alone, I don’t get alone time. I live alone, and still, I’m never in total solitude. My alone time is interrupted by the buzzing or ringing of my cell phone. This usually doesn’t bother me. But lately, it has been.
I have a friend who has no respect for anyone else’s time. This friend, who I’ll call Mary, does not consider anyone else’s wants or needs when she wants or needs something. And it’s driving me crazy.
Mary is a twenty-something-year-old mother of two, who cohabitates with her baby daddy, Rick. Rick has a full-time job about an hour away from home, which leaves Mary at home with their two small children (ages 16 months and 3 months) throughout the day. Mary apparently gets cabin fever in the worst way, and depends on her friends to cure (or at least temporarily relieve) it for her. She calls upon me at least once a week for this. The only problem is, as I mentioned earlier, Mary pays no attention to anyone else’s time when she wants something. See, Mary thinks the only time she can and should leave the house is after her children have gone to bed. I usually get a text or phone call around 10 p.m. on any given day from her, demanding to hang out for a while. This does not jive with my schedule. I have a full-time job which requires me to be up early and at work early in the mornings. I can not physically afford to go out at ten o’clock the night before work. I don’t like to, I don’t need to, I don’t want to. I know that if I don’t get a certain amount of sleep at night, then I’m all but worthless on the following day. In my line of work, I need to be useful and coherent at all times. I can’t be tired and sluggish and sleepy all day. If I am, I am in serious jeopardy of losing my job. When I receive a text from Mary late at night wanting to hang out, I’m usually already in bed. And that’s what I’ll tell her. “I’m in bed. I have work in the morning. I can’t hang out tonight, sorry.”
This response doesn’t work.
“Can’t you hang out for an hour?” she’ll ask.
“No, I’m sorry. I have to be up for work in the morning,” I’ll reply, knowing full well that one of Mary’s “hours” will last at least three.
“Please? I’ll make it worth your while ;)” She resorts to playful joking in an attempt to lure me out of bed.
“I can’t, I’m sorry. But I’m free tomorrow night if you want to hang then.” I offer an alternate solution, and usually I’ll give her my schedule for the next week or so, so that she can coordinate and see when best works for her.
This does not work.
“Rick’s vacation starts tomorrow, so I won’t be able to then. Nobody wants to hang out with me anymore.” No matter how many other days I’m free, if it’s not “right now,” she doesn’t want it. She will not compromise to save her life. This is infuriating. I give her hundreds of other opportunities to hang out with me (when she’s the one begging me to hang with her) and she always turns them down.
Mary has no concept of what adult life is. You must be thinking, “Well, she has two kids. She has to know what adult life is like.” But she doesn’t. She doesn’t understand what life is like for the rest of the world, who don’t have things handed to them by their baby daddy and parents. I’m not saying Mary is a spoiled little rich girl, but she is a spoiled little girl. When she was pregnant with her first child, she quit her job about six or seven months into her pregnancy. After she gave birth, Rick’s income allowed for her to be a stay-at-home mother. When the baby was about three months old, she began working again. She was a little difficult for management to work with, because her scheduling was sporadic. She would only work on certain days, and heavily relied on Rick’s schedule to determine when she could work. She also relied on her and Rick’s parents to watch the baby; she did not turn to anyone else for babysitting. And if none of them could watch the baby, she “couldn’t” work. Therefore, she did not know what days she would be available until the absolute last minute. When the baby was six months old, she found out she was about a month or two pregnant with her second child. She quit her job soon after, and stayed home again. Her youngest is about three months old now, and she just went back to work a few weeks ago. The problem with all of this is that she demands to be catered to. She expects her employers to work around Rick’s, her parents’, and his parents’ schedules. If Rick is working and she can find someone to watch the kids, she can work. If Rick is working and none of the grandparents can watch the kids, she can’t work. If Rick isn’t working, she can’t work. If she didn’t pay attention to the schedule and finds out she has to work on a day she thought she was off, she expects her employer to give her the day off anyway because it’s “too last-minute to find a babysitter.” She very rarely has to put any effort into anything because she expects everyone else to do it for her, and throws a fit until she gets her way.
Mary’s never experienced real “adult life,” even before having children. After she graduated high school, she went to college for a short time (as in, like, a week or two) then dropped out. An old romance was rekindled, and she married him. The marriage ended in divorce not even a year later. She moved back to town, and got a job. Not long after that, she was reunited with her very first boyfriend, Rick, and the two have been together ever since. A few months after they got together, she was pregnant. She and Rick moved in together, renting a home from Rick’s parents. They stayed there for maybe four months before moving into the home her parents had just moved out of, and rented it from them. For the better part of her “adult” life, she has relied on the incomes of those around her to get by. While she was pregnant and not working, she used Rick’s income for everything. Bills, rent, and shopping; both grocery and “fun.” And they eat out like crazy. I still don’t understand how all their bills are paid with the amount of money she’s spending. It’s a wonder Rick can fill up his gas tank to get to work. I digress.
When Mary’s pregnant, she withdraws from her social life. None of us will hear from her for the duration of her pregnancy. Anytime we text her to invite her out or offer to come over and see her, there’s always an excuse as to why she or we can’t. In short, we don’t see or hear from her when she’s pregnant. After the baby is born, she comes back out of her shell and resumes her “normal” life. She begins calling and texting us, asking us to come over or hang out. But at very inconvenient times for us. And then takes it personally. This is the most aggravating thing to me concerning Mary. It’s hypocritical of her, in my opinion. And infuriating to me and our other friends. She has no consideration for anyone else’s time. She takes it very personally when we say we can’t hang out at ten at night. She thinks when we say, “I have to work in the morning,” that we mean, “I don’t want to hang out.” She thinks that we should answer her when she texts at midnight wanting to hang out, and, when we don’t, she thinks that means, “I’m avoiding you,” and doesn’t consider for a minute that we’re not answering because we’re sleeping. Our group of friends is very loyal to one another. We’re not the sort to blow people off or avoid them. And we don’t decline an invitation to spend time together unless we have a legitimate reason to, like work, or being out of town, or having something else that we have to do. To her, those are all just excuses to not have to spend time with her. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re all very close. We know each other’s secrets. We spend as much time together as possible, within reason. We’re women, and we all like to have time to ourselves. But Mary just doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “alone time.”
Just this past week, she kept another of our friends, Julie, up until almost one in the morning with her incessant texting about an irrelevant issue. Julie works at the local jail, and there had recently been a large drug bust, and Mary wanted as many details as Julie could give her. When Julie went to bed, she texted Mary and said, “I’m going to bed now, I’ll talk to you in the morning.” It was as though Mary didn’t even read that text. She kept texting Julie over and over again, waking her up. Julie had to be up at four or five in the morning, but Mary wouldn’t relent. Julie was between a rock and a hard place, because her phone is her alarm, and she couldn’t silence it in an attempt to stop Mary from waking her up; if she had silenced the phone, she would have also silenced her alarm and been late for work. Finally, she just ignored Mary, and, the next night, she confronted Mary about it. She said, “You were really upsetting me last night. I was in bed, asleep, and you kept waking me up. You knew I had to be up early for work. I was getting really upset at you.” To which Mary replied in a joking, light-hearted, nonchalant way, “I just wanted to know about that girl,” and completely ignored the fact that Julie was upset with her. Mary viewed it as a joke. And she did not apologize.
I’ve had similar “conversations” with Mary. At my old job, I worked overnight shifts (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) on Friday and Saturday, and morning shifts (7 a.m. to 3 p.m.) on Monday and Tuesday. So, on Sundays, I would stay up for over 24 hours in order to get to sleep at a decent time so that I could be awake on time for work the next morning. And, every week, regular as clockwork, Mary would text me at eleven on Sunday night, wanting to hang out. She knew my schedule, but didn’t understand why I couldn’t spare an hour or two for her. I would get a text that said, “Let’s hang out and go get something to eat! Right now!” If I was awake, I would reply, “I can’t, I’m in bed and have to be up at four. But I’m off Tuesday night if you want to hang then.”
“I can’t Tuesday. Can I come over for like an hour?”
“No, I’m in bed and have to be up for work in five hours. I need to get some sleep. I’ve been up since yesterday. I’m sorry.”
“Please? Just an hour?”
At which point I would intentionally begin to ignore her because, otherwise, she’d keep me up for the next two hours. She’d continue texting, and, after about fifteen minutes of no response and twenty texts later, she’d send, “Okay, I get it,” and try to guilt me into responding or hanging out. She’d take it personally instead of paying attention to anything I had said. She refuses to take “no” for an answer and keeps pushing and pushing and pushing until we’re forced to either comply with her demands or just stop talking to her. But stopping communication seems to be the only way to get the point across to her. It’s a double-edged sword for us. We can’t win. If we keep responding, she thinks we’re just trying to avoid spending time with her because, if we’re still responding, then we can’t be all that busy. If we stop responding, she thinks we’re ignoring her because we’re being mean and don’t like her anymore. No matter what we do, she’s going to take it personally and let her feelings be hurt. There’s no way to tell her no that she will take reasonably. Any “no” we issue is an obvious sign of avoidance in her eyes. Doesn’t matter if it’s, “No, I have to work,” or, “No, I’m out of town,” or, “No, I’m at work,” or, “No, I have this, this, this, and this to do, followed by this.” Any “no” is a bad “no.” And it’s incredibly infuriating. She refuses to consider that we have lives outside of hanging out with her. She acknowledges it, but she does not accept it, especially if it interferes with us spending time with her. She thinks we should be at her beck and call, and we’re not, and she takes it personally. In her mind, if we’re not working, then we should be able to go sit at her house for five hours in the den while she sits on her laptop looking at YouTube videos. We should be able to put all our responsibilities aside just because she’s bored.
But, when it’s the other way around, we’re just supposed to accept it. If we text her requesting to spend time together, and she can’t, that’s that. No questions asked. But the difference is, we don’t take it personally. If I text her and invite her to do something and she says no, I take it in stride. She’s a mother, she’s got things to do. If she says she can’t hang, then she can’t hang, and I don’t think anything of it. The same goes for Julie and Andrea. We don’t take it personally when Mary, or anyone else, declines an invitation. The four of us go out of our ways for each other without a moment’s hesitation. If one of us needs something, three show up at the door with it. We are more than willing to drop everything when one of us is in need. There have been many, many times when I’ve canceled or postponed my own plans for my only day off work to go spend time with Mary when she asked me. There have been many times where I’ve given up doing something I’d planned on in order to spend time with Mary at a moment’s notice. I’ve dedicated entire days to spending time with her when she called upon me, without ever asking or expecting or receiving the same from her. And I have no doubt in my mind that she would not do the same for me.
Sounds horrible, right?
But here’s why.
I do not believe that Mary would drop everything at a moment’s notice if I called upon her because she’s too swept up in her own life to be able to legitimately make time for anyone else. I don’t doubt that she unconditionally loves her children. I don’t doubt that she’s devoted to Rick. I don’t doubt that she loves her friends. But, right now, her biggest priority is herself. Because she runs her life (children included) on her schedule. Her children get up when she decides they should (even though they’ve been up countless times through the night for changes and feedings), they eat when she decides (even though an infant needs to be on an at least semi-consistent eating schedule), they play when she decides, and they nap when she decides. She does things when it’s convenient for her, with no regard to when it’s convenient or necessary for anyone else. Including when she’s pregnant. She will ignore us for nearly an entire year, then expects us to jump up and rush over when she wants to hang out. I’m sorry, but I do not operate that way, and neither do Julie or Andrea. We have demanding lives. We do not have the luxury of staying at home all day waiting for an invitation. We have responsibilities and expectations placed upon us that we have to live up to. Do we have it any easier or harder than she does? No. We’re just more responsible than she is. We understand that there will be consequences to our actions. We know that if we forego even two hours of sleep at night, we’ll pay for it all day tomorrow. We know that if we don’t go to work today, we won’t be able to pay our bills in a week. We know that if we don’t fulfill our daily responsibilities, the consequences will be severe. And Julie, Andrea, and myself have only ourselves to rely on. We don’t have live-in boyfriends who’s paychecks pay the bills. We don’t have bosses who will make excuses for us and find last-minute coverage for a shift we’ve been scheduled for for a month. We don’t get to use the excuse of our child being sick to miss a day of work. We understand that, in order to function and survive in the adult world, we must work our asses off and only rely on ourselves to make sure everything that needs done gets done. We don’t believe in slacking off just because we don’t feel like doing anything today. We work first, play later. We won’t make unnecessary exceptions like staying out (or up) late on a work night, or spending just ten more dollars than usual when we’re on a budget. No, we go to bed at a certain time at night, we show up to work, we do our jobs, and we plan, meticulously, every single minute of our lives. Personally, I schedule all of my important errands on my days off. Doctor’s appointments, personal errands, grocery shopping, et cetera, only happen on my scheduled days off so that nothing interferes with my ability to show up to work, every day, on time, and do my absolute best while I’m there. If I deviate from my schedule even the tiniest bit, there’s hell to pay. If I lose an hour of sleep, I’m useless the next day. If I overspend by ten dollars, my budget is thrown off. If I miss a part of my routine, I’m done. As adults, we accept the expectations placed upon us, and strive to meet them. Mary doesn’t. She flies by the seat of her pants on a daily basis, and resents when her friends can’t do the same. She doesn’t understand the basics of being a responsible adult.
I’m constantly battling myself when it comes to Mary. On one hand, I don’t want to hurt her feelings or have her be upset with me. On the other, I can’t bring myself to be firm or even the slightest bit bitchy in order to get my point across to her, because I know she will take it very personally. I’m at a loss. My only solution thus far is to just ignore her until she sends one final pity-party text, and then delete the text without reading it. (If the reminder’s not there, it doesn’t make me feel bad.) I feel bad ignoring her, and I don’t like knowing that her feelings are hurt, but that’s the only way to shut her up, for lack of a better term. That’s the only way she’ll stop: if you ignore her. And I don’t like doing that. I don’t like ignoring my friends, even when they’re aggravating me. But I can’t find a way to let her know, in no uncertain terms, in a kind way that won’t hurt her feelings, that I just cannot submit to her schedule whenever she wants me to. I can’t find a way to make her understand that her schedule does not sync up with mine on a day-to-day basis. I cannot hang out at the drop of a hat anymore. Plus, I’m not a spontaneous person, anyway, so texting me five minutes before showing up at my door will not get me out of my house or my pajamas. I’m not a last-minute person. I do not do last-minute things. I plan ahead for almost everything I do. If I need to go grocery shopping, I look at my schedule and see when I can fit it in. If I need to go to the doctor, I look at my schedule. If I need to go to the bank, I look at my schedule. If a friend wants to go to dinner, we look at our schedules. If I want a “lazy day” spent on the sofa in my pajamas with Dr. Who, I look at my schedule and see when I can fit it in. I never do anything “in the spur of the moment.” Texting me at five o’clock and asking me to meet you at five after will not work, I will not show up at five after, if at all. Because it will not jive with my schedule. And I schedule constantly.
I’m not saying that anyone needs an appointment in order to spend time with me, not by any means. I’m simply saying that I need more than ten minutes’ notice. Especially if you want me to leave my house. Nine times out of ten, after I get home from work, I’m not planning to leave home again until I have to go back to work. And I try to have alone time as much as I can (within reason) because it’s so rare that I can have alone time anymore.
I’m a self-professed homebody. I like being home. No, I love being home. I love having a day when I have absolutely no commitments, and I love it when I can spend those days doing absolutely nothing, home alone, on the sofa, watching Dr.Who marathons, eating popcorn, ignoring the world. And I hate it when those days are interrupted by someone expecting me to leave the sofa for their own entertainment. I am not here to entertain you. I am not here to bend to your will or jump up at your call. I don’t expect anyone to do that for me. What I do expect is for people to respect my time, needs, and wants, the same way I respect theirs.
I’m not willing to sacrifice a friendship in the name of sleep, but I’m not willing to sacrifice sleep in the name of friendship, either. It’s an odd, almost hypocritical statement, but it’s where I’m at. I just don’t know what to do about it. Advice? Anyone? And please don’t make me leave the sofa. It’s the van Gogh episode of Dr. Who.