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The Skinny By Elaine Langlois

Your Best Friend: When to Ditch Her

Where would we be without friends? They are the Super Glue that binds our lives together. There are friends we call when we want to talk things out, friends who give us unexpected gifts, friends we can relax and be ourselves with, friends we like to have with us when we are driving in an unfamiliar city because they have a sense of direction. Some of the most precious and meaningful moments of our lives are those spent with friends.

Yet, of all these happy acquaintances, one stands out. Your best friend. She's been at your side all your life. Ever since you were toddlers and had your first temper tantrums together. You were mean to the same girls in adolescence, shoplifted at all the better department stores, seduced the chemistry teacher and got him fired. She was the maid of honor at your wedding, made sure you got to keep all the wedding presents at the divorce, and was even your witness at Number 2.

But nothing is forever. The day may come when you will need to ditch her. When you suddenly realize she doesn't know the first thing about what friendship means.

-She makes demands. It used to be that you told her about your stuff and she told you about hers. Now it's all about her. She's constantly calling, crying on the phone, begging you to come over or take her out for a cappuccino, even when you've made it perfectly clear that you're on your way to the mall for one of those ten-minute massages.

What does it matter that her boyfriend left her and she tried to commit suicide? She probably left the gas on by accident, anyway; she's always exaggerating. How can her petty problems possibly compare to the difficulties you've been having with your decorator?

-A gift horse. She stops getting you gifts that are as nice as what you get her (you're not worth it). Or she gets you gifts that are much nicer than yours (you can't keep up). Or she gets you tacky little self-improvement gifts, like a trial membership at a gym or a book on managing anger.

-She starts cozying up with other women. This can be very dangerous depending on what you've confided. How will you live if she tells everyone about little Natalie's head lice? And that Peter was rejected by First Cut Montessori?

-She changes. You've always dieted and binged together. But now when you go out, she gets a Diet Coke after you've ordered a double malted. And she plays racquetball three times a week with Annie Rosenblat, that snippy little anorexic in spandex.

Worse, she's stopped gossiping. All she wants to talk about is books or current events or social causes. Oh, please.

-She's after your guy. Is she dressed a little too nicely for helping you paint the kitchen? Do you keep running across the two of them in tool sheds and the back seats of cars? Go after her with everything you've got.

-She gets a better guy than yours. He's divorced, sexy, and rich. He takes her out all the time, brings her flowers, buys her clothes and jewelry. A trophy wifedom is surely in the offing.

It's not possible to rise above the seething jealousy that this turn of events will cause you. Don't even try.

Instead, just close the door and don't look back. Wash your hands of all the nice things she's ever done. Go through the house and throw out every item she's given you that you can't use or sell. Make a voodoo doll of her and stick pins in it. Then roast it in the microwave.

-Attrition. This is of course the traditional route for ending a friendship. You don't answer her calls; you make excuses when she invites you out.

Gradually, she gets the message. Surely, we can do better than that.

-Send her a flame. There's nothing like a little unexpurgated e-mail to end a relationship with flair. Try to pass along a virus, too.

-To know, know, know you is to loathe, loathe, loathe you. Who knows her better than you? With a little imagination, you can put that knowledge to use in some deliciously destructive way. Perhaps you could enlighten her employer as to the confidential company information she's been sharing during your evening walks. Or let her new boyfriend know just how much of a jerk she really thinks he is.

-Kill her off. Homicide may be a necessity if you have told her too much about yourself. Once again, you can employ your familiarity with her habits and routines to your advantage. A simple poison in one of her favorite raisin scones. A little shove from the platform in front of a speeding commuter train. Be sure to wail inconsolably at the funeral.

This experience is likely to be painful. But it should teach you to choose more carefully in future. After all, you need the right sort of people on your team.

Friendship is about sharing. And caring. And being there to give you the things you need. Like money and child care and M&M's. Friendship is not a two-way street! Friendship is about helping you succeed.

©2003 Elaine Langlois