How to break up with a toxic friend (with a little help from a REAL friend)


by Yolisa Qunta

I have a friend. Actually, because I’m a socially well-adjusted person, I have plenty of amazing friends whom I consider family.

This is the tale of how I ended up being minus one friend

Breaking up with a romantic partner has become a lot easier thanks to technology: a few days of unanswered blue tick messages and most people get the hint. Breaking up with friends is a lot harder (as I found out last week).

Because life doesn’t respect me, I was knee deep in books for exams, thinking about packing but not doing much actual packing, and trying to navigate the raging egos that normally surface at any family gathering involving more than five people.

Into this mix dropped a young woman I hadn’t heard from in a while

I first met her about six years ago through mutual friends when we had all started working and were living our Sex-and-the-City lives. Much of our interaction took place at parties, clubs, on yachts and at recovery brunches at various restaurants.

I had sort of picked up that there were issues in her life, but since I avoid drama the same way Eddie Murphy avoids birth control, I chose to avoid that side of her life.
Fast forward to the present moment

The group had splintered slightly. Some of the posse got married and had kids, others married and moved overseas. Our interactions were mostly via Facebook and an annual reunion with the overseas bunch.

Then I contacted this person. I needed to ask her for a reference for a service provider, but felt bad about starting with, “Oh, hey, we haven’t spoken in three years, but what’s your mechanic’s number?”

So I started with small talk and we swapped numbers. She spent the next two days Whatsapping and calling me constantly to update me about every single bad thing that had happened to her in the past two years. In great detail.

Ignoring these glaring red flags, I kept entertaining this nonsense for another day. So when she called me sobbing the next day and saying she felt very low, was afraid of harming herself and didn’t want to be alone, I invited her to stay over at my place.

I did let her know that I was studying and she would need to entertain herself. I also pointed out that the family function was on Saturday and she would need to be gone by then. This conversation took place on Tuesday.

Over the next few days she proceeded to test my patience in the following ways:

1. When I invited her out to dinner, she ordered the most expensive dish on the menu, ordered two cocktails, sent both back, argued with the waiter about what was wrong with them and complained the next day when my sister ate two spoons of her leftovers.

2. Claimed she wanted to stay at home, then shouted at me because I was going to a swanky launch for work and I hadn’t told her, so she had nothing to wear.

3. Insisted on going back to her flat every day to do super-important things like meet her personal trainer and made me pay for the Uber every time.

4. Invited herself to farewell drinks with my best friend of 20 years, kept me waiting 15 minutes while she got ready – and then when I tried to hurry her up, informed me that white women needed 20 minutes to blow-dry their hair

5. At said drinks was awfully rude to the waiter, refused to order food, took a few bites of the food we ordered (then criticised it for hours), and then ordered two shots of alcohol and a glass of wine after last rounds were called

6. After consuming these drinks and three bottles of wine between the three of us, she tried to wrestle the keys to my press car (meaning a car the manufacturer lent me for a week, in the hope that I would write a favourable review), out of the sober chauffeur’s hand, betting him half a million rand she could drive safely (insert Madea side eye).

7. The next day when I offered for a family member to fetch her from her flat after another of her inexplicable appointments, she shouted at me for changing plans and demanded an Uber that she wouldn’t pay for instead.

At this point my patience (which is ordinarily low) reached its limit

I had already made a date for farewell drinks with another of my oldest friends, Shelley Armstrong, who is one of the nicest people I know.

She is sweet, slightly shy, a gorgeous blonde, single mom, killer poker player and generally one of the most chilled people I know. So, because I’m living a carless life, I asked Shelley to stuff this person’s bags into her boot while we waited for another hapless male to deliver them to the ungrateful wretch.

Over a very chilled bottle of wine I told Shelley my drama of the week – and she totally lost it

Understatement of the week.

As I told the story, my awesome friend (who I had never heard raise her voice in my presence) turned into a fiery dragon.

She snatched my phone, demanded the password in a tone that brooked no refusal, then proceeded to respond to the ungrateful heifer’s demands in terms that indicated that playtime was over. I was so scared of this new her, that I decided sipping wine and choosing dinner was my safe place.

After FOUR HOURS of about-to-be ex friend messaging and trying to pull all sorts of manipulative stunts (which Shelley calmly and efficiently blocked), it appeared the siege was over.

In order to ensure follow-through, Shelley insisted on driving back to my house after dinner and gathering every single item that the ex-friend had left there, to return to her so she would have no excuse to contact me again.

As you can imagine, the transaction of nice guy dropping the stuff off was fraught and I did get several thesis-long messages letting me know why I was a bad person for doing this.

Luckily I’m more grateful to and low-key terrified of Shelley to respond to the bait.

The moral of the story?

So I guess the moral of this story is: don’t worry if rubbish friends try to take advantage of you, because when that happens, your real friends will rise to the occasion and protect you from yourself when you need it the most. Cheers to that!

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