Having been raised in an Authoritarian household, I came into adulthood like a magnet that was constantly attracting domineering personalities into my personal atmosphere. When I was younger, I had no idea that being in a friendship with someone who would constantly bowl over others with their fierce stubbornness, embrace judgement on all who would pass, and claim they had the answers to everyone’s problems was not normal.
I met Darla at the age of 19. Despite being well past her college years, we ended up at the same apartment party. We bonded while chain-smoking menthol cigarettes (yuck) on a night that would become notorious among the partygoers, as Darla’s hefty frame broke the toilet when she decided to have sex with some guy on it. However, well before the honey badger, it was Darla who didn’t give a shit. I think it was Darla’s unbreakable confidence that really drew me in. She was charismatic and smart, she worked in the media industry and gave me a ton of advice as I began my entertainment career. I liked Darla, she always had interesting stories to tell because she had a lot of “crazy” people around her (red flag) and somehow the most hapless things would always be happening to her (reddiest red flag in all flaggitude). We never officially resided in the same state, but shortly after our acquaintance, her father fell ill, and since she had a very complicated relationship with her many siblings, she often opted to stay with me. At that time, it was a mutually beneficial relationship full of good times. We would gossip daily about boys, work or school, and when she came to visit she would always sneak me drinks in the club.
About the time I was heading out west, Darla had a child with her ex. She had to leave her media job and return to her home town to make ends-meat. She spiraled through ups and downs, typically relative to what her current leading man was or wasn’t doing for her. Conversations with her became feast or famine, if there was drama happening in her life, I got the play-by-play, other times, even if I was in need I’d leave a dozen unanswered calls over several months. Not yet realizing that I was a mere accessory to her ego, and despite working 80-hour weeks, I always picked up when she called.
She was in her 30’s and wanted nothing more than to be married. She would cling onto questionable relationships with whatever hotdog stand, or married bouncer guy that would pay attention to her, and she would call and tell me the same cyclical stories about them breaking her heart. Despite frequently contributing her own unsolicited advice, Darla wasn’t the type to want other’s opinions. Taking a contrary stance from her would typically end with rapid-fire condescension and her early exit from the conversation. But, at this point, we had been friends for years, and I assumed that she was merely failing to see that I had grown into official woman-hood, now steadily in a successful career and a with few solid relationships under my belt. There was a lot of not right happening, but I just didn’t think that it was worth throwing the relationship away.
At one point, she took on a project in my town and I set her up with a room at the home of one of my closest friends. Darla unilaterally decided my friend needed some attitude and life coaching, so she would spend a lot of time and effort sharing her personal philosophies on life and then would complain to me about how draining it was to stay there.
[Cut to: first big fight]
Darla told me I was a toxic friend, and that I had a darkness growing inside of me. I called her a bully, but I was still the only one to apologize a few weeks later. Darla assumed herself an expert in the field of mental health care and stood by her claims. She had taken some college courses to become a counselor, but was asked to leave for being disruptive to the other students as she would use the group training sessions to discuss her own trauma in such a way that the bulk of the time would be devoted to her alone. Basically, they told her she needed to resolve issues within herself before she would be welcomed back. Even well after being ejected from the program, she still made sure to proudly claim her attendance on her Facebook page.
[The beginning of the end]
When another close friend and love interest died in a car accident on christmas, I didn’t get near the same amount of support I had given when her father had passed years earlier. The imbalance of our relationship was becoming more apparent, I saw how she would project her own struggles as issues that I needed to work out on myself. I made an active choice to stop initiating phone calls to see how often we spoke. And we pretty much didn’t for well over a year. Right around the time of silence began, Darla began dating a guy, and one day she included me on a group text with a photo of her engagement ring. Not really being in the loop on this guy, due to our estrangement, I shot her back a congratulatory response.
[The end of the end]
By happenstance, I was working on a project and with Darla’s blessing, I offered an opportunity to let one of her sisters present a bid to be one of our local coordinating vendors. Darla and her sister had a difficult relationship, but she vouched for her sister’s ability to do the job well. The sister claimed she had a house and could work locally at the project site. On the day I called the sister to solidify the deal and draft the paperwork, she suddenly needed airfare and a daily food stipend. This made her bid no longer affordable and the company ended up working with another team. My phone blew up with nasty calls and texts from Darla’s sister. She claimed to had spent two days working on the bid and demanded pay at an absurdly high and, never before mentioned, daily rate. I explained to her that is not how contract bids work, but when she started getting aggressive with my team, we opted to pay her to make her go away. I looped Darla into this, and she chalked it up to a “yep, told ya she was crazy” sort of comment.
Three days later came a series of texts, a literary assault on my character. Darla had determined I was masterminding a plan to poison her relationship with her sister and caused this situation. She was apparently appalled that I didn’t do enough in response to her engagement and I was a terrible friend. She made sure to let me know that she was blocking me, so I shouldn’t even bother to respond. How very like her.
Perhaps it’s the five years of time that had passed, or the fact that we are now both married, and in seemingly much different places, but I really should have known better when she sent me that Facebook friend request. The things she said in her final act were bridge-burn worthy, but having spent a small amount of time training and working in the field of behavioral health myself, I had a glint of hope that she may have finally taken up that professional suggestion of therapeutic healing. Between running my business, developing a podcast, my writing and general love for myself, I’ve got zero tolerance for needless drama.
I can only assume Darla caught wind of my last post, American Narcissist: A Cure For What Ails You, in which I praise an article that led to a differing of opinions on my private Facebook page, something I mentioned in the public blog post. Apparently, all Darla really wanted to do was scroll down past 10 days worth of content to rouse the referenced material up and share her thoughts. In her go-to style of condescension, she explained (sometimes in caps and with the help of the teary eyed laugh emoji aimed at my comments) that she universally disagrees with me, the author of the article and to no surprise, has THE solution.
Nope, sorry, na-huh, I am not a 19-year-old any longer and this honey badger don’t have time for that shit. I am so thankful I’ve had enough personal development to know that healthy relationship’s require mutual respect and support. Not just when it’s convenient for one party, but unconditionally. I am lucky to say I’ve got that in my life, so anyone else can step off.
If you have a Darla in your life, let her go. Trust me, you will be totally fine. May you all find love and peace, even the Darla’s of the world.