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The Worst Person I’ve Ever Met (Part 2) or “No, it’s my wedding day.”

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Miss Part 1? Read it here.

Note: While I believe “Cathy” was very likely mentally ill, I’d appreciate it if we could refrain from diagnosing her in the comments. Cathy was a terrible person and probably mentally ill. She wasn’t a terrible person because she was probably mentally ill.

Around the time my son was about to turn three, and when I was living in an entirely different city, Cathy called me from out of the blue. I don’t know why, exactly, I felt so happy to hear from her. Probably because despite making some wonderful friends in my new home, they didn’t have as many interests in common with me as Cathy did. That may have been due to a tendency she had to passionately adopt the interests and hobbies of those around her. It forced an intimacy between her and others, making it easier to manipulate them. I believe to this day that this was, if not intentional, at least something she was aware could work to her advantage.

I also didn’t have as many friends as I’d had before. Many of the people I knew from local theater had drifted away due to my association with Cathy, who had made bad impressions within the community. Other friends and acquaintances believed that I had shunned Cathy because of my then strong pro-life beliefs. At the time, I didn’t know this was the case. I’d simply thought that in moving away, I’d lost touch. Imagine my relief when an old friend had remembered me.

After we caught each other up on what had happened in the time since we’d last spoken, she said, “What I was calling you about was, Sam and I are engaged. And since you introduced us, I want you to be my maid of honor.”

I was so flattered by the request (and the idea that I had played matchmaker) that I accepted right away. I’d only ever been maid of honor once before in my life, at my mother’s wedding. My stepfather and his attendants wore cow-print vests under their tuxedo jackets and my mother went down the aisle barefoot under her giant Disney princess-esque dress. My grandfather gave her away with a shotgun tucked under his arm, and the whole thing took place in the woods behind my aunt’s house. I went into being Cathy’s bridesmaid woefully unprepared for what was in store.

The first alarm bell rang in that very phone conversation. I asked Cathy if they’d set a date yet, and she said it would be on July fifteenth, 2006. “July fifteenth, that’s my birthday!” I exclaimed happily.

There was a long silence.

Her voice went deathly cold. “No. It’s my wedding day.”

There was another long pause, in which I could hear my own breathing over the receiver. Klaxons in my brain went off frantically. What had I gotten myself into?

Then she laughed. “Just kidding!”

That was such a relief. Because obviously, even though I had seen her say whatever evil, selfish thing on her mind only to follow it up with “just kidding!” dozens of times before, she couldn’t possibly be using it that way toward me. I was her maid of honor!

Cathy and I started talking on the phone more often. By some stroke of diseased fate, Sam had a job working for an audiobook store that had two locations in the area. One of them was right at the end of our street, and Sam worked there every other Saturday. When those days lined up on weekends when they didn’t have Marvin, Cathy would come to Grand Rapids with Sam and spend the day with me. Most of the time, they stayed overnight so we could get drunk and play board games or watch movies.

A frequent topic of conversation was the wedding. Cathy would bring books with song and reading suggestions. “‘There Can Be Miracles’ from The Prince Of Egypt as a first dance song?” I asked incredulously, and Cathy quipped, “That’s what you play if two really ugly people were getting married.” We laughed so hard at some of the descriptions in the Pagan wedding book with vows that described the groom as “like unto Pan’s wild, sacred dance.” We had fun together. Sure, sometimes she said weird things, like, “What diet are you going to do to fit into your bridesmaid’s dress?” But I had come to terms with the fact that Cathy had inherited her mother’s lack of tact, and figured that the odd off remark was a fair trade for the good times we had.

Usually, I would send my son would go stay with a grandparent overnight so we didn’t have to bring him along on our outings. As I was a stay-at-home mom, I loved the days when Cathy and I could get out and do things that just weren’t as fun in mom-mode. We would go to new age stores, boutiques downtown, spend hours at Barnes & Noble or going to lunch somewhere that didn’t have a kid’s menu. It was such an important escape for me that it was a total bummer when I couldn’t find a babysitter for one Saturday. My son was very well behaved, though, so I had no problem bringing him with me to do our usual shopping and lunch date.

Cathy was sullen. “I’m sorry, I just consider this my ‘kid-free’ time,” she snapped. I don’t think she said a single word to my son all day, but she didn’t complain or act upset after her initial reaction. There were no major incidents during our day. My son rode in his stroller and occasionally needed to use the potty. Sure, he’d touched a few things and I’d had to remind him not to, but there weren’t any screaming tantrums or passive-aggressive seat kickings. So, it shocked me when, shortly after dinner that night, I heard Cathy bark a sharp, “no!” from the living room.

I looked in from the kitchen to see Mr. Jen picking up our son and taking him to his room, and Cathy and Sam scowling at each other. They didn’t notice me and tried to keep their voices down as they argued.

“Just chill out, okay? He’s three-years-old,” Sam whispered tersely.

“He was going to knock my bookmark out!” Cathy hissed back. “He’s been acting up all day long and she doesn’t do anything about it!”

“Oh, and you’re so great with Marvin.”

My jaw dropped. On one hand, I was furious that Cathy had yelled at my son for something as silly as almost knocking a bookmark out of her book. On the other hand, I was horrified that Sam would say something like that to her about her own child.

Mr. Jen came out of our son’s bedroom and said it would be better if we scrapped our drinking and trivia plans for the night. Cathy stormed off to the car, leaving Sam to apologize. “She’s been really stressed out over some stuff with Dan and Marvin,” he explained and said he would have her call me when she cooled down.

A couple of days went by before Cathy called. She apologized for snapping at my son and confessed that her visits with Marvin had been restricted by the court after he had been found wandering alone down a busy street downtown. When the police brought him back, Cathy had been so absorbed in reading a Harry Potter book that she hadn’t even noticed he was gone. “It was probably only an hour,” she said, as though losing a five-year-old for an hour was perfectly reasonable. “But now I only get to see him every other Sunday.” As a mother, I was horrified at the idea of becoming so distracted as to lose my child. I didn’t want to say, “I would never do something like that,” because I knew how disastrously brains could malfunction on tired parents. I’d once slept through my son flooding the bathroom by repeatedly flushing hand towels down the toilet. And I could sympathize, I supposed, with her lashing out at my son because she missed hers, or criticizing my parenting to feel better about her own. Our friendship wasn’t shattered by the incident. In fact, what bothered me most about it was how Sam had reacted, and how he’d used the incident against her the way he had. Sam was a dear friend to me, and I didn’t like the side of him I saw around Cathy.

Around this same time, I sold my first book. Cathy, an English major, was quick to remind all of our mutual friends that I’d written a “Harlequin.” My first book was a Harlequin. It was published by their women’s fiction imprint, Mira. I was and am still ferociously romance positive, so when she told me, “Oh, I thought you meant one of those secret baby books,” I was quick to inform her that I happened to like “those secret baby books,” and she insisted that she was “just kidding!” and didn’t judge anyone for what they liked to read. But Cathy did her best to downplay my first book sale. She told me she’d gone to my old literature professor to tell her the good news. “She remembered you! And she was so impressed that you’d written a book. I even told her, it’s just a Harlequin, but she was still really proud.” It was such a slap in the face, I convinced myself that I’d misheard, or Cathy had just phrased it wrong, that she was genuinely supportive of me but couldn’t express it well.

Around this time, my husband and I moved back to my hometown and bought the house I’d grown up it. Our son would have a big yard to play in, and we could even get a dog, something my husband had always dreamed about as a kid but, due to circumstances, was never able to do. Cathy and Sam helped us move, over the moon that we’d finally be close enough to their city to see each other more than a couple of times a month. We resumed our weekly karaoke nights with Sam and Cathy and our other friends. In May, Mr. Jen and I decided to get married.

When I told Cathy that we’d set a date for September, she grew icy. “But remember, my wedding comes first.” I was confused. Did she not hear me when I said we’d be having it in September? “I know. Ours is two months after yours.”

“No,” she replied. “I mean, mine comes first. You’re my maid of honor. You should be worrying about my day, not planning yours.”

I realized then that things were going downhill fast, and I had no idea how to get out. I could only hope things would go back to normal after the wedding.

Next up: Part 3, “The Bachelorette Implosion”

30 Comments

  1. “That may have been due to a tendency she had to passionately adopt the interests and hobbies of those around her.”

    I call unnecessary competitiveness. Already she seems to have a thing of comparing herself to others to their detriment and to build herself up. By being involved in your hobbies she can then “win” and be better than you in all new and different ways: in the same way she runs down your book. The more connections you have, the more ways she can belittle you

    November 21, 2017
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    • Mel
      Mel

      Yeah, this is sounding more and more like a friend I had in high school. She’d even like the same guys as me and force me to compete, which at the time, with my self esteem, I just couldn’t do. It was exhausting. The book thing gets me: friends are supposed to be genuinely supportive, encouraging and congratulate you on your successes, not reduce your achievements to something less impressive to make themselves feel better. “Only a Harlequin”, shit, I’d be ecstatic if I could finish a manuscript, let alone get a whole novel published! I recently had a story published in a journal and my true friends were great about it. People like Cathy are toxic and a drain on your soul. And I hate, hate, HATE that “Just kidding” thing. Totally passive-aggressive! I’m afraid I’d wind up either grinding my teeth down to the gum in frustration, or punching the bitch!

      November 24, 2017
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  2. Rin
    Rin

    Cathy is the start of a horror movie. It’s seriously frightening to trust someone and realize they are just flat out HORRIBLE.

    November 21, 2017
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  3. ViolettaD
    ViolettaD

    I think I understand your point, Jenny. We all know people who have emotional issues and wouldn’t deliberately hurt anyone (sometimes I’m one of them), and we all know people who seem quite well-adjusted, often because they’ve found ways to get away with the evil they do and don’t suffer inner conflicts.

    Evil and mental illness don’t always go together, but as proven by Hitler, the late Charles Manson, and people like Cathy, neither are they mutually exclusive. The point is not blaming the mental illness for the evil. “Curing” Cathy might not make her any less destructive.

    I wonder if she picked you for her bridal party only after running out of friends she had more recently alienated. I’ve heard many Bridezilla stories, but this goes way beyond…

    November 21, 2017
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  4. Mike
    Mike

    “Those secret baby books”? I’m unfamiliar with that phrase. Could someone kindly fill me in?

    I apologize if I contributed to making anyone uncomfortable on the last post. I know a few people with BPD who would never hurt a soul, and I tried to avoid labeling the behaviour of Cathy or the other people mentioned as anything specific because I also know people who are terrible people without seeming to have any disorder, they’re just selfish dicks. But I know I tend to lack tact so if I made anyone feel bad or uncomfortable I am sorry.

    I know this is really not at all the point of this post, but DAMN I am impressed that you managed to plan a wedding in only 4 months, shortly after getting moved, and while being an instrumental part of someone else’s wedding. When my sister got married, it was a relatively small affair, but it was still a pain in the ass. Props to you!

    November 21, 2017
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    • Kerry
      Kerry

      So there’s a trope in romance novels called “secret baby”—the hero doesn’t know he’s knocked up the heroine, but the pregnancy/child brings them together when the hero steps up to responsibilities and bonds with the mother. This was a very trendy story in the mid 2000s.

      November 21, 2017
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      • Vivacia K. Ahwen
        Vivacia K. Ahwen

        Oh, I’d wondered what the “secret baby” was, too. Thanks, Kerry!

        November 21, 2017
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  5. Kelly Fitzgerald
    Kelly Fitzgerald

    Poor Marvin. I feel bad that he has such a neglectful mom like that. 🙁

    November 21, 2017
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  6. zeee
    zeee

    all i can think when i read these are “Y I K E S”

    November 21, 2017
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  7. OMG I am literally agog waiting for the next installment!!!

    November 21, 2017
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  8. Jellyfish
    Jellyfish

    “My stepfather and his attendants wore cow-print vests under their tuxedo jackets and my mother went down the aisle barefoot under her giant Disney princess-esque dress. My grandfather gave her away with a shotgun tucked under his arm, and the whole thing took place in the woods behind my aunt’s house.”

    Ok, this wedding sounds amazing.

    November 21, 2017
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    • Mel
      Mel

      I know, right?! Totally taking the piss out of hillbilly weddings. What an original concept. Love it.

      November 24, 2017
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  9. Ria
    Ria

    This just sounds so much like my toxic aunt, who is no longer in my life. Everything – EVERYTHING – was always about her. She even rang to abuse me while I was going through a miscarriage to yell at me for upsetting the family by getting pregnant, but backed it up by saying “I’m doing this because I love you!” Ugh.

    November 22, 2017
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    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      If there’s anything worse than the “Just kidding” types, it’s the “I wanna HELP you” ones.

      “Elphie, I’m going to make you my little project….”

      November 22, 2017
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    • Mel
      Mel

      What a cow! How would you have been upsetting the family by getting pregnant? And behaving like that when you’re going through something so horrible as a miscarriage … some people truly have no souls.

      November 24, 2017
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  10. Puppybrite
    Puppybrite

    Thanks for posting this, it actually very helpful to me. I just went through a toxic friend breakup and the whole time she kept gaslighting me and asking why I was doing this to HER! I started to feel bad and doubt myself but reading this, she was so similar to your friend with the “just kidding” comments and the competitiveness.

    It might seem tempting to keep someone like this in your life because you have a history, but it’s really not. I’m a lot happier without having to worry that if I need to reschedule happy hour I’ll be accused of standing her up and ruining her weekend… smh

    November 22, 2017
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  11. River
    River

    Oh man. Flash backs. Friend brings the drama strong, accusing one of my friends of trying to harm the both of us sexually (oh my… tee hee….. I don’t mean rape but he is wery, wery scary!) and throwing herself around our home and friend’s lives in a hysterical manner. Only to say to me “tell me if you think I’m over reacting”…..”you are over reacting.”…. “HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT TO ME, HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE ME OF OVER REACTING. YOU ARE AN ANGRY PERSON AND I’VE ALWAYS BEEN CONCERNED ABOUT HOW ANGRY YOU ARE.” She went on to whip into a frenzy many people over this guy’s supposed evil sexual intent (there was none) only to randomly drop it months later and state that everything was just fine and she wasn’t concerned at all. Shocker (and you saw it coming) it was because he was friends with me and not with her, he and I had a connection that she and he did not. Color me ready to never talk to her again. The day she moved out of our apartment was the best day of my life.

    November 23, 2017
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  12. Musicals Rock
    Musicals Rock

    Does anyone remember that Friends episode where a woman steals Monica’s identity and credit card? And they become friends and do a lot of extraordinary stuff ? I’m getting strong vibes of that in Jenny’s story, with added evil and reality.

    November 23, 2017
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  13. MyDog'sPA
    MyDog'sPA

    I’m going to resurrect an old saying we used over 40 years ago (Hopefully this comes across as supportive), but with friends like that, who needs enemas?

    November 24, 2017
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    • bewalsh7
      bewalsh7

      Did you actually mean enemas?? I’ve heard the saying that way as well, but I didn’t think it went back 40 years.

      November 28, 2017
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  14. Anha
    Anha

    Jenny (hoping you’ll read this): Just so we’re clear, I wasn’t in any way trying to exculpate “Cathy” from blame due to whatever personality disorder(s) or mental illness(es) she very likely had. Quite the opposite, in fact, insofar as PDs go. I think people were honestly trying to help when they mentioned PDs; despite the furor that is made about “labels”, they serve a purpose in that having a name for a type of behavior allows people to research it and thus recognize it in future.

    I’m sorry you went through such a horrible experience with “Cathy”, and I’ll shut up now.

    November 24, 2017
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  15. Anha
    Anha

    Oops. For lack of any ability to edit my original comment, I just want to add this:
    When I said “quite the opposite, insofar as PDs go,” I was referring to the really malignant ones such as Histrionic PD, Narcissistic PD, Antisocial PD, and the Dark Triad. People with those conditions are absolutely not mentally ill; they are in full control of their faculties and know precisely what they’re doing. Ergo, they warrant blame.

    Again, I apologise if I put anyone’s backs up. If it seemed like I was trying to lecture anyone or ram unsolicited advice down anyone’s throats, I’m sorry.

    November 24, 2017
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    • Artemis
      Artemis

      Hey Anha, I’m pretty sure the problem was less “making excuses because PDs” and more “now this comment thread is filled with comments making sweeping generalizations about folks who have PDs.” So…like…could you please not bring the generalizations and armchair diagnoses into this thread as well? Thanks! xoxo

      November 24, 2017
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  16. Saint_Sithney
    Saint_Sithney

    Sometimes I think evil, toxic people with mental illness are so much worse than other evil, toxic people… because they then force everyone with the same diagnosis to “prove” that they aren’t like that one person.

    I knew a blind girl in high school who was an abusive jerk. She’d deliberately whack people as hard as she could with her cane, then start to cry if you yelled in pain, because she was just trying to find her way and this awful person was deliberately trying to get in her way. Yet I never saw anyone try to generalize that all blind people clearly have anger and aggression issues because this one girl did. I wish we’d give people with mental illness the same respect.

    I’m coming from a place where I was counselled to blame the personality disorder instead of my abusive sister. It was horrible advice then, and it’s horrible advice now. The PD may cause a certain lack of self-control in some areas, and it may cause lashing out, but it does not cause sustained abuse.

    November 26, 2017
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    • Richelle
      Richelle

      Just a note from the psych side of things, one of the common criteria for personality disorders is the tendency of the person to say, “I don’t have a problem, YOU are the one with the problem! Bend your life/needs to suit me!” This is mostly true for all of the PD except Borderline Personality Disorder, so it was an outlier. Given this, the life history often tied to the disorder, and the higher female diagnosis, there is quite a bit of push to have it reclassified as a type of PTSD (which has a higher male diagnosis), and not a personality disorder.

      December 4, 2017
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  17. Doedee
    Doedee

    What’s a Harlequin story?

    November 26, 2017
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    • Amy
      Amy

      They’re short romance stories. I’m sure you’ve seen them, they’re stories like, “The Princess and the Shiek”. They’re usually about 200 pages long. It’s a huge genre and very popular among women, but despite this, a lot of people tend to turn their nose up on it.

      November 26, 2017
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      • Doedee
        Doedee

        Thank you for the answer!

        December 4, 2017
        |Reply
  18. Alyssa
    Alyssa

    Man, oh man. I had a Cathy. She wasn’t as bad as this Cathy, but she was still a trip.

    Mine started out as my bully. In middle school I was the new girl, and oops, befriended “her” friends. Anytime I tried to sit with one of them in class or at lunch she’d drop everything just to come over just to pick on me. When whoever I dared talk to defended me she’d say, “I just don’t like her” while I was right there. I’d literally never done anything for her not to like me except exist on “her” turf; tbh I only even knew who she was because she went out of her way to be mean to me.

    Fast forward to high school, the girl I ended up being BFF’s with (to this day) was someone my Cathy wanted to befriend, so she stopped bullying me to get in our clique. I assumed she got over/grew out of whatever imaginary beef she had with me, not realizing she just wanted to get close to my new best friend.

    Anyways, she was weird. Talked in the third person. Went after boys her friends liked. Lied for no reason. She was the friend we all barely liked, purposely didn’t invite places, and largely only hung out with to not be “mean”.

    Junior year my prom date was my best guy friend of the time, and she spent the entire week beforehand trying to sabotage our friendship. He and had no classes together, but she did with us both, so every period she’d lie- “oh I just talked to Bobby last period, and he said {thing he said, but WAY out of context to make it sound bad}”. I’d respond indignantly, she’d tell him the worst thing I said sans context, and so on. Within a day or two he and I weren’t speaking, and almost didn’t go to prom together until a 10 minute conversation cleared everything up. As a testament to her character, instead of wondering why she’d do that we both just felt silly for believing her in the first place.

    Finally, senior year I briefly dated a super emotionally abusive guy. Within a few months of it ending, she was dating him. I was NOT AT ALL surprised by her dating someone I dated, only hurt she still wanted *him* KNOWING how awful was to me. When my BFF called my Cathy out on dating a guy I had JUST broken up with she responded, “well, she’s not in my inner circle. It’s not like I’d do that to YOU”. Unsurprisingly, when he inevitably did to her what he did to me, purposely broke her phone and left her stranded on the wrong side of town at 1am, I was who she called from a stranger’s phone because mine was the only friends’ number she had memorized. I was definitely in her inner circle. Went and got her, but yeah, not friends with her anymore. She was easy to drop since high school graduation was only a week or two out from that event.

    Side note, all of this frenemy stuff makes me think of Peach Girl, which I related to too well lol. Sorry you had a Cathy, but I do look forward to the rest of your story.

    November 26, 2017
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  19. Zzzzen
    Zzzzen

    Never mind. I get the Rowling reference now. XP

    December 11, 2017
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