“I Have Plenty of Friends I Don’t Like”

I just started watching Downton Abbey (I know, late to the party much?) and I’m on episode two. The brilliant Maggie Smith (I’ve always loved her — loved her as McGonagall, loved her as Mother Superior, loved her as Granny Wendy and now love her as Violet Crawley) just delivered a brilliant, laugh-out-loud line:

Lord Grantham[About Matthew Crawley, Lord Grantham’s new heir] I thought you didn’t like him?

Lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess: So what? I have plenty of friends I don’t like.

I think it’s true of most of us, don’t you? Or else, it has been. I remember years ago being with my mother and my mother-in-law, telling a story about some people I went to school with. I forget the story I was telling, only that I must have been complaining about someone because eventually my mother-in-law said “I thought you two were friends?” And I responded, “Oh yeah, we’re friends. But we don’t really like each other.”

My mother-in-law, who has two sons, looked horribly confused, and my mother turned to her to explain: “This is what it’s like with daughters.”

These days I can honestly say I don’t have any friends I don’t like. While it was a joke on Downton…it wasn’t. Not really. And when I was in college there were plenty of us who were forced to interact enough that we smiled at each other, played nice, but didn’t especially consider ourselves true friends. Now it seems we’re all so busy we hardly have time to see the friends we adore, let alone waste time on the ones we secretly can’t tolerate.

But still, I laughed in recognition when that brilliant Maggie Smith delivered the line. She’s pretty awesome, no?

What about you? Admit it — haven’t you felt like Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham? Ever had friends you don’t like?

36 Comments

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36 responses to ““I Have Plenty of Friends I Don’t Like”

  1. Ha! Very true, although I wouldn’t call them friends. By the way, Maggie Smith is *fabulous* in Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A must see movie in my book. And it passes the Bechdel test!

  2. samscham

    First off, I absolutely love Downton Abbey and Maggie Smith is my favorite actress! I completely agree and can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this before. I think we all have one or two people who fit the descriptions of hated friend.

  3. Laurie Lee

    I have coworkers I don’t like. I call them my work frenemies. We work together so I have to pretend I like them which is tiring.

  4. I think as I age I appreciate quality more than quantity. Weather it’s friends, the perfect pair of black pants, wine or even cloth napkins (perhaps my obsession only), I’d rather have the one I really covet, then many I “just have”. In return, I am fulfilled each time I have an encounter…..friend or wine…..

  5. Aggie Mags

    I attended an all girls high school. We had 17 girls in our graduating class. Freshman year of high school, I learned I had to get along with them all or I would have lonely times ahead of me. Ultimately, I bonded deeply with a few of these females, whom, in a bigger school, would never have been my friends at all. That necessity created a tolerance in me for people with vastly different interests. Now that I am approaching mid-forties however, I would like to prune a bit. I think I have reached the stage where my free time is more precious to me. I am so busy with work, volunteering (for a cause about which I am passionate) and marriage that I am not as flexible about hanging out with someone whose interests don’t dovetail with mine. In one case, I let go of the friendship after a deep pondering of its value to me. There were many factors that led to the decision but it caused the other person unhappiness and pain. Her conduct played a big part in my departure. I have never been able to quite motivate myself to reconciling. At first, I was just angry at her for specific behavior, but after awhile, I stopped being angry and I was just finished. I want her to be happy and healthy but not in my orbit.

    I don’t know if I still have “friends I don’t like” but I have had them in the past. It’s typically been people who have pursued me, and I was too wimpy to say “Not interested” or “Limited interest.” I met Ellen in college, where new friendships were hard to come by. I liked her so much. She was smart and funny and I was one of the few whom didn’t go to the same college as those 17 girls from high school. She said to me (in what I think was an attempt to be nice and honest,) “I like you and would like to be friends with you, but I just don’t have space in my life for one more friend.” That stung. Later, I actually had space for new friends but didn’t really want some of the ones that showed up. And I didn’t have the skills to articulate a way out of those relationships with any sort of grace or dignity. I did eventually leave two of them but in a way that still needles me with twinges of guilt. Again, I want those women to be happy and healthy. I would be willing to get together on occasion, but I don’t want to be any sort of regular friends or “besties”, even if we were before.

  6. Yes! Thank you for the new Maggie Smith recommendation – if I met her, I’m sure SHE wouldn’t be a “frenemy”!

  7. Actually, no! I’m quite proud that I no longer have “friends” that I don’t like. I think growing up has helped a lot, but I think it comes down to the fact that I refuse to waste any time or energy on negative people! I value and cherish all of the friends in my life, distant or close, and it feels soooo good when I get to send any drama or negativity far far away!

  8. Absolutely agree with this. I am currently in a phase in my life where I am finding out who my true friends are. I must admit it often hurts me quite badly to find out who truly is my friend and who isn’t when it comes down to the core of friendship.

  9. I’ve just recently grown to understand that having “friends” you don’t particularly like is a part of having a social life which includes having *real* friends that you actually do like.

  10. What is the point of keeping friends you don’t like? Personally, I’m all about the quality, and not the quantity. People who I don’t like get voted off the island.

  11. I think people with ‘heaps of friends’ often have friends they don’t like. I’m quite selective with my friends and love them all very much! I agree with the above comment. I am also a redheaded writer, great minds!

  12. I like ALL my friends, but this wasn’t always the case. In fact, I recently “broke up” with a friend and still feel badly about the way it all went down. I think it was harder to break up with her than any boyfriend I’ve had. But it was necessary as her behavior/our relationship was taking away from my life rather than adding to it. I don’t need to hang out with people that stress me out! I just wish there was a good way to communicate that to a “friend.”

  13. I agree many of us have friends we don’t adore. I have a friend I know she’s a good person at heart, but she is such a drama queen. She will obsess over one detail like a broken record. A whole dinner was over Facebook coming out with Timeline. Until she was engaged, she had a horrible habit of as soon as anything male came into the immediate area, she’d drop you and start flirting with him. It would drive me crazy. Even though she would do these things, I know she’s a bright, compassionate woman that would be there if I really got her attention.

  14. quetzalcotl

    Oh, yeah. I surely can identify. In my situation, I was only labeled as “friends” with them because they belong to another circle of friends that some of my true friends are in as well. We’ll meet at parties, pass by each other at school, say hi sometimes, but we never really trusted each other like friends do.

  15. Oh, yes, I’ve been slowly distancing myself from a couple of people I don’t really like, but it’s tricky because we’re tied together by mutual friends. I end up looking like the bad guy for spending less time with them, where really my problem with them is the nasty way they talk about the people I love.

  16. Thank-you for this post, recently I have realised I don’t really like a group of friends that over the years I have spent(wasted) a-lot of time with, difficult lesson to learn but I am hoping I will feel so much better in the not too distant future. This post has helped me to see it is just one of life’s lessons that we all go through not just me :)

    • Jacquelyn Chappel

      a little piece, During different periods of my life, living in different places, I have found myself in certain circles. Sometimes, I stopped and realized I didn’t like a lot of the people in those circles. They were too superficial or corporate or unreliable. Whatever. I decided for whatever reason they were not people I wanted to be influenced by. They were nevertheless indubitably a part of a circle that I was a part of. And as I look back on my life, they were important people in my life who I confided in on some level and who knew me and who I knew. And some level at certain moments, we did like each other. And we learned from each other and changed probably as a result of having contact. In some cases, over time, I broke off ties (or moved). In some cases, people broke off ties with me (or moved). These people, I realize many years in retrospect, were nevertheless friends. We each have our own characters and faults. We are all a little superficial, status-oriented, ditzy, flaky, snobby, jealous, racist, whatever. It is our ability to tolerate and appreciate those individuals for whoever they are, wherever they are that makes us mature, wise, loving individuals. It’s really hard. And I’m certainly not there yet.

  17. I’ve been thinking about this post. I must say that I have few friends these days mostly because I can’t stand the thought of spending time with someone I don’t like which drains me energetically speaking. But I have done that plenty in the past just to have things to do or get out of the house. Being forced together with people does play a dynamic. Now, I’m all alone in my home office and have no one. So which is better?
    Now I must ask myself: “Why am I having trouble finding people I like? Am I too judgmental and not accepting?”….hmmm…

    • Juliette

      Hey Kelly- I am right there with ya! I am also starting to wonder if I am overly critical???.,…I have a hard time meeting people that even get the ‘potential friend’ label…and this is hard for me to accept about myself, because friendship has always come easy for me, til about my late 30’s…

    • That’s interesting. I know someone by way of mutual friends, and we spend time together (in the book club), but I can tell she doesn’t like me one bit. I am not at all up to her standards. I think of her, and I can only assume she is alone in her home office with no one. I would much rather have people in my life (even people who aren’t my favorites) than be alone. I feel sorry for this girl whose standards are so high that she’s isolated herself. As Proverbs says, loosely paraphrased, I’d rather have a meal consisting of a bowl of vegetables at a table with friends than have a five-course steak dinner at a fine restaurant by myself.

      • Juliette

        I would be sad to find out that I am in someone’s life, who doesn’t considered me one of their ‘favorites’ just so they are not alone….I guess family is the buffer against being alone in my life..Friendship meets a different need for me, perhaps understanding and empathy…But we are each on our own journey, gaining different insighst along the way…so God bless:-)

  18. Absolutely — isn’t it funny that most females are terrified to admit that we don’t like someone? Whenever I spoke about my former job (just moved recently) I always said “omg I love my job and my co-workers!” then my husband would chime in “um, honey, weren’t you JUST complaining about what so-and-so did to you and how so-and-so jumped in, etc, etc??” I always reply, “oh I know, I like them, we were just having an off-day or we had a misunderstanding.”

    So all in all, it’s a double-edged sword, you either find yourself pretending to like someone because you can’t admit that it’s possible for people to clash, or you speak your mind and now you’ve just made work an awkward place to be 40 hours a week.

    Needless to say, I have yet to see downtown abbey, but I do watch gossip girl :)

  19. Remember back in school when it was all about how many friends you had? I am so glad those days are over.

    As I’ve got older I found I’ve just got less patience and time for those people whom I don’t really regard as friends. Yes it’s easier to stay in contact with people with G+, Twitter, Facebook, etc, but even with that, I can’t force myself to be “friends” with people I just couldn’t care less for.

    I don’t have any friends I don’t like. Love every single one of them. A small circle of friends, but definitely quality over quantity.

  20. I don’t even have a clue as to the show you reference thru out your narrative, but I have had many “friends” that I couldn’t stand. Now using the label “friend” has become important to me, I try to save it for those that I truly think of as friends, and I don’t refer to all those I know as friends. Now I politely nod my head and acknowledge that I know them, and hopefully not questioned further. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Juliette

      I have also become very selective about the title of friend…I recognize it now as an honor to be called someone’s friend..but more over I also recognize the obligation that is attached to being a friend…the importance of being a good friend.

  21. I like the challenge of having friends I don’t like, and figuring out how to interact with them like an adult.

  22. Laurie Lee

    Another thought on this…If you don’t like someone, they’re by definition NOT a friend (See definition below from dictionary.com). These are people that you’re in contact with that you don’t like and these relationships are optional. Why waste time with people you don’t like? The only exception I can see to this is a friend of a friend in a group situation. I agree that has to be tolerated.

    Friend:
    “A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.”

  23. How funny, I LOVED that moment in Downton Abbey. It reminded me then, as it does now, that I said something like this years ago at a party. (Not as well as Maggie Smith, of course.) I was telling a story and started a sentence, “So then this friend I don’t like …” and the girl I was talking to burst out laughing – she said, ” I know EXACTLY what you mean!” And we went on to have a really long conversation about this phenomenon (which is why I remember this at all!).

    I think the problem is there’s not a good word for a person you end up spending lots of time with based on circumstances, but isn’t actually a person with whom you share mutual affection. Acquaintance seems too flimsy; friend is far too generous.

    You could call them a FIDL (friend I don’t like) but, as soon as they find out what that acronym means, you’re probably going to go from FIDL to flat-out enemy!

  24. Oh my gosh. I love this show. So much.

    Beffy
    therealbffblog.blogspot.com

  25. Totally agree with you on so many counts: I’m obsessed with Downton, and I’m obsessed with the Dowager Countess (have you seen the Maggie Moment clips on YouTube?). Who has the time to waste on friends we don’t really like? Not me. Those days are long gone; they’re for the younger, more Dowager Countess and less Lavinia Swire version of myself. :) Nice post.

  26. What a great question– and how interesting that your mother-in-law didn’t understand the issue. I agree- boys tend to not waste time with friends they don’t like…. But, I do. I have some friends I don’t like, but they are part of a certain group or community and not just on Facebook, I can’t unfriend them. It would be rude and then awkward when we are with our larger group. These “friends”, though, do not annoy me. Since I’ve decided I don’t like them, I don’t pay attention to the annoying things that make me not like them. I hope that makes sense.
    Instead, more troubling for me: friends I have who I do like, but who get on my nerves. These are friends who have endearing qualities and other factors that make the difference between not liking them and liking them, but getting annoyed by them. These are friends who might be fun to be with much of the time, but either call too much, complain too much, talk about themselves too much, etc. And, they cause me more angst because I don’t dismiss them and I want to help them… I wonder if this is a similar situation for others.
    Thanks for making me think with your interesting post!

  27. Anonymous

    Livingsanegerously~~~ a “flat out enemy”~~~it’s a FOE! :)

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