I was going to do my customary weekly roundup post today but I have something more pressing on my mind. It was a friend’s birthday this month but I didn’t want to send her a gift, although I did. I didn’t even want to send her a card, the reason being our friendship (if you can call it that) is at the end of the road because I no longer trust her.
I met this person about 16 years ago through an email support group for people with M.E. from which we both suffer. She was intelligent, sweet and creative, and we were the same age and both single. We had several online friends in common and soon became buddies, emailing each other and eventually regularly chatting on the phone. We even met up and went on a short holiday together which I really enjoyed.
However, for some considerable time now there have been alarm bells. This person knows I’m on Facebook, and that several of our mutual friends are on my friends list, yet she’s never sent me a friend request. I know she’s on Facebook because some years ago I searched for her email address thinking I’d add her, but although her profile contains her real first name it has a different surname, so I didn’t even tell her I’d found her.
She’s been ill nearly as long as me and been in receipt of sickness benefits from the Government, but several years ago the DWP contacted her to say there had been a problem with her initial application and she actually wasn’t entitled to receive the benefit and had to pay it all back. So she suddenly had a huge debt to repay and, being too ill to work, was also without her main source of income. Despite that, she decided to move house. The property she bought, however, cost over £100,000 more than the property she sold so she had to have a huge mortgage. How did that work? What bank lends £130,000 to a person with virtually no income? She obviously had an income source she wasn’t telling me about, which of course is her prerogative, but she constantly pleaded poverty. She made a big deal of telling me she bought all her clothes second-hand from Ebay or charity shops and had no cash for a newer car. Big red warning lights were flashing.
The place she moved to was hundreds of miles from where she’d been living, which again I thought odd as she didn’t know a soul. But it turned out she had a brother living there who she’d just never mentioned who apparently has some serious mental health issues. She’s told me that mental health issues run in her family (yes, I know this should have struck warning bells but we all have weird family members and it’s no reflection on us!).
The new house turned out to have some major structural issues and to cut a long story short she’s just spent tens of thousands of pounds rectifying them. Apparently she was given the money by family members who I’d been told she didn’t get along with, so it seems fair to say she comes from a well-off family and is closer to her siblings than she’d led me to believe, which is fine but why lie about it?
Not only did the new house have loads of issues, her neighbour (an elderly married committed Christian) was apparently letching and spying on her and she involved the police, telling them he was a peeping Tom. The situation put her under enormous stress and she installed CCTV cameras to keep an eye on him. I’ve got to be honest, although I tried to be supportive I wasn’t sure what had actually happened or that I believed her version of events.
She’s recently had a handy man who’s done lots of work in her home steal from her. Which is horrendous but at the same time all a bit weird. The police have apparently told her to go and search his outbuildings secretly while he’s not there to see if she can see any of her belongings and if she finds anything she has to let them know and they will interview him. Hmmmm. I’m fairly sure no police force would tell a vulnerable, sick single woman to search a suspected thief’s premises (isn’t that actually illegal?!). She then told me this handyman has guns and that’s how they met – he’d taken her on a 6 week course to learn how to shoot. Er, why would she need to learn how to shoot? I thought she was horrendously ill with M.E., at least that’s the reason she’s given me for only ringing me once this year. And as if all that weren’t weird enough, this handyman is apparently in the support group for ESA (ie sickness benefit) yet she’s employing him to do work for her. And he’s well enough to shoot vermin on acres and acres of farmland. And she told me he does handyman jobs for a local Magistrate, who knows he’s claiming ESA but employs him anyway. Really?!
Even if I could swallow all this drama and half-truths, as I mentioned above she’s only rung me once so far this year. This is apparently because she’s had so much stress with all the work being done on the house, and then the theft, that she’s just been too ill to be in touch. However, when I bought my little cottage and found 2″ of sewage water under my lounge floor, and needed a new roof, and found that I had a bulge in the entire side of the building that my surveyor hadn’t even noticed and I had to sue him which took 2 years, I still managed to go on holiday with her. I still managed to email her when my Mum nearly died from her lung surgery, then her heart attack. I still managed to keep in touch when I was having several anaphylactic episodes a day, then travelled 600 miles alone three times to get diagnosed with MCAD. And I’m single too, and have 3 diseases not 1, and on top of all that am looking after my parents and have to cook every single thing I eat from scratch. So the “I’m ill y’know!” excuse just doesn’t wash with me when I know she goes to various classes, has various friends she does stuff with and goes on several holidays a year.
She texted me on her birthday to thank me for my present, but said she was too ill and exhausted to ring. Yet she spent her birthday meeting a friend in the morning, then going to a garden party in the afternoon – obviously really poorly then. We finally spoke yesterday. She texted me at 11am to say “fancy a chat this morning? Only I’ve lost my address book and don’t have your landline number, so you’ll have to ring me.” Modern phones have contacts lists built in them FFS, she must think I’m totally stupid. However, I texted straight back that I would ring her which I did – but the call went straight to answer phone!! I did leave a clearly-pissed-off message to say “I thought you’d pick the phone up being as though you’ve just asked me to ring you!”. She then waited 10 minutes to call me back, even though I’d told her I had to go out at 11.30am. It was the last fucking straw if I’m honest.
I seem to’ve met my fair share of women online who are secretive and untruthful. As regular readers of my blog will know, in 2014 I fell out with a long time friend I’d met online. In our 16 year friendship we’d never spoken on the phone and I’d never seen a photo of her. Neither had any of our dozens of mutual friends. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight she could have been anyone – she might not even have been female. She wouldn’t send text messages because she said the signal affected her, yet she’d get her husband to text me who was sat right next to her – or did she? Was it her texting and saying it was her husband? She moved house without telling me (or anyone else) which was bizarre. She didn’t get on with her Mum and told me she used to dread her visits, yet when she died this person spent 2 years on Facebook writing posts about how much she missed her “darling Mum” eliciting loads of sympathy from people who didn’t know the real situation. The same happened with a friend, who she hadn’t spoken to for 4 years, who died and this person was writing posts online about how much she missed her “darling sister-friend” again getting loads of support from people who didn’t know the dead friend had ignored her for years. And dozens of other little, and not so little, stuff which all added up to secretive, strange behaviour and outright lies. Yet I was castigated for pointing this stuff out! This person is so “lovely” and believable that no-one takes a step back and questions her story and when I did I was made out to be the Devil himself and unfriended by the majority of our mutual mates.
Another friend I met through the same online support group I used to talk to every single day. She was originally from Pakistan and, although she was hard work at times and very demanding, I felt for her being ill in a foreign country where she hadn’t had chance to make friends. She ended up going into hospital and myself and 2 other friends sent her some flowers, which were returned because there was no-one of that name in the hospital. Turned out she’d given us all a false name which is fine, we all use pseudonyms online to keep us safe, but to go 4 years without telling your closest friend isn’t right. It also turned out this person came from a very wealthy family in Pakistan and I’m fairly sure she’d fed me an absolute load of bullshit about her family situation and her need to escape an arranged marriage.
There seem to be a lot of fantasists out there, who create personas for themselves online which I honestly think they end up believing themselves. There are also a lot of people out there with mental health issues, who can appear completely normal and reasonable online but who in real life have some serious problems. And when you’re a kind, compassionate, open person, who takes people at face value and thinks everyone is as honest as you are, you tend to attract these people like a magnet, then when you find out that someone you have told everything about yourself to has been dishonest about their lives it’s deeply hurtful.
I’m now much more wary of people I meet online, even if they seem “lovely”. As Doctor Phil so wisely says “people who have nothing to hide, hide nothing”. I am distrustful of people who have Facebook pages that don’t contain family members or personal information, especially if they’re on my friends list because my Facebook page contains details of my real life. No offence to all you lovely people out there, but I’m not going to give my personal details out on my blog because I have no idea you are who you say you are and I’ve already had a couple of run-ins with nutters and some with people who are just plain rude. It’s a sad fact of life that the anonymity of the internet allows people to make up any persona they like, act any way they like and tell any lie they like without consequence – well, apart from hurting nice people like you and me.