My office friends Robin and Leo were sitting in the kitchen when I came in for my morning coffee. Leo pulled a chair out for me to join them.
“Robin’s having problems with her house guests,” he said.
“They’re still there? How long has it been?” I asked.
Robin began to shred her napkin. “It feels like they arrived sometime during the Clinton administration.”
Her high school friend Amy had written to ask if she and her daughter could come to Robin’s for a visit. Robin was delighted. She told Amy they were welcome to stay with her but warned her that, since she lived in a one-bedroom condo, they would have to share a sofa bed.
“It was nice to see her again,” Robin said. “Then we went out to dinner the first night and Amy announced that they planned to stay for 11 days.”
“Did you ask her to sign a lease?” Leo asked.
“Oh wait, it gets worse. I told Amy I couldn’t possibly take that much time off work. She said not to worry, they could take the train into Boston and keep themselves entertained during the day. She even turned in her rental car.”
“They sound like low-maintenance guests,” I said. “That’s something, I guess.”
Robin scooped up the remnants of her napkin and dropped it in the waste basket. “Oh, it was fine the first two days.”
“Which is precisely the point when they should have been going home,” Leo told her.
“I know, Leo. If she had any sense, she would have been packing up. Instead she asks if she can drive me to and from work so that they can use my car during the day. Yesterday they drove to Maine so she could shop at LL Bean. This morning she brought me in early so they could explore Cape Cod. I lease that car. They are chewing up my mileage.”
Leo went to make another cup of coffee. “You have to throw them out, Robin.”
“But how? I hate confrontations and Amy seems tone-deaf to any hints.
“The really sad part is that I realize I don’t like her that much any more,” Robin told us. “We were friends in high school but don’t have that much in common.”
“She’s not your friend, Robin,” Leo said. “She’s using you to get a cheap vacation. Throw her out.”
“No,” I said. “Fire her. She can’t be your friend any more. Once she’s out of your house, stop communicating with her. Don’t answer her phone calls. Don’t respond to e-mails or voice mails. Even the dimmest bulb will eventually get the message.”
There is no protocol for this, no form to fill out or severance pay involved. The tipping point is this: If you met that person today for the first time and you knew them only as they person they are now, you would not choose to have them as a friend.
Shared history only goes so far–especially when your history ended when you were both 18, which was several lifetimes ago.
So, fire the parasites. Fire the narcissists. Fire anyone who doesn’t consider your interests.
The irony is that they probably won’t care if you do.