Dear Mrs. Ditter,
There's this girl who's really nice and we're friends, but this incident keeps happening: I'll ask her, "Hey, do you want to sit together on the bus?" every once in a while, and she'll say "Sure!" and then we'll get on the bus and she'll go and sit with someone else. It's not entirely her fault, because there are these two girls who stick to her like velcro and if she tries to sit with someone else they'll go, "Aw, come on! Sit with us!" and she'll say she'll sit with me next time and then goes and sits with them. I don't want to appear clingy and say "You never sit with me!" but honestly, I'm starting to get pretty pissed with those other two girls. They seriously won't let her sit anywhere but with them!
Signed, Pissed :(
Dear Pissed, Oh, boy. I can see why you're ticked off. I also wonder if you aren't feeling hurt, as well? Even as adults, it hurts when people you think are your friends treat you in a way that you wouldn't treat them (yes, Mrs. Ditter is speaking from experience. Ouch!).
So just take a deep breath and admit to yourself that while this makes you angry, it also hurts. That's normal and human and totally understandable.
Got that deep breath? Okay, let's tackle this thing.
When I read your letter, three things stuck out: 1) you say this girl is really nice and you're friends with her; 2) you're angry with the other girls; 3) you don't want to look clingy.
1) I don't know her, so I don't know if she's nice or not. But I have to say that her behavior, at least about the bus-riding, doesn't sound very friendly. She certainly isn't being friendly to you when she says one thing and then does another. Would you treat a friend that way? Probably not.
I understand that she must have some really good qualities, otherwise you wouldn't like her so much. But it sounds as if she's not very reliable, at least as far as keeping her word about bus-riding goes.
2) Now, moving on to the anger bit: If you're going to be angry with someone, be angry with the person who broke a commitment to you. Take a look at your last sentence: "They seriously won't let her sit anywhere but with them!" Really? Are they in charge of where she sits? Isn't her decision where she sits HER decision, not theirs? If you don't like those other two girls, it's understandable that you'd want to blame them. But it's not their fault (even if they're really obnoxious and you'd like to throw moldy cheese at them).
I wonder why you're not angry with her? Are you scared of being angry with her? Is she one of those really popular kids who everybody likes?
Sometimes we're scared of being angry with really popular people because we think it says something bad about us. IT DOESN'T.
3) Finally, you're absolutely right that you don't want to look clingy. Of course you don't want to say something like, "You never sit with me!" No one wants to be a whiner! And you really don't want her to sit with you because she feels guilty. That's not a good basis for a friendship.
So what to do?
I see several options. Use any or all or none--it's your choice!
A) Stop asking her to sit with you on the bus. Easy. Situation over.
B) Be honest with her. Tell her you feel upset when she says she'll sit with you, and then doesn't. ONLY do this if you can do it calmly. ONLY do this if you can do it without saying mean things about the other two girls.
C) Take a little bit of time and think about something: If a friend of yours came to you with this exact situation, what would you tell her?
D) Finally, I think it's really important that you remember this: You don't have to stop liking her as a friend, or tell yourself that she's bad, or mean, or anything like that. But you might want to have a bus-riding friend who's a little more dependable and reliable. That might be a girl who isn't the most popular kid in the class...and you may be surprised how much you can grow to like someone whom you're overlooking right now!
Thanks for writing, and please let me know how it goes. I'll be thinking about you.
Questions? Conundrums? Comments? Leave them in the comment box, below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And as always, thanks for reading.