“I used to have a bunch of friends, who I truly never cared for, yet I guess I didn’t want to be a ‘loner’, so I put up with them. I made the decision after my family was put in a difficult situation that their lifestyles were not for me, and basically stopped contact. They must have felt the same, because I have never heard from them. Now, after I stopped contact, I began to stay home more and more, and I realized the reason I did so was so I would not ever run into them in public. I have slowly become more outgoing again, however I know if I ever see any of those old friend I might be ‘fake’ with them, pretending I am glad to see them, when I know that is what I absolutely dread. Would you happen to have any advice on how to be confident and strong, still holding your ground, yet not being totally rude, or fake when seeing a person you absolutely despise, and also showing how super great your life is without them?”
This is a fine line to walk because while I believe in social niceties, I don’t have any fond place in my heart for blatant lies. That whole “we should meet up for coffee/I’ll call you” thing is totally tedious when it’s based on a foundation of insincerity & obligation. I really wish people would only say it when they mean it!
I think the best way to deal with these kinds of situations is to be polite but brief. If you can get away with it, just smile (nicely) as you walk past, but I realise that sometimes people will stop with the expectation of conversation etc. Say hello, & when they ask what you’ve been up to, say something which isn’t going to incite further conversation. “Just working,” is a good one, since most people don’t want to know about anyone else’s job. Otherwise, “lots of cross-stitch” might do the trick. As tempting as it may be to try to inspire jealously (e.g., “partying every night with Cory Kennedy“), if you do this, you will be forced to stay & keep talking.
If they say, “we should catch up!”, you can either smile & nod or bite the bullet & tell the truth. This may involve saying something like, “I don’t know that that’s necessary” or simply, “let’s not kid ourselves, I would rather eat a razorblade sandwich than continue this façade any longer!” Hee hee. Your mileage may vary!
Finally, it is important to make your escape as quickly as possible. The best way is to have an excuse prepared. This is one time when I feel like it is okay to lie. Say something like, “I’m sorry, you’ll have to excuse me, I’m late to my croquet club/gynecologist/morris dancing lesson” — again, something nobody is going to want to know more about. If this makes you seem a bit naff, even better — naff is hip & if they don’t understand that, then it just gives them further reason to avoid you.
In summary: smile, don’t take the conversational bait, don’t offer exciting tid-bits & make your escape sooner rather than later!