So I don't know if this is a common problem or if I'm just a jerk. There's this girl who lives on my street and I can't stand her. I was friends with her because, as anyone with a mother knows, if someone lives on your street you automatically are forced to invite them to your birthday parties and be adorable kindergarten bffs with them. Fine. But I'm in high school, and I hate the kid now. She's always in trouble (serious trouble: drugs, stealing, pregnancy scares) and I don't want to be associated with someone like that. I need to friend-dump her. How can I best do that? She sits next to me in classes even though I ask her to switch with other people, and she rides the same school bus. I don't want to be mean, but I don't want to be around her. Am I a horrible person for wanting to unfriend her? How can I make this less horrible?
Well, for starters, you can grab a dictionary! Because before you can go about unfriending your troublemaking neighbor, you're gonna need to grasp the difference between "friendship" and "proximity"—and the fact that only one of these things, by itself, is enough to breed the association you dread so much.
Which is to say, I'm not necessarily sure that you even have a problem. This girl sounds unsavory, sure, but she also doesn't sound like a friend—more like a person who happens to live in the same neighborhood, ride the same bus, and attend the same classes as you. And while it's totally reasonable that you'd like to keep her at arms' length, it's, y'know, maybe just the teensiest bit unrealistic to expect her to switch seats (or bus lines) just so that it's really super-duper extra-strength clear that you aren't friends.
I mean, presumably there are other people who ride your bus and sit near you in class, but with whom you still have no relationship. Right?
So basically, you don't need physical distance to demarcate the end of this friendship; emotional distance will do just fine. And the way you get that is by treating her in the same exact way you'd treat any non-friend: neutrally, civilly, and without displaying any desire for closer contact.
What you don't do, however—and what will drive your unfriending operation right over the line between Well-Played and Horrible—is to treat your coincidental proximity like some sort of stain on your reputation, and/or try to compensate for it by going out of your way to be nasty to her, just so that everyone can see how totally not-friends you two are. (Fun fact: my next-door neighbor did this to me in middle school, and it was not only really freaking hurtful, but totally unnecessary. In all likelihood, this girl already knows that you can't stand her; there's no need to make a public spectacle of it.)
The good news: it won't take long for your soon-to-be-non-friend to get the message—and until she does, just be cool, politely reject any requests to hang out, and allow it to become clear that you're stepping back from the friendship. And if she asks why, feel free to give a civil but honest answer, like, "I think we've grown in different directions."
How do you unfriend the unfriendable? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related posts: Auntie SparkNotes: Friends With Caveats