My Friend Is In Debt. And I’m Her Enabler

Amelia Phillips, 28, knows her friend’s always skint. But that doesn’t stop her suggesting a night out or weekend away…


by Sophie Cullinane |
Published on

It all starts with pocket money. The devilish endowment from your parents drags you down into the capitalist hellhole and stands in the way of your childlike hopes for socialism like that mythical three-headed dog Cerberus. From then – the one penny sweet days – you’re supposed to spend a bit and save a bit and live moderately until you can afford an Audi TT and mock Tudor house.

Which is all very well for people who are good with money or hopelessly rich, but what of the rest of us? To us ‘moderation’ is like ‘winning lottery ticket’ or ‘hangover-free booze’. We laugh when it’s mentioned, but wistfully.

I’ve learnt from experience that the only way to deal with a lack of self-control is to surround yourself with others who lack self-control. Which is, of course, one of society’s biggest flaws. What we should be doing is partnering up with the buttoned-up go-getters. We could teach them to relax and stop conquering countries for oil, and they could teach us how to avoid hired debt-collectors breaking down our doors. But instead we gravitate towards the like-minded; the regretfully wayward.

So here we are, collectively, in a swamp of financial disappointment. Each payslip results in just a cleared overdraft and a box of eggs that has to keep you alive for a month. Only one thing makes us feel better: some people are actually worse off. They haven’t even got enough for rent. The problem is when that someone is your best friend.

Oh best friend, why do you do this to me? I don’t have the capacity to look after myself, let alone you. Don’t put your trust in me. I’ll only let you down.

She’s on the way over and we’re going to have some dinner. All she has to her name is a breakdown of IOUs in her iNotes. The least I can do is save her from starvation with some larder food. But you know how it goes after a few drinks…

‘You can’t get poorer than poor,’ I hear myself saying in an attempt to justify ordering takeaway isn't a terrible idea. ‘Actually, I don’t have any cash on me,’ I say. ‘It’s okay. I’ll go and get some out,’ she says, which I know means on her credit card. It’s a terrible idea but I don’t ask questions and now I’m blissfully watching her walk out of the door and into a destitute life of despair. Blissfully, because I'm poor too. (Saying that I did spend two hundred on a Raf Simons jacket the other day but I’ve been stuck indoors ever since.)

The next morning is too loathsome to bear. We order some lunch at a cafe and it’s so depressingly mediocre we might as well be eating sofa cushions. I could have made a tasty bacon sandwich for the amount it took to print this receipt. I try and pay for it. Well, when I say try and pay for it, I mean object to her pushing a tenner at me with a feeble, barely perceptible ‘No, really’ – but she won’t let me.

In my head, the guilt is starting to reveal itself. I shout, ‘I didn’t make her do it! I’m not the boss of her’ to no-one. Then the phone rings and it’s her mum. It’s her mum’s birthday next weekend and she’ll need to get the train home with a card and a present and enough money to do something nice. It’s the 8th of the month. Now I feel really bad.

But then four days later it’s Thursday and I’m starting to feel twitchy. She is, too, as she won’t be around on the weekend and she wants a preemptive relief to family time. It makes sense. It’s draining spending that much time pretending to be successful and justifying how you earn a workable wage when you seem to have nothing to show for it but a holey jumper. Surely we don’t have to feel guilty about spending seven pounds on a bottle of paint-stripper vodka and some fizzy pop.

Except suddenly you realise you’re more than just an accomplice in your best friend’s downfall. You’re an enabler. Where your lifestyle choices take you to a humbling zero, it’s taking her to minus something she’d rather not say. Skint would be a dream for her, it implies a finite sum of nothing rather than a series of number infinitely rewinding on a computer. Self sufficiency is a speck on her horizon. She’s talking about going back to live with her parents. She’s packing her bags. You take a bottle of wine around and it's happening again. Well, it would be rude not to give her a good send off.

Follow Amelia on Twitter @ameliaephillips

Photograph: Rory DCS

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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