Ever have a friend who makes you wonder what, exactly, she or he is doing in your life? A friend from whom oft wafts the sharp, alarming stink of sulfur? A friend you keep around because, well, she or he is interesting/stimulating/fun when not making you unhappy?
I just dropped that friend. It was difficult because I love all my friends and have a high tolerance threshold for human foibles. I mean, am I perfect? But said friend — hereafter referred to as “Dr. Crazyknickers” — brought to the table an inimitable mix of passive-aggressive pissery and pseudo-intellectual pontification not seen upon the Earth since the day Ayn Rand died — a quality impossible to describe in English but for which the Germans probably have a word. He also enjoyed borrowing my skirts and whinging about how it was “(his) turn to be someone’s “girlfriend.”
Please marvel, openmouthed, at the following rough timeline:
Dec. 22: An e-mail from Crazyknickers arrives to say he’ll be in town for a week; can he get back the graphic novel he lent me? I say, Sure! We don’t decide on an exact day or time, though. I make sure he knows that I’m having a rough holiday season and may not be much fun.
Dec. 23 (morning): Two calls from Dr. C. on my phone. One is a drawling, condescending voicemail — he’s channeling Lillian Hellman — the other, a hang-up. I call back; no answer. I get another e-mail later, though: When can we meet? Can we meet right now?
Dec. 23 (evening): Text message: Can I get my books back? I reply, Sure! and await further instructions. None come.
Dec. 24: Family day. I turn my phone off, but when I check it at midnight, I have a text:. 11:30 now ooout when i cN come by toNite.Book. What? It’s Christmas Eve. I’m watching the Washington, D.C. Basilica Mass with a cup of sipping chocolate and a lapful of cats. I make a mental note to mail the damn thing to him after the holidays. I also realize why I’ve been resistant to seeing him. It’s not because I don’t have the time. It’s not because I don’t care about him. It’s because he’s emotionally tone-deaf and exhausting; the emotional equivalent of having my forehead middle finger-flicked ’til it’s bruised. He’s interesting to be around, and his oddities are fine when I’m in a good mood, but not now. Not at the most emotionally pungent time of the year. I remember how he embarrassed me at a party by asking over and over again for my pretty friend’s phone number, while ignoring my less-pretty friend when she tried to (politely) converse with him. I remember how it hurt when he asked me how it felt to be “falling rapidly” out of my upper-middle-class background. I remember many things he’s said or done that were rude, inappropriate, and creepy, and I don’t reply to the message. I get another at 1 a.m.
Dec. 25: More texts. Obviously, my lack of reply is causing him to want to MAKE ME reply. He becomes increasingly persistent and agitated. I refuse to deal with this on Christmas Day, and I’m not going to reward this kind of behavior. I table it for tomorrow. I still want to smooth the whole thing over.
Dec. 26: He posts on my Facebook wall, and his tone is so weird and off-putting that one of my friends responds, alarmed. They get into it a little bit. Embarrassed, I reply as politely as I can that I’m spending Christmas with my family and I’ll mail the book to him. He messages me to tell me how angry he is about this — “A week is more than enough time to return my property!” — and says that he “doesn’t have much faith” that I’ll return the book. His passive-aggressive, wispy-sad-pushy, ersatz-victim, blamey-blame — DAMMIT THERE IS NO ENGLISH WORD — tone pushes me past the point of no return. I HAVE GONE THROUGH THE WARDROBE DOOR TO ANOTHER WORLD OF ANGRY. I AM IN THE NARNIA OF ANGRY, WITH THE FAUNS AND THE TURKISH DELIGHT. I text him back. I say he is rude, inappropriate, and creepy, and I tell him not to contact me again. This feels amazing because it’s true, and because it’s the first time I’ve ever said it. To anyone. No matter how deserved. He texts back. I don’t read anything beyond the first word (“Whatever”). Instead, I delete the message and all previous messages, and text again to say that any further contact from him will be considered harassment. I hear nothing further.
So. The moral of the story is, purge your life of avoidable asshats. Don’t waste time wondering why they’re asshats, blaming yourself, or trying to fix it. I held onto this toxic friendship because I value my friends and hated to think there was someone in the bunch who could be so self-absorbed yet so un-selfaware; who could stalk across my boundaries in such a demanding, hurtful way. I made excuses — he’s stressed out! He just got fired! He’s having gender difficulties! — in a way I’ll never do again. I don’t have to be nice and forgiving and understanding to everyone, at all costs. The world won’t end if I’m not. I will shed the toxic, just like when I had colon hydrotherapy and raspberry seeds came out even though I hadn’t eaten raspberry seeds in months. That stuff really sticks around if you don’t get after it.
*I NEVER WANTED TO BORROW THE DUMB THING ANYWAY. He kept offering, though, and I felt awkward refusing. My first mistake.