October 21st, 2012
A conversation with C the other day unearthed some things that I had not previously been aware of.
I can sometimes be defensive about my lack of appreciation for a certain person(s). This defensiveness can sometimes venture forth into the realm of absurdity, even to myself.
Why should I care whether or not some of my friends enjoy the company of someone else? Why should I feel compelled to defend the fact that I don’t find someone congenial or desirable company? Why in tarnation should this even be an issue?
Part of it is because I buy into, or used to buy into the geek social fallacies.
Another, larger part of it is that I have been internalizing the viewpoints of one of my close friends for a long, long time now, and been completely unaware of it prior to this.
Z, who used to tell me that she wasn’t sure if I could find anyone else who would be willing to live with me for a variety of reasons. My foul temper. My slob nature. My general untidiness. The way she framed it, it was almost as if I should be grateful that she was willing to put up with me. Often, she would casually toss down comments starting with: “I don’t know if I can keep living with you because ________” or “I just don’t know who else can put up with your _____”
The same Z who would tearfully tell me I was being a dramatic attention seeker who dished out ultimatums just to see people jump when I would say that I couldn’t live in a house with wall to wall carpets because of my severe allergies. Who would tell me she didn’t think she could live with me if I continued to put out ultimatums to upset people when I said that I had severe issues with housemates not doing their chores.
Who used to berate me because I didn’t want to go out on a whirlwind of social activities the way she did. Who, on at least two occasions, made a big fuss about how not going out with her to various social events that she wanted to go to meant I didn’t value her as a friend. Who implied that my lack of friends was both something that would come back to haunt me in the future and something that was inherently wrong with me. Who insisted, every single time I didn’t like someone as much as she did, that I give a comprehensive and reasonable list of reasons. Who would ignore my stated dislike of someone and my need to have advance warning before someone came over to the house or sleep over unless my reasons satisfied her — which of course they never did. I was always considered to be irrationally judgmental, always the weird anti-social person who had issues.
Z, who told me that she was afraid of my ending up homeless and starving on the streets when I told her that I wanted to quit my day job to write. The implications of that didn’t strike me until recently, when I realized that for me to end up homeless and starving would require losing all my friends and family’s support in every way — which turned her fear for me into yet another oblique commentary on me.
Z, who told me she’d be pissed off if she were C if I took money that I’d earned through my job and put it towards paying a cover illustrator and editor so I could self-publish. Who then clarified that this was because she didn’t think I could make any money off my writing.
Z, who once accused me of exploiting my friends; of purposefully using my face and acting “cute” to take advantage of my friends and inveigle them into doing things for me.
This woman who blamed me for being a bad friend. Who blames me for her depression, her anxiety, her melancholy — because I didn’t give her enough love, support, or help after the dramatic explosion of her relationship.
This after she dismissed my needs to wake me up on more than one occasion to cry and rant at me about everything that was going wrong. After she called me at work, after I devoted hours to listening to her vent, after I tried my best to give her objective advice only to have her blame me for everything going wrong after she refused to take my advice.
Z, who judging from all the dirty looks I get from her friends and cut direct from her mother, has gone around bad-mouthing me and my actions. Who took an email I wrote out of desperation, telling her I couldn’t continue to be friends with her if she continued to guilt trip me, emotionally manipulate me, and blame me for everything in her life — and promptly turned that around into a “poisonous, hitting-below-the-belt, unwarranted attack” on her to her therapist, family, and friends.
Why bring this up now and here?
I debated keeping this on a friend-locked, private post on my personal blog rather than posting it here, on what is supposedly a more professional portal onto the world, but ultimately I thought that this was something that was worth sharing. I aimed to give enough detail to give my side of the story, how I perceived what was going on, because it’s important that it be clear when I say: this is what hurt looks like to me.
Some people may say that I’m over reacting. That I’m being over sensitive.
But I have a very real reaction to all of what she did and said over the years. I find myself doubting how lovable I am. I find myself wondering if I am going to end up friendless, destitute, with no one to turn to because of my poor personality, my bad temper, my terrible habits. I get defensive when people ask me why I don’t like someone because I feel like I have to justify myself, that I have to somehow prove to them that I’m not insane, that I am still worthy of being liked even as I don’t like someone else they do. I feel like I’m perpetually under scrutiny, constantly under surveillance, always being tested and found wanting.
Loving someone doesn’t mean you get carte blanche to constantly try to re-make them into someone better.
When someone claims to love you, that doesn’t mean they get a free pass to constantly criticize you.
I think part of why I stayed on so long in that friendship was because I’ve always been taught that being a good friend means sometimes telling your close friends something they don’t want to hear. I’ve always operated under the assumption that when you say something potentially hurtful to someone, you do it with a balance of care and love to offset the pain, and you do it because you have their best interests at heart. So I never questioned Z’s constant barrage on me.
This isn’t to say that I think Z said all that she did out of malice. Perhaps, in her own way, she thought she was being supportive and helpful as a friend.
The more important takeaway message from this for me is that sometimes it doesn’t matter the intention — it mattered that she was hurting my self-esteem, that she was making me feel undesirable as a friend, housemate, and significant other, that she was making me question my own personality, sanity, and mind, that I was being made to feel like I was a hopelessly flawed person.
I was taught to never take the sort of treatment I received at her hands from a lover, a husband, a significant other. The role I cast her in, that of a friend, almost a sister — blinded me to actions that I would never have accepted from my boyfriend.
Ultimately, love shouldn’t hurt. Someone who loves you, be it parent, lover, teacher, sibling, or friend — they should never make you feel constantly belittled, constantly on alert for an attack, or that any love came with strings.
Even if someone claims daily to love you, to only be doing something that hurts you for your own good, that hurting you hurts them more — examine it. Look at it hard. Ask for a second, third, fourth opinion. It doesn’t matter from whom the hurt comes from, it should always be questioned and scrutinized. There is no legitimate abuse. Ever.