July 31, 2022

WHEN FRIENDSHIP TURNS INTO A HOSTAGE SITUATION

By Semtex In VERBALISTS

Semtex goes off on the concept of and how it can often be more trouble than it’s worth, especially when it comes to maintaining a relationship with somebody you’ve known most of your life. And many decide to continue to put up with such a person’s toxicity solely “out of respect” for the length of time devoted to the friendship. But as Cake once said, “Friend is a four-letter word/End is the only part of the word that I heard/Call me morbid or absurd.”

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I’ve never been very good at friendships. I find they involve a level of intimacy my walls simply can’t break down for (besides, that’s what writing is for, not friends). Maybe that’s why I haven’t gotten very far in life. After all, they say no man is an island. And yeah, it definitely helps to have friends (or those who pretend to be for their own sordid purposes) a.k.a. someone who will vouch for you now and again. That is, if you ever want an entrée into some stupid fucking job. “Knowing people” (read: having friends) is how one truly advances in life. It isn’t actually through talent or dedicated, hard work. I guess what I’m getting at is that I know I’ll never be “successful” because I can’t fucking stand people. Even those who would pretend to use the word “friend” to describe themselves.

The horrific theme song that reinforces the idea of “BFFs.”

I bring to you the case of someone I shall refer to as “Dickface.” We’d known each other for most of our lives and, after a while, a pattern began to emerge (particularly in the wake of high school). One in which he would have a Queen Bitch mood swing because he didn’t perceive that he was getting what he wanted out of our friendship. After a few months of randomly deciding to stop speaking to me (translation: sending me literally hundreds of inane texts a day, an undeniable form of harassment), he would invariably “creep back in” by texting me again out of the blue as though nothing odd had occurred. That we hadn’t been engaging in a of silent treatment that he had initiated for no viable reason other than it struck his fancy to create drama where there wasn’t. Dickface didn’t seem to grasp that I relished these periods of silent treatment from him. That it was like a vacation from the nonstop, anxiety-inducing barrage of messages about fuck-all that he would send me, day in and day out. It mirrored the way he spoke in real life, and I have an “unfounded” theory (based on a smattering of different message thread samples) that many gay men text this way. Like a motormouth. Never condensing the thoughts into a single goddamn text. And when he spoke in real life, all I could think of was that quote from Romeo directed at Mercutio: “Thou talk’st of nothing.” I wanted him to shut the fuck up and, maybe, just for once, listen to something I had to say. Wasn’t that part of the definition of a supposed “friendship”? A certain give and take? Yet every time I made this blatantly apparent to him when my interest in his endless and boring stream of consciousness would wane, he would act as though he couldn’t even “receive” such information. As though it were impossible for him to fathom that anyone could be unamused by what he had to say.

Yes, it fucking well does.

I knew that because he was a “freak” (but actually quite stark-ravingly normal) in his own way, too, he probably found that I was one of the few people he could speak openly to without needing to repress. Thus, the motor-mouthing. For we both grew up in a town that thrived on repression (which really seemed to fuck him up by rendering him a gay Republican)—that, and that alone, remained the bond between us. But said bond was starting to feel like less and less of a reason for me to endure the tedium of spending time with him. His stupid questions, his ignorance, his obsession with status yet never actually wanting to do something to achieve the fulfillment of his lust for the material trappings of “prosperity.” He was devoid of any soul. Only “riveted” by the lives of others, especially those who went to our high school. He would tell me every little detail about what they were all doing now whenever I met up with him whilst home for the holidays. As though I wanted to endure the PTSD caused by hearing these names I had buried for my own self-preservation. I didn’t want to think about those we had known in elementary school, junior high, high school. I wanted to blot out those parts of my life as though they had never existed. Getting out of that town was the biggest claim I could make about having any kind of success (because “being an artist” is never deemed as such). And it felt like he always had to put a damper on it by bringing up the past instead of focusing on the present. Perhaps because his present was just as banal as it had been when we were youths.

Dickface, alas, would not be the only friend in my life to make me want to run screaming for the hills. I’ve found it to be the case on more than one occasion that “friends” get a little obsessive with me (call that a statement of arrogance if you must, but it’s true). Don’t seem to take the hint when it’s patently “over.” Refuse to let the natural fizzle-out occur. When push comes to shove, everybody serves a purpose at a certain phase in your life until they don’t. Until you outgrow one another and/or fall out of touch. But that’s more of a challenge with those who have been in your life since preadolescence.

Many friendships are based on a mutual ostracism rather than true ground.

In Sandra Goldbacher’s 2001 masterpiece on long-term friendship, , Marina (Anna Friel) is the thorn in Holly’s (Michelle Williams) side. While Marina is the “pretty one” who therefore theoretically has the world wrapped around her finger, Holly is the “bookish one” with a hopeless crush on Marina’s older brother, Nat (Oliver Milburn). Unfortunately for Holly, Marina has a very possessive manner with both, not wanting either of them to “join together,” but rather, keep each one for herself. With an especial controllingness over Holly. After all, if she can “maintain” Holly at a certain level—similar to the one she had as being “beneath” Marina during childhood—then she can continue to feel good about herself despite never actually growing. Never expanding her horizons beyond anything except the vacuousness of drugs and aesthetics. In contrast, Holly wants to grow, to move on, do something meaningful. Yet the parasitic she allows to persist between herself and Marina is the very anchor weight that keeps her from thriving. And solely in the name of “honoring” all those years she and Marina have known one another. But is that really what life should be? Being annoyed and stifled by people just because you’ve put in a certain amount of time with each other? You know too much about one another, have too many shared common experiences so now you’re automatically beholden to stay “friends” forever?

Trapped in a nightmare out of “obligation.”

In this regard, rarely do friendships not, in some form or another, end up turning toxic due to a commitment based on “time put in.” Even in depictions of shows where serves as the central core of a narrative (e.g., Friends or ) designed to make viewers yearn for such a close-knitness of their own, the result turns out to be a PSA for all the ways in which long-term is just as damned as long-term romantic relationships to twist and turn into something bitter and resentment-laden. Yet we’ve been told repeatedly that the true mark of “humanity” is loyalty to friendships, even when they so overtly bog us down after enough years.

Dickface was on an arbitrary no-texting phase this summer merely because I didn’t respond “enough” to all one hundred of his daily texts, instead randomly inserting some kind of non-committal/emoji-based reply as I was busy, oh, conducting the business of one’s day-to-day that doesn’t allow for constant attention to a phone. When he pulled his usual move of suddenly ceasing to text altogether, I returned it with mine: acting like nothing had changed and not bothering to reach out (such an attempt being a response to his petulance that would only affirm his belief in the efficacy of his theatrics all the more).

Except, this time, when he once again texts out of nowhere as though he didn’t have a queen’s fit for no viable reason other than he didn’t feel “paid enough attention to,” I am not going to fall for the trap of allowing a re-initiation. I’ve done it too many times before, as we all have with friends of a “lifelong” nature. Turns out, life is too long to put up with that shit.