One of my best friends in high school once told me: “Face it, you’re a boyfriend packrat, they’re like old shoes to you. You keep them around when you don’t need them and can’t do anything with them which is why you never wear them. Oh him this, him that, we’re just friends, maybe it wasn’t a mistake the first seven times around.” It was funny because it was true, but I wasn’t just like that with guys, but people in general. I have a hard time letting go of friends, or anyone, unless it seems absolutely imperative.
Maybe it’s because growing up gay in Nebraska, I was all too familiar with people suddenly blowing you off or not wanting to be your friend anymore. But there was never any declaration of intent, which always led me to wonder what I did wrong. Ghosting isn’t a new thing, it’s just a thing that was recently named and focused on. I’m a direct person. If I have a problem with someone that is big enough to jeopardize our relationship, I just talk it out. And if after that talk things don’t get better, then at least I tried. For me, suddenly ceasing contact with someone is a huge deal. It’s something you do when that person is toxic and bad for you. Or when you have no more energy to waste on a one-sided unhealthy thing. Otherwise, why do they need to go?
I’m not just talking about talking with someone less or falling out of touch, because that’s two-sided and organic, but cutting someone out is a choice. And in a world of social media and email, not even the greatest physical distances can pass as a valid excuse they once did.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately, because I’ve been debating on “unfriending” someone on Facebook. See all of my friends on Facebook are/were actual friends. People that I know in person from school or work or childhood friends, etc. I was really involved in youth leadership, volunteering, activism and active in a number of nonprofit and community groups, so my list of friends is large (over 600) but I know each and every one of them. And the only way one has ever been unfriended is if they meet the criteria already outlined. Because I’m good at cutting out toxic people. But what about those who just leave a really bitter after taste?
See I have a friend I knew from a student leadership community in high school. At the time we were close, but things quickly soured. She was always making up stories, and me being gullible, always believed her. She claimed to have a cousin killed in one of the towers of the World Trade Center on September 11. I contacted our friends raising support for her, just to learn such a person did not exist. When things were bad at home, I confided in her how much I wished I could be anyplace else. She called the police and made up wild stories so they showed up at my father’s house. And that really made living there intolerable for everyone involved. But she was just looking to get attention and play the martyr, because you know afterwards I was pissed to holy hell. And actually turning my mother in (my parents are divorced, so different households) and being placed with my father because she was incredibly abusive (accosted by knives, thrown around, strangled, hit – that was the norm) made me look like I no longer knew the difference between abuse and anything else.
But a few months after that happened, her mother died. Like actually died. This friend was a junior in high school. I was one of three friends who attended the service and offered support before and after. It was less about actually feeling friendly to this person again, and more about being there for her. My sense of loyalty often overpowers a lot of my other drives, including common sense and self-preservation. I haven’t seen this person since high school, but we’re friends on Facebook. And I am more or less active on Facebook, I use it to keep in touch with the people I care to keep in touch with. But I don’t really want to keep in touch with her. On the other hand, she seems so unstable I don’t want my “unfriending” to be seen as this horrific mental assault on her person. And knowing her that’s what it would be. And that’s the problem.
The two reasons I am thinking of unfriending her besides not really being friendly with her is because: 1) Everything is life or death and everyone is to blame, and 2) she is a born-again Christian who hates with the best of them but dresses it up as love and moral superiority.
For the first thing, she has a lot of pseudo-health problems. She is a bigger hypochondriac than my mother. She’s always in the hospital or ER, always complaining about being sick, not being believed, etc. She is always looking for sympathy. As someone who has actually died a couple (dozen!) times, this irks me. I have a lot of very real, very serious health conditions (dozens of brain surgeries, a few heart surgeries, dozens of fractures and brittle bone disease, history of seizures, strokes, an autoimmune disease, bone marrow disorder, several blood mutations, kidney failure, stomach disorder – and that’s just the physical crap, I also have C-PTSD and some other stuff). I don’t like when people milk or make up wild stories. I’m very sensitive to someone not being believed by doctors because some of my diseases are so rare (one out of every two million) until an actual diagnosis, which took weeks, was found, I wasn’t believed… but I also know enough about medical stuff. She claims to have so many things, but it doesn’t make sense. She’s claimed things like terminal brain cancer (but no actual cancer treatment has ever been taken up, no tests confirm etc.) for years. There’s a long list. And she asks for money, support and then personally attacks people or bitches about people not being supportive. The medical issues she claims, she does not have. It’s like she googles something and thinks, “Sounds good,” and is convinced she has it. Anyone with actual facts be damned.
And you know, even if she did have any of what she claimed, she plays the victim and is hostile about it. When I died (in 2009, it’s sad I have to give a year but then I think people are like, “Which time?”) I didn’t ask for anything. True, it was pride and being sensitive to sympathy (I grew up getting it, and I hate it, I want to be no different from anyone else, even if I am) I would have never capitalized on it. People in my life would sometimes get uncomfortable and friends would disappear because my mortality was a little too real for twenty-somethings and it sucked, and it was hurtful, but I didn’t call them out on social media and say even half of the awful things this person does. I never even thought it. I haven’t been on her receiving end, but I know it’s because she knows my medical stuff is real and we live in different states – so what leverage does she actually have? None.
Then there is the born-again Christian thing that is the newest annoyance. She’s one of those that believe Kim Davis is a hero, and anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t know Jesus or the bible. I fight back the urge so much to comment how little she actually knows about the bible. She is the, “I love my gay friends, even though they’re going to hell. If I pray for them hard enough, maybe they will repent and change.” How is this a healthy statement? It is hypocritical and it is – hate. It is dressed up as something else, but it is nothing more than hate, and fear. Bigotry.
As a gay person, I don’t need any Christians to pray for me. I need them to pray for the crazy, extremist Christians and what they may do or say against me. Mind. Blown.
So while this “friend” is not doing anything to me – calling me out, attacking me – I hate seeing her crap in my newsfeed. I hate all of the “woe is me,” and I hate the medical ploys for sympathy that are flat-out lies. I hate her judgments and what she says regarding her newfound faith. I don’t have a problem with the views themselves, she’s entitled to them. She can think “people like me” need to repent all she wants. It’s not okay to proclaim it and demand others agree. Glass houses and all that.
But then I think about how I have been unfriended because other friends have different “friend” standards. If they don’t talk to someone within a few months, they clean house. If they don’t consider you a “close friend” or if you’re friends with someone they don’t like – whatever – out you go. No explanation, you just notice your friends list is smaller. This happens. There are some friends that I wonder, “Why did they unfriend me? We’re both liberal, not negative people, and I haven’t done anything to offend them.” So I just have to consider that they want their close friends as their only Facebook friends, and be okay with that. I think it’s the lack of reason, or knowing that bothers me the most. Because these aren’t my super-close friends that do this. So, oh well.
But I think this is why I’m so shy about pulling that “unfriend” trigger. Because it’s an action against someone else. It’s so small and insignificant, and when it happens to me, I just ponder it and then it’s done. But to this, “OMG, people make me want to kill myself. I am going to hang myself tonight, let’s see who cares?” person… yeah, I don’t want to rock her delicate boat. But I also don’t want to keep reading all of her crap. It isn’t chipping away at my person; it isn’t something I need to be cleansed of. But why should I put up with it at all?
So what to do. To unfriend or not… That is the question.