Masochistic friendship

(I almost don’t want to post this because there is a chance the person I’m talking about may see it. I don’t know if she knows/remembers this blog address or has it bookmarked and would be checking it. If she did see it, she wouldn’t be happy. I have cut or limited her access to what I post on social media because it became clear to me that she couldn’t be trusted with my words as her idea of me is wildly inaccurate and anything could be new fodder to support her negative view of me. As Aaron Burr says in Hamilton’s “Non-Stop” (and lol, wouldn’t this person just love a musical reference), “Every proclamation guarantees free ammunition for your enemies.” I’ve been following that philosophy in dealing with her, and publishing this post runs directly counter to that. However, the friendship is effectively dead, I don’t want it revived as I’d just be signing up for more abuse and sarcastic tolerance of my quirks from her, and while we have mutual friends they would not really care if she ran to them to complain about me and they would not stop being friends with me as a result or anything. She would definitely show this post to her newer friends and trash talk me over it though, and perhaps leave a salty comment – though she seems fairly committed to radio silence. Well, I guess if it provides her entertainment, so be it. We aren’t in high school anymore and she can’t ruin my social life in retaliation again.)

In the spring, I let a friendship with one of my supposedly closest friends fade away, and she did the same. It’s becoming clear to me now that we never really liked each other all that much anyway (or well, I did a lot in the beginning, and it was partially hero worship for me, but I’m not sure if she ever really genuinely liked me), and while I don’t know why she continued to make token efforts to stay friends (she’d gchat me, usually something like “WHAT UP” every few months, encourage me to visit her or move to her city, etc), the reason I did was increasingly because I wanted to be the person who remained in her life after so many others had left it. I knew she was toxic and frequently insulted me or belittled me. I didn’t feel good about myself when I was with her; I felt like I had to shrink myself down to be the tiniest, most palatable version of myself, and even then I could tell she didn’t like me. She put down the things that I liked (Japanese culture stuff, etc) even though I made an effort to get to know the things that she did, so we could still have some things in common. My ex Kirk picked up on it and openly disliked her for how she treated me (she didn’t care for him either). Later, after I moved to Japan and began dating Japanese guys, she started telling me things like I “only like him because he’s Asian” or that I had yellow fever, or that she couldn’t see why I was still there if I was “so miserable.” (Never mind the fact that I could say the same for her and her life in her city.) The word just about everyone who knows her uses to describe her is “abrasive.” It’s very true.

But as I watched her beloved boyfriend leave her and it hit her in the gut, messing her up for years and possibly still to this day, as I witnessed friends storm out of her life (quite literally once, and supposedly that friend shouted “Good luck with that one!” to her roommate as she left) and give up on her, I felt like I owed it to her to stay, to stick around. I felt like I could take the abuse, that we could keep being more superficial friends, who just talked about fandom-related stuff and shared fic links.

I also started off very much adoring her. When we met we were in middle school, which for me was the first time meeting people who had gone to other elementary schools (I went to the same one from kindergarten to 5th grade) before we all converged in this one middle school. I was making lots of new friends with girls from other elementary schools, and I had met her through another new friend. I was immediately impressed by how cool she was. She wasn’t preppy popular (her style was more punk/goth/alternative), but she had a lot of friends in a lot of different circles, and she seemed so above everything with her sarcastic attitude. I always saw her as a social butterfly with very high social intelligence, and as someone who struggled to make and keep friends growing up, I admired that deeply. In some ways, I very much idolized her, and so I treasured our friendship as we grew older and closer especially in high school, bonding over shared nerdy interests like Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings movies and actors (which she always seemed half-ashamed of, especially when in front of her friends from the non-nerdy circles). In a lot of ways, I felt proud to be her friend, I felt cool hanging out with her (those moments when I got into her car and we would drive around town together were everything to me), and I felt proud to have stayed her friend. And that was a reason why I put up with a lot of how she treated me. (Writing this all out, it sounds pretty fucked up and I have to question a lot of my own motivations.)

But it just got to be too much. She started going to therapy, which I thought would be good for her and tone down her personality, but instead it just made her self-righteous. She began pressuring me to go to therapy regularly, implying that I had so many problems I really needed to be doing that. I explained to her that seeing an English-speaking therapist in Japan costs an average of $100+ a session (the English-speaking therapists are not insured) and I just couldn’t justify it when I didn’t feel out of control of my life. She seemed to get it but I could feel her silently judging and disapproving. Apparently the whole time she thought I needed to get serious help.

The argument began over the stupidest thing. I made what I thought was a joke, which clearly wasn’t a joke to her and she said “Because I know you, I know you didn’t mean to be offensive when you said that, but that was offensive,” and I reacted badly and defended myself saying that it’s offensive when she tells me I have yellow fever, to which she exploded and told me that I always do this, I always make it about me and make myself a martyr and keep things bottled up and then burst out with them and it’s not healthy, I need help because this isn’t okay, etc. She called me toxic and narcissistic. (I remembered later that in high school she’d encouraged me to read this book she’d just read called Don’t Call Me a Drama Queen! about people who have drama queen tendencies. I was a bit bemused as this didn’t seem familiar to me at all*, but I did read it.)

I’m not saying my response was a good one by any means but really my greatest sin was getting defensive (“no, you’re the offensive one!”). I just don’t think it was indicative that I need urgent mental help. (I did end up going to one session of therapy to discuss this issue, and I laid out all the facts and my therapist agreed she was better off gone from my life.)

What she said really threw me and I went around to my closest friends and family members, showing them the conversation (including the not-great things I’d said too, of course) and asking them if she was right, begging them to be honest with me, that I really needed to hear it if it was true. But no one agreed with what she was saying.

So I went back and told her that while I’d considered what she said and asked those close to me to see if it was true, no one agreed and maybe she’s right but I just couldn’t see it. I apologized for getting defensive. And she never responded, and it’s been months now.

What’s surprising is how easy it was for her to let this be the last straw. It makes me wonder if she ever really liked me at all over our 18-year friendship, and I have a suspicion that she didn’t. I always had the feeling she was more amused by me than actually genuinely liked me, but then she’d encourage me to visit or talk to me and I’d think, well, maybe she does like me. But I’m not sure she ever really knew me at all. I suppose part of that is on me, though–anytime I tried to show her who I really was, I could sense the waves of judgment coming off her, so I’d go back in my little box approved by her to be my space to take up in her presence. My goal was maintaining the friendship as opposed to us growing together, because that might mean us growing apart.

In the end, I just feel sorry for her. So many people have left her life voluntarily or she’s driven them out. Her closest friends at this point are, with one exception, people she met in the past few years, and she always makes a great show out of how much she adores them, calling them by special nicknames (which I never received – or actually, to be fair, we tried once and it didn’t stick). But she did the same thing to the other friends who ended up leaving her, and I just feel like the cycle is only going to repeat. She uses up friends and then just finds replacements. It’s like she can’t sustain real friendships for very long.

I also have to notice how much other people’s mental health issues play a role in the friendships she’s lost. She had another friend, her best friend since middle school, and she also lost that friend last year because she didn’t approve of that friend, who has struggled with bipolar disorder and depression, getting pregnant and having a baby. And now she apparently thinks I have serious issues and need help.

I also remember that during the biggest drama I had with her and some other people in high school (detailed below), I had a dream that I was so angry at her that I was trying to hit her – slap her, I think. But my arms would lose strength and the blow would never connect. If I’m recalling the dream correctly, she only laughed at my attempts. I felt powerless and ashamed. This is how it felt in the friendship – that she held all the power and I could never fight back. I’m realizing now that we had a very twisted connection and a lot of dark history and misunderstood feelings that sadly will never get sorted out, and I definitely have a role in that – it is not all her fault by any means. It may well be what’s called 腐れ縁 in Japanese – literally a ‘rotten connection,’ an undesirable but indissoluble karmic bond. Except that I feel fairly confident now that the bond has been severed, and we will not be reconciling unless she changes in a major way, and I just don’t think she will.

I may catch some shit for this post in the end if she sees it, but writing all this out really helped me sort out my thoughts and realize some things. Sometimes I can be kind of a masochist…

* At one point in high school I did stir up some shit within my group of friends, mostly by making posts on LiveJournal (lol) that people didn’t agree with and unintentionally hurting feelings, which caused further drama, but I hadn’t done any of that to be dramatic on purpose. I actually hated being in the center of that shitstorm and at one point turned off my computer for a week so I wouldn’t have to even look at it. At that time, this friend I’ve written this post about was the ringleader of the girls calling for my head and gleefully trash talking me. We ended up reconciling, but she really was a very enthusiastic leader of the anti-me brigade. Anyway, I can see why people who don’t know me very well might think I’m a drama queen, but the truth is I’m just too sensitive (things bother me more than they would others), too blunt (I come right out and say things that others feel hurt by as I was too honest), and to some degree not socially intelligent enough (it just simply doesn’t occur to me to predict the fallout that my words will cause, because to me they’re perfectly innocent). The fact that one of the friends I’d known the longest couldn’t see that about me and preferred to view me as this narcissistic drama queen who enjoys stirring shit up and being at the center of attention is just proof that we needed to stop being friends, as she didn’t know me at all and was apparently happy that way.

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Why is the chase all that matters for guys, it seems?

I really don’t understand why… guys try so hard to hook you. And then once you’re hooked, they’re no longer interested.

The beginning is the best, really–they’re working so hard to impress you, picking up the tab and not letting you contribute, making reservations, doing research, happily going along with what you suggest, telling you how great and beautiful you are. So when it happens, you’re primed to agree to be their girlfriend.

And then, slowly, it starts going downhill. It may take a few months but it will, inevitably it feels like.

I’m getting to the point where I just can’t trust a guy to stick with me. He’ll ask me out, sure, but then it’s like he considers his duty done and now he has pasted a girlfriend onto the facade of his life, but he’s certainly not going to change any part of his life to accommodate said girlfriend, he’s not going to change anything about himself. And I remember the compliments I got at the beginning–you’re so beautiful, etc–and I wonder if they ever actually cared about who I was, or if they just wanted to show me off.

See, this time I had my eyes wide open. I was skeptical. I knew that if someone was complimenting only my looks, he may not like my personality. But he seemed so easygoing and laidback, he seemed like the type to take it in stride. He told me all about how he thinks it’s a guy’s job to keep his girlfriend happy. I started to think that okay, maybe he can handle me. Maybe he can handle that I’m insanely picky about food, I’m addicted to an idol boy game that keeps me tethered to my phone all day (at 2.5 hour intervals most days), I like BL and anime and other weeb/otaku shit, I have dealt with anxiety and depression in the past, have been on medication for them, and those issues may flare up, and I’m generally a sensitive person who sometimes needs a break from stimulation (all of which has gotten me labeled as a drama queen by less charitably minded people/”friends” in the past).

So I started trying to let him in on it. I could tell the mental health issues thing weirded him out. I wouldn’t have even told him except that a side effect of my medication (which I stopped a month ago, but we’ll come back to that) was going to be something he’d notice, so I thought he should know. I could tell he was judging me for using my phone so much, especially because he likes to be as untethered as possible (he prefers to use an iPad over a phone–who knows why). One time I even purposely ignored my game on my phone because I knew he’d give me the side eye for picking it up and playing it.

Who knows if any of these things really contributed to it, though, because what happened was that he thought I was trying to tie him down by asking for too much contact. Basically, I wanted us to talk every day. That’s how my most successful relationship worked and I was super happy with that setup. On my first date with this guy, he asked me how to make a long distance relationship work, because he’d failed before but he gets sent on these month-long business trips and he was worried about maintaining a connection with someone during that time. I said “As long as there’s communication, you can keep the connection alive. But it has to be regular communication.” He smiled and looked relieved. He seemed to agree with me completely.

And yet, when that proposition became a reality, he balked. I wanted us to have a short chat ideally every day but once every couple days would have been all right too. Just 30 minutes or so of us being available to one another to catch up in real time about our days, weekend plans, etc. I was willing to compromise on the communication frequency. I told him he could work it out. But he was still spooked. That whole idea scared him. He thought I was trying to tie him down and he told me to “think of our relationship more casually.” Excuse me? You asked me out, you asked me to be your girlfriend, and you talked a big game about how it’s your job to keep me happy. You gushed about me to your friends, to your PARENTS, your parents bought me presents, you cut your hair for me, you made it sound like you planned to be with me for a while, and now suddenly chatting daily is too much?

He did agree that I was completely right and that this had been an issue in his past relationships. And yet instead of challenging himself to try something new, he ran. All of a sudden his job had him working hours so long he never got to go home (boo hoo, you made your choices) and “we aren’t a fit” because I’m trying to control him. Except I’m not, I’m just coming at him with American relationship and communication ideals. This is normal and not controlling in the US. I don’t want to control him. I just want to keep our connection strong through regular communication. Not messages you send here and there, and I reply to hours later, and you reply to hours later, and we never have a real-time conversation and I don’t know when I’m going to see you next. No. I’m not going to do that.

So yet again, I’m left blindsided by another guy who swerved away from a chance at a deep connection, which is what I want. Why even ask people out if you don’t want a real connection??? I don’t even know how to trust what guys say going forward. I mean, what can I do? If they ask me to date, be like “Stop. Do you really mean that? Do you really like me for who I am and are you willing to try to forge a real bond with me?” I can see many guys just running in the opposite direction from how intense that is. Or, or, they tell me what they think I want to hear. They enthusiastically say they’re down for that (just like he did on the first date), but in reality they’re not. How can I even trust what they say?

And then I fall for them. And then as soon as they can say they “got me,” they lose interest. What the fuck? Do I just have to pretend to be aloof and uninterested the entire time so they can feel the thrill of the chase and feel motivated to keep me happy? Why are men like this?

I’m not even really that upset about this guy specifically. I liked him, but I was just starting to get to know him, and some of what I saw, I didn’t like–such as how he had a weird habit of shouting (in English) “Make some noise!!! Let’s bounce, yo!!!” at random times. I do NOT know why. It’s hilarious in hindsight, but still totally insane. Definitely glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore. Or how I’d turn around and find him chatting to some random sketchy guy from Bangladesh (he lived there and can speak the language), which happened twice. Or his weird ideas about sex and our weird singular encounter (0 orgasms. For anyone). I dodged a bullet, but when I think about the future, I still feel pretty hopeless. Is it really going to be any better in the US?