[Photo credit: One Step 2 by lusi]
I HAVEN’T FORGIVEN YOU.
A friend’s tweet about opportunistic friends caught my eyes tonight.
I have had a huge share of opportunistic friends. One simple (and recurring example) would be when someone that I have not spoken to in maybe 15 years called me up asking if I could get his relative a job at the place I was working at. I told him I didn’t have an opening in my department but would gladly pass the resume to Human Resources. Then he asked me in an unimpressed tone “So, what is it that you do exactly?”. I was surprised by his sense of entitlement – so we went to the same school 25 years ago, so what?
But, this kind of opportunistic friends don’t really get to me. At worst they are an annoyance; it doesn’t cost me anything to be polite so why be snippy when I don’t have to.
What really gets me are friends who let me in and out of their lives at their discretion. Tell me you don’t have a friend like this: he calls you when he is down or sad or in trouble or needs someone to talk to or needs help of the money kind or a place to crash, or a job, or to borrow your car, etc; yet when everything is alright with his world you don’t hear a single peep. You are let in and out as he sees fit. You question this, during one of those uncomfortable times when you feel it was too much, and he says something like “It’s my life”; or “It’s my problem”; or the lamest of all cop-outs: “That’s just me“.
Tell me you don’t have a friend like that.
The last time I called a friend out for this kind of behaviour and pointed out how I felt used and dismissed by the dynamics of our friendship, he told me: stop being so full of yourself. Those were the actual words.
I laughed when I saw that. At myself. At my stupidity. At my misplaced sense of duty and loyalty for someone who didn’t have the same feelings about friendship the way I do. All he cared about was about him. Who could fault him for putting himself first? I was upset over him not including me in his life? I should be thankful that he doesn’t because I shouldn’t want to be in that kind of relationship with anyone.
It wasn’t a lightbulb revelation. But it succeeded in making me felt foolish about my dogged insistence on being a ‘good friend’. Obviously our definition of that phrase is different. I could either browbeat him into submission, or I can pick myself up and say goodbye to this category of people. So I told him nevermind, it’s no big deal. It wasn’t and it still isn’t. All that I needed to do was to recognize it as what it was and move on. I did.
Look, I get it. Friendship is freely given. I shouldn’t expect reciprocity and I don’t. This is not about being taken for granted one too many times that I have become jaded and suspicious of everyone that I call a friend. And, when I am down and in need of someone to talk to, or need help of the money kind or the food kind or the medicine kind or the cupcake kind, I too have been saved many times by people who call themselves a friend, who don’t ask for anything in return except for my good health and continuing existence in this world.
But, there is this special breed of friends whom you only see and hear from when they need something from you. When you are good for something. Otherwise, you have no idea what is going on in their lives. It is hard not to feel being taken for granted when you see their number flashes on your mobile: if you don’t answer you are not being a good friend, but if you answer you know that you are in for another opportunistic ride.
Tell me you don’t have a friend like that.
Don’t get me wrong. Like I said, I am not jaded or disillusioned. Just that after having to learn and re-learn this lesson again and again, I know now that if I feel used in a relationship, I probably am and I should cut my losses right there and then. I shouldn’t just stand there, grinning and bearing it out of a sense of duty and conviction that what I am doing is ‘being a good friend’. Some people want friendship to work solely on their terms – that’s just me – as if they have no choice over their behaviour and actions and that we’re the one who should stop being so full of ourselves.
I don’t need pity friendships. I don’t need nostalgic friendships. I don’t need nor want friends who feel they are obliged to spend time with me or share with me bits and pieces of their lives as repayment or because we have known each other for so long. The kind where I am invited in when I am good for something, otherwise left in the periphery to wait for the time when I may be called and invited in again. I don’t need friends who do things because they have to. That kind of friendship, it doesn’t bring me any joy.
So, no more. Shiawase no Category. Goodbye to that category. No need to be sentimental about it. And if this turns out to be a mistake, then it is my loss and I will live with it. That, as they say, is just me.