Without my permission, I suddenly turned into a spurned lover.
Note: While this writing touches on blind loyalty in the context of friendship, it applies to the bigger picture in the sense that mob mentality, unquestioning following and unexamined dogma contribute to everything from high school bullying to religious zealotry to ridiculous politicians inching toward power. As a details and close-ups sort of person, I tackle universal concepts from a personal, everyday perspective. If I were to make a mantra out of my most used subtextual universal themes, it would be this:
Investigate. Allow for compassion. Think for yourself.
Let’s jump right in, shall we?
Being a friend does not preclude you from being decent to people other than your friend. If you see me behave like an asshole to a third party and you’re my friend, I would expect you to tell me I’m being an asshole rather than join me in some army of assholery against a particular target — who may be an asshole themselves, sure, but we don’t live in the flipping Wild West. I’m talking the brutal, lawless, syphilis-happy Wild West with no regard for human life.
Imagine this: your friend’s house burns down in a fire. Your friend comes to you, all teary-eyed and sooty, demanding:
“Dear true friend, Person X set fire to my house. C’mon, gather your arson kit and let’s go burn down Person X’s house.”
For the sake of this scenario, let’s put aside the notion of legal consequence. Even then, would you, a true friend but also a reasonable human being, blindly jump to your friend’s bidding? Or would you raise an objection?
You might, at the very least, have some questions. For example:
“Wait, isn’t Person X the pyromaniac you willing sought out and lit matches with?”
“That’s not important. What matters is you proving your friendship by helping me burn down Person X’s house.”
“What about the other people who live in Person X’s house?”
“I don’t care and you shouldn’t either. You should only care about me, your friend.”
But let’s take the scenario to a realistic level. Let’s say you are my true friend and you watch me for five years choose a dysfunctional relationship with an abusive person. This is true, by the way: I willing chose a relationship with such a person and my friends witnessed it. Also true are the following circumstances and examples of what he “did” to me.
You, my friend, knew that he broke my walls and doors, and at least once, my face got in the way of his brandishing crutch. His fucking leg-in-cast crutch. You didn’t see it happen, but you took my word for it and besides, my shiner spoke for itself.
Yet inexplicable to you, I stayed with him. Defended him, even.
Five years of Jerry Springer-caliber trashiness and cops called by neighbors and passersby, and the whole time you shook your head but remained friends with both of us. After all, it wasn’t like he was evil incarnate, or even a 24/7 jerk. In fact, when he wasn’t being monstrous, he was exceptionally charming and giving. No, not in a Jeffrey Dahmer way, although probably in a classic abuser way.
It also wasn’t like I was stupid or branded with the word “victim.” Really, if we’re to be honest, it wasn’t like my soul was angel-kissed and impervious to its own moments of monstrousness. We humans, especially people as close as lovers, are flawed by definition, each with varying degrees of issues and trauma to work through.
You know how lightly we allude to our ignorance of “what happens behind closed doors”? My theory is, we’re casual about “closed doors” because at some point, we’ve all been caught in an indoor storm of pressure and unbridled emotion. I’ve gleaned or outright witnessed at least as much “crazy” as sane in the majority of people I’ve met, and I’ve come across individuals from every walk of life and moral fortitude.
So no, he was not evil, he was humanly troubled; I was not stupid, I was humanly in love. Obviously somewhat troubled too — how else would I have chosen to stay? He didn’t have me chained up nor was it a situation where he threatened my life if I left. I made a choice, and you, my disapproving friend, accepted that I had agency over my own life.
Shit, you even invited him to dinner; he showed up to your performances; you regularly supported each other’s social media posts.
I was glad you were his friend.
He was a vulnerable human being with the love in him tragically accompanied by a side of near-lethal rage. I never stopped wishing I could take away his damage and bring peace to his interior.
The day I finally managed to ditch his vulnerable-but-troubled ass, you know, after the fiftieth devastating lie I caught him in, you thought, good for her. It’s about time. But you still invited him to your events and he attended, and you both continued being staunch supporters of each other’s all-important social media.
Remember the time he even raised a bit of money for your Kickstarter? That was after he had blocked me from social media because he couldn’t bear to see my tailored-for-internet life plastered on his feed and be reminded of…?
I don’t know. I’ll never know.
Of…how “hot” I am? Of…what a “bitch” I am? Of…the new man I have? Of…how I saw his ugliest scars? Of…how I called him out on every lie? Of…how he couldn’t bully me? (At least not as often as he tried.) Of…how I stood by him and loved him in spite of his deception and psychological addictions?
I don’t know why he didn’t want to be reminded of me. But he didn’t, so he blocked me.
My reaction? Something began seething in the pit of my stomach like lava, like strychnine, like a five-headed serpent. Without my permission, I suddenly turned into a spurned lover. There are few humans more dangerous.
I reigned it in.
It’s anticlimactic, I know, but it’s important to me to approve of myself as a human being, and I don’t approve of spiteful, vindictive behavior.
I didn’t badmouth him or concoct ways to contaminate his life. My misery was mine. As much as I wanted him to feel the hurt he made me feel — by simply living his life and moving on — I just took it. And it sucked. What sucked most was seeing you, my friend, still kissing his ass on social media. But I never said a single word to you, and this writing doesn’t count because I’m making a different point, a noble one.
You see, all that time I chose to stay with him, I expected you to respect my autonomy regardless of crutches to the face and holes in the wall. So now, just because I’m silly enough to care that he blocked me from his social media, if I come to you and demand we form a takedown posse because of what an all-around “monster” he is, I really hope you slap me in the face.
The facts are simple. I am an asshole who dated an asshole, and the other asshole got the last laugh. It feels like shit. But never will I call your loyalty into question because you chose not to take sides in a dysfunctional ex-lovers’ spat in which someone invariably feels spurned.
Decency dictates that we don’t act on the nasty feelings corroding our insides. Even if we’re all, “fuck decency, fuck him/her,” consider our own wellbeing: we will not heal in acid. And if I’m so utterly wounded that I can’t think these thoughts clearly, please, be the truest of friends and point me in the right direction instead of gathering a torch and pitchfork.
I’ve watched many variations of hurt people figure out ways to menace the people who hurt them. They harass, threaten and bombard. Privately, publicly, digitally. Incessantly. Sometimes they drag the target’s children into the unfortunate mess. It is not fucking cool. Friend or not, I could never give my support to someone who didn’t leave out the children, even if the target really burned down their house (a la my preposterous beginning sketch).
“But he’s a narcissist. He gaslighted me.” Don’t we hear that everywhere now? Hell, I’m convinced men have gaslighted me. Different discussion. In this discussion, let’s say “he” is a gaslighting narcissist. What does that actually mean in terms of justice and retribution? Are we supposed to charge into every lovers’ war and attack when our friends feel manipulated and undervalued?
In a life or death situation, say a car careening towards these same hurt, vengeance-seeking types, it’s likely I’d jump to push them out of the way at risk of getting myself run over. It’s instinct, courage by trick of DNA. As such, I have the courage to subject myself to potential backlash when telling you that blind loyalty is not loyalty — it’s foolish and undermines the work of humanity in the realm of justice and parity.
This recent over-saturation of supposedly narcissistic men feels the same to me as women being mysteriously “crazy” according to their exes. People tend to make their ex-lover the “bad guy.” Rather than salve for a broken heart, it’s the take-no-responsibilty route of coping with a failed relationship. Having been turned into the — blocked! — bad guy by my aforementioned ex, I speak from experience. In that relationship, an arguably smaller portion of actual bad-guyness had been doled out to me than to the truth-averse rage “monster” who hit me in the face with a crutch. And whom, let it be known, I still don’t consider a bad guy. Troubled, damaged, misguided, infuriating blocker — yes.
I respect friend code. And the code between women. Or men, for that matter. But no code is more sacred than a human code. It incorporates reason, objectivity and compassion. I stand up for my beliefs even when I’m alone in my quest. Sometimes I’ll take the fall in situations when two of us are equally culpable — no use both of us suffering. If someone’s coming at you, I’ll shield you and take them on.
On the other hand, I do not allow “you” to coerce me out of my definition of friendship.
For me, friendship doesn’t come with the prerequisite of blind loyalty. I want my friends to be wise and just, measured and composed during the times I can’t be because my very soul might be in pain. If we are friends, let’s show our loyalty by helping each other act with integrity.
- Don’t lie, especially to yourself.
- Be unafraid, especially of people. You can’t be bullied when you’re unafraid.
- While I’m sincerely sorry if my cursing offends you, it’s part of how I communicate and it probably won’t change.
- I’ll cathartic monkey on the occasions it’s merited.
- For other bloggers and the curious: this post took me about twelve hours, including the editing, image search and bells and whistles. In case anyone wonders why I don’t have the time to blog consistently…
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