When I was a kid in a tiny town in Maine, I was the designated the “kid to be picked on.” Parents arguing this morning? Go verbally or physically bash on Kip to make yourself feel better and more in control. Feeling insecure? Put down Kip to make yourself look better in the eyes of your peers. In the fifth grade I had one girl, one of the most popular girls, ask me how much my father made. I was ten. How the hell would I know? So that line of ridicule got cut off, so they went back saying I had sex with my dog. That is life in a small town: You establish an identity, or society establishes one for you , and you are stuck with that forever. And when we had the multiple Junior High Orientation at our local high school, I could pick out the kids who filled the same role I did in their schools. They looked like plucked birds, shivering with their backs against the wall, waiting for the next attack.
It was so horrible, my parents were trying to get me into a private school, even though I have no idea how they were going to afford it.
But by the good grace of the Gods, instead of that, we ended up moving to Southern California for my Dad’s work. It was awesome. While my Maine peers had nothing to do but steal six packs of beer and go back in the woods to practice betting pregnant. (I asked what happened to all 94 of them after they graduated high school. Half the graduating class got married. To the other half! I think a couple married people from neighboring towns. Only three escaped into college and the military.) Meanwhile I had a movie theatre and mall within a 15 minute walk, a bigger mall within a 15 bus ride, and the beach and the Redondo Pier within a bike ride. If did didn’t mind a 20-30 minute walk up the way to Hermosa Beach, there was the Either Or Bookstore and awesome coffee shops and restaurants. As I got older, I could go into L.A. proper and experience the Art House theatres, the Museums, the international cultures I was exposed to through food and visiting Temples, etc. And then I got older and it was the club scene on Sunset. And my best friend was dating an older guy in a band, so we were always on the list, despite being under drinking age. By the time I turned 21, I had already been there, done that.
So in many ways, it was perfect. At the time when kids as teens need to find the space to expand their experience, establish an individual identity, all that, I had what the majority of my peers did not. And I ended up with two awesome friends to share it with.
However, coming from that background of abuse and isolation, it left me vulnerable. First I was defensive against everyone because that was how I had to operate back home. It took me a while to figure out in a school of 450 kids, no one knew me and no one gave a fuck. When people did reach out with friendship, I was shocked, relieved, and most of all, grateful. One of the first was a girl who I will not name. She was beautiful, brilliant, creative. Top of her class, head of the school paper, she wrote music. Her Mom was self absorbed and not around much and she lived in a house that was practically a museum of antiques, but I was so grateful she wanted me to be her friend, wanted to share tine with me. Plain old scruffy allycat me.
The second was a down-to-earth, funny, pet-loving, modern-hippie with no patience for stupidity and would say so to your face.
Needless to say, she and I got on like a house on fire.
And during high school and afterwards, it became the trio of us and we went everywhere and did everything together and raised hell and did and experienced fantastic stuff and generally had the time of our lives as 17 to 22 year olds will given the opportunity. And I am eternally grateful for that time and their companionship.
But there came a point of clarity where I realized that the first girl, my first best friend, the perfect one, viewed me not so much as a friend but as a High Priestess to her cult. And she was creating a cult of worshippers, which I understand. She was beautiful and extremely intelligent and wildly fun and she made it seem like a privilege to be around her. A very intoxicating brew. Especially men who she would come on to (rather grope-ily if she was drunk), yet remain out of reach. (And the rare few that did manage to get her into bed…well, let’s just say as much as she loved the flirting and making out and attention it got her, the actual sex she did not like). She became more demanding of attention and less willing to give it in return. I finally just drifted off among the crowd, completely unnoticed by her in the midst of her worshippers, but glad to be shot of her.
And sometimes I felt guilty. I had my own personality problems that made me hard to deal with at points. Back in High School and shortly thereafter my bipolar II had not been diagnosed. (It would not be diagnosed until I was 36.) Mood swings, sudden withdrawals from contact and yes, self-absorption and selfishness sometimes to the point where I was really blind to other’s problems or the impositions I thoughtlessly put on them. And I mean stupidly blind. Did I have a right to judge her?
She eventually got married to an a-hole and that marriage disintegrated very badly, resulting in an instance of physical abuse (him on her) after which both of them realized that was the end of the marriage. He apparently already had someone on the side. She got a divorce. Everyone had to come commiserate with her about her abuse, her horrible husband, and the divorce. She said she reached out to me on Facebook via one of their messaging systems, but I never got it. What I did eventually get was this two page screed about what a horrible person I was for not responding to her in her hour of need, etc. etc. etc.
I had not talked to this woman in nearly 20 years.
I told her this was *not* the approach to take if she wanted my ear. She calmed down. I called her and listened to her unload her woes and gave her some insights for two hours. Then she asked, out of politeness I am sure, how I was doing. But when I started to actually tell her, she kept trying to get off the phone as quickly as possible.
We friended on Facebook, where it quickly became apparent that she had not changed at all. In fact, she had become worse; more self absorbed, less able to listen to other’s opinions. She endlessly posted selfies, mostly at the angle that looked down her cleavage. She posted about constantly going out and all the traveling she did. And in the midst of all this good fortune, she raged against Latino immigrants (she really lived in the wrong part of the country for that) and the homeless. She especially loathed the homeless in her beautiful coastal suburb of L.A.. She considered them all drug users and criminals. The fact we are coming out of one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression did not seem to have entered her consciousness. The idea that these are people or families who have lost everything did not occur to her. That they are senior citizens who’s social security checks can’t keep a roof over their head or that %20 to 40% of the young people on the street are LGBT teens kicked out by their parents does not exist in her world.
Homeless people make her town look ugly, like litter, so she hates them and wants to run them out of town. And she was actually running for town council on a “get rid of the homeless” platform. That was her entire candidacy statement. Online she would tell people online IN ALL CAPS to “NOT TO GIVE THEM MONEY OR FOOD OR ANYTHING!” O.k. money I get, but food? WTF!? And I checked, her town has a single homeless shelter which is probably filled to capacity. And she complained “We take everyone’s homeless!”
Honey, if you took all the homeless in the greater L.A. area, you would not be able to walk down all the sidewalks in your town without stepping on multiple people. I used to work for a non-profit low-income housing organization in L.A.. I know exactly the extent of the homeless problem and who the homeless are. And the majority of them are not drug users, not welfare cheats, not criminals. Most of them are people like you and me that life just kicked the shit out of.
And knowing these facts, plus having been on the edge of homeless myself simply because the job market was in the toilet when I got out of school, I argued with her a couple times on this issue: That these people were human beings, that they were not all criminals, that they deserved to be helped (maybe by creating more shelters and programs to get these people on their feet again), not run out of town.
Well, these were “horrible personal attacks” and she unfriended me.
(Granted, our final exchange did involve the line, “Jeez, when did you become a Tea Party Republican?” But that was the only personal comment made over several exchanges about politics, etc..)
I just felt relieved. She had gone from being charmingly self-absorbed to a callously self-involved cunt with her head jammed so far up her ass, she was trying to view the world out of her belly button. I had made the right choice 20 years ago, and she has made the right choice for me now.
Now this modus operandi might sound familiar to people who know my online journey of the last few years. And I spoke with a mutual friend who, with some others, believes that my former High School Bestie has a narcissistic personality disorder. This, of course, is not a professional assessment, but is probably familiar to people who have known a certain internet community in its middle/growing stage. A certain person behaved in a similar fashion, with exactly the same reaction to topical disagreement, and was also dime-store diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.
So you know, when you run into people like this. Don’t even bother. They are not worth your time. It’s not even a drama thing. It’s that they cannot see outside their own myopic worldview. They do not view you as people, but followers/worshippers, and only show the care they have to in order to reinforce the bond, not because they actually care about you. People like that are a waste of time.
P.S. And I will ad that as grateful as I am for the cosmopolitan experience of living in Los Angeles area, and I am truly grateful for that experience, I am at heart a small town girl. Or rather an-extremely-rural-out-in-the-middle-of-woods girl. I did not cry when I left L.A.. I felt relieved. I cry every time I leave Maine. Someday, soon hopefully, I need to go home.