“I’m staying neutral.”
This phrase, or some version of it, gets used all the time when adults within a community or friend circle have drama, fight, or have some sort of awful friend breakup. It needs to end.
First of all, people use it to mean any number of the following things:
- I have too much on my plate to think clearly about what is happening.
- I just don’t want to deal with it.
- I don’t care, figure it out.
- I’m a complete fucking coward who doesn’t want to do the work it would take to help all parties get the help and validation they need.
This is valid when one of your friends is not causing harm to another. Be adults. Figure your shit out and don’t track it in my home. Same with utter lack of spoons—if you can’t deal, and others can? That’s just how it goes.
However, I see this constantly when somebody has harmed or is in some way doing something really fucked up to somebody else. And when poor treatment, abuse, cruelty, resentment, shit-talking, lying, and other behaviors are involved, and people stay “neutral” I kinda want to vomit all over their shoes.
Because the thing is, you don’t have to stay neutral to remain friends with the person causing harm. It is okay to recognize that your friend is being an asshole and still be friends with them. But when you do decide that neutrality is your best option, here are some things that can happen:
For the person being wronged:
- They are likely not getting the level of emotional support and validation from you that they deserve, if you are calling them your friend. You might even be gaslighting them a little, making them doubt their own experience.
- It’s likely you aren’t actually talking to them about what’s going on, and thus any assumptions you make about what’s happening is coming second- or third-hand and is likely not terribly accurate. This can cause extra harm.
- They get to see you continue your friendship with the person hurting them through all of this. Although nobody has the right to tell anybody who they can be friends with, that can also be traumatic, and talking to them about it is useful.
For the person who is doing the harm:
- They often don’t get the real help they need because mutual friends are too busy being Switzerland to address the issues at hand and try to get through to them.
- Again, not talking + assumptions = bad.
- They get constant reassurance and validation from your continued friendship-without-challenges and you never really help them learn how fucked up they are being and therefore never help them grow. We become better humans when we can learn from our shitty behavior, not when people help us sweep it under the rug.
This has been something I have been fielding a little bit lately, but it’s also something that has come up repeatedly in stories friends have told about people allowing others to treat their friends atrociously under the guise of being “neutral”. Come the fuck on, y’all. This shouldn’t be how we operate, not as true friends to each other. It’s just another path to the missing stair (which, while specifically used to describe the issue of sexual harassment, can be broadened significantly).
To the various individuals who regularly name themselves “Switzerland”, instead of telling people you are “neutral” try thinking about what you really mean by it, deep down. And say that out loud instead. Because “neutral” is nowhere near the entirety of what you mean by it.
The fact is, being “neutral” helps nobody but yourself. And that’s cool. We have to indulge in self-care. But let’s call it what it is.
June 1, 2015 | Categories: Politics, Relationships | Tags: awkward, communication, friends, friendship, neutral, neutrality, relationships, social anxiety, social awkwardness, switzerland | 3 Comments
For me, books are basically the best thing ever, immediately followed by pibble puppies and whiskey. I read and re-read them, I discuss them, I occasionally greet them when I walk into a room. They rescued me from a miserable childhood, helped me navigate a difficult young adulthood, and have provided me, in their own way, with the most stability I have ever experienced in my life. If somebody told me I had to choose between books and food for a week, I’d need at least a day to consider.
But if people are books, and if the ones I truly want to…read…are also incredibly rare and impossibly valuable (and they are, they really really are), then when, for whatever reason, I lose one, I can’t help but mourn every story lost. Everything I could have learned about their world, their perspective, gone. Every story we might have written together, gone. If I have lost this friend to tragedy, I mourn on every level; occasionally instead I lose friends to terrible miscommunication. Regardless, when it happens it feels like this new, amazing, one-of-a-kind book, which I can never find anywhere else again, has been torn from my hands mid-chapter—just when the action was really getting good.
This is heartbreaking. I hate to be that book nerd who harps on the library at Alexandria. But I’m an historian, a geek, a reader, a lover of detail and stories and information. I don’t bitch about Alexandria because there are so many other people still wailing about it for me. But as far as I am concerned it’s one of the most tragic losses in history and I occasionally mourn it as I might mourn an amazing relative I never got to meet. Oh, shit. I am that nerd. If you relate, just go ahead and scale it down to just one of those books, and you’ll be in the ballpark for what I’m trying to get across, here.
January 4, 2015 | Categories: Observations, Random, Relationships | Tags: alexandria, books, communication, crushes, friends, friendship, geekery, history, libraries, library, new friends, people, reading, Rejection, relationships, social awkwardness, stories | Leave a comment
Normally around this time of year, I do a retrospective, but while a retrospective post (of sorts) is coming, right now I am looking forward.
I am so fucking tired of being asked why I am single. Why I don’t date more. Why I don’t have women just crawling all over me.
I don’t know how I am supposed to have the fucking answer to that question. Is it my failing? Theirs? Did the stars not align that week? Who fucking knows? What I do know, is that I have played and lost at this game so often that I know all the rules, all the side quests (including the one with the firebreathing dragon), and how to navigate many of the annoying puzzles.
At this point I have a fair idea of when I am being manipulated, managed, gaslighted, and when I should be waiting to be dumped by somebody who maybe thinks I haven’t noticed when they have suddenly disappeared from all forms of communication for a week even though I have had to chase them the fuck down.
The question is not why I am single. The question is why I put up with this bullshit at all. And I do, way too often.
So, 2015 is going to be the year that I stop. I am going to stop trying to chase down women who won’t be honest or communicative with me. I am going to stop trying to convince the people I date that I’m the one (or one of the people) for them. I am going to stop being the anchor for people who can’t fucking commit. I am going to stop putting up with the gaslighting and the radio silence. Fuck all of that. If people can’t recognize that I am worth chasing, wooing, caring for, and communicating clearly and honestly with, then I’m out.
2015 is the year of the Whiskeypants. I’m brilliant, hilarious, kind, generous, and loving. I have a short pudgy body that is soft, warm, and extremely cuddly, and you’d be lucky to feel it next to you.
And if it turns out nobody is into that, fuck it. I have a cat, a Roku, and a sexy fucking motorcycle. I’m good.
December 30, 2014 | Categories: Being Single, Body Image, Dating, Observations, Really?, Relationships | Tags: cats, crushes, dating, desire, flirting, friends, friendship, humor, Love, pets, Rejection, relationships, self-esteem, sex, shy, social awkwardness, women | 11 Comments
So, this happened:
But then I thought about it. And I decided that the world needed this:
Sincerely grateful for the healing, joy, laughter, and love this little guy has brought to my life. And for every single one of you who thinks I am as funny as I think I am. Happy Thanksgiving.
There’s this woman, with whom I have almost become acquainted. Almost. By that, I mean I have spoken to her, once. Sorta. I don’t actually know how drunk I was when I managed to get those words out, but the fact that enough whiskey had been consumed for me to talk to her suggests…very.
The thing is, I find her so mindbogglingly hot I cannot bring myself to talk to her. I cannot even look her in the eyes. When our eyes do by some accident meet, I feel like I’ve been knocked on my ass, and every last bit of the clever snarkiness you expect from me vanishes. Gone. Poof. So, you know. It totally makes sense that I don’t let myself within five feet of her.
There’s this woman I’ve known for some time, now. She’s ridiculous; talented; brilliant; strange. I love looking her in the eyes; her eyes are so expressive, they practically have their own vocabulary. I am certain I can never tell her this, or how beautiful I think she is.
This is why people get cats.
June 5, 2014 | Categories: Being Single, Dating, Relationships | Tags: communication, crushes, dating, desire, flirting, friends, help, Love, Rejection, relationships, shy, social awkwardness, women | 6 Comments
Not too long ago, my Facebook feed was suddenly peppered with vague posts about the death of somebody who was part of a broader (but quite small) community of which I am a member. People refused to post the name of the person who died.
I was immediately filled with fear and anxiety that I was out of the loop on the death of somebody I might know and care about. It had happened to me with Sparkly (learned about her on Facebook, by accident), and I had been the person filling in people who were out of the loop on Donovan (learned he was in a coma when I was, without warning, added to a Facebook group to discuss it). And what I learned from both of those tragic events is that:
1. It totally sucks to learn these things via Facebook;
2. Learning these things via Facebook is inevitable;
3. Nobody, nobody should be out of the loop when somebody in a close-knit community is seriously injured, near death, or dead;
4. We need to take a serious look at how we handle tragedy on social media.
In the most recent circumstances, a small but very visible and active group within the larger grieving community seemed to think that not naming names would protect privacy, even as they posted details about his death that were far more invasive than his identity. This group was also inclined to criticize those asking for more information. When my very dear friend Rachel, who has lived through more brutal loss than the vast majority of the people I know, finally demanded that people name names, another friend commented, “If you are frustrated by not being in the in club over grieving with us, consider yourself lucky.”
Now, I understand that grief totally kills our communication skills. And this is why not a single one of us called him out on this comment. However, the essence of that comment should be addressed, because Rachel was not the only person who was essentially accused of being a vulture for asking.
I think we need to start with the assumption that nobody actually wants to be in that club. Nobody. If you really think somebody wants to be in that club, it’s time to do some unfriending and maybe look into a temporary restraining order. Okay? So let’s start with that foundational premise. Nobody wants to be in that club. If people are going to glom on for drama, that will become readily apparent, and they will not be anybody’s problem but their own.
I think we should continue with the general awareness that people die. I know, it’s something nobody really wants to think about, which makes all of these discussions about death much more difficult. Rachel’s response to the accusation of wanting to be in the mourner’s club nailed my reaction to this series of vaguebook posts: “Our community is very high risk, and I have lost more friends than I have digits to suicide, drugs, and motorcycle accidents. I found out in a million different ways. Because of this, fear strikes my heart EVERY TIME I hear ‘motorcycle casualty on the 880’ or any time [people] are posting about some unnamed tragedy.”
Marisa filled it out: “I’ve known too many quick-and-deads to ever, ever think that ‘if I knew them, I would know.’ I found out last week about a dear friend…via Facebook. But at least names were named. […]Creating this kind of stress and anxiety in this incredibly high risk group is rude. It’s not telling anyone how to grieve; it’s asking for basic consideration.”
I’m not sure I know more than a tiny handful of people who have not been affected by tragedy and/or sudden death. Hell, just in case you think I am being insensitive, I have been struggling with depression and suicide ideation since I was a child. To top that off, I ride a motorcycle. In reality I–or any of us–could die any day. Every day. So many of my friends are similar: they suffer from extreme depression, are risk takers, get into accidents, and some of them have died. We are high-risk. With regard to the death of loved ones, I have not always been in the immediate loop. Nor would I expect even my closest friends to be in the event of my injury or death. Too many breaks in communication can happen. So assuming:
A. that everybody who should know does know is wrong.
B. that not naming names has no effect on those who didn’t know the individual is wrong.
C. that people who ask for the identity of the deceased are just social media vultures is—you guessed it—wrong.
I think we also need to think about how we handle information. Talking about a death in the community, not naming names, but offering other extremely private details is kinda like creating a really screwed up guessing game and it protects nobody’s privacy, ultimately.
For the record, when people understandably don’t want to guess, calling them vultures for asking for information is going to result in some ruffled feathers, especially when you have given just enough information to create the need to ask for more. You are hurting. I get it, and I have been there. I am so very, very sorry for your loss. But freaking out a bunch of your friends and then slapping them down when they ask for information is not the way to handle it. As my friend Normal pointed out in an analog example, “I don’t go to Lucky 13 and yell ‘one of us died and I feel sad!’ and then walk off to the bathroom without expecting a lot of follow-up upsetness.”
We have all lost people. We are extremely aware of how truly fragile are the lives of our friends, family, and loved ones. And when somebody in a close-knit community feels the need to say that somebody who was a part of the community died, but not who it was, it does far more harm than good.
If you are going to withhold information out of respect to families and partners, consider withholding all of it and finding a more private forum for your initial response. In examples I have seen and heard of, some folks refused to name names publicly but explicitly offered to if contacted privately. It turns out I didn’t know the deceased, and I had the amazing and unfortunate privilege of getting to struggle with a feeling of intense relief even as I watched people I care about grieve.
I have read everything his friends have posted about him, and I have let those posts give substance to the person my friends have lost. This post is not about the fact that I don’t care; I do. This post is about the fact that people need to know, even if just to learn that their hearts won’t be breaking, this time.
February 25, 2014 | Categories: Observations, Really?, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tags: communication, community, death, facebook, friends, friendship, grief, grieving, manners, privacy, privilege, relationships, social awkwardness, social media, suicide, vaguebook, vaguebooking | 5 Comments
SHHHH. I’m thinking.
Now you can talk.
One of the generally accepted fundamental differences between extroverts and introverts is that extroverts recharge their batteries through human interaction and introverts recharge their batteries through quiet/alone time. I need a lot of alone time, or I get socially, emotionally, and mentally strung out. When that happens, I stop hanging out with my friends. I stop enjoying that moment when my girlfriend gets home. I am overwhelmed at the thought of making plans. My social anxiety stops hovering at 5-6/10 and goes to 11.
But I live with an extrovert who doesn’t quite get the value of alone time for me. She doesn’t understand the full extent of the necessity. This has caused some trouble between us—partly because she doesn’t understand that my need for alone time isn’t just about needing time apart from her (and if you guys can come up with a way to make that really, really clear, your comments are welcome), and partly because the need itself is esoteric. Explaining the difference between enjoyment of alone time and the need for it is difficult.
We live in a tiny 1-BR apartment in SF in which the layout is such that, if there are two people home it is impossible to have alone time. My mental health has been deteriorating for months because in a given work day I get at most 20-60 minutes of alone time between when I get home and when she gets home. On the weekends, unless she goes out of town, I get none. I finally made it as clear as possible that I need to live in a place where I can have my own room: a Whiskeypants Cave. But we kept running up against the same problem in communication about it. She could not fathom the idea that I would need alone time so badly that it was worth stretching out our budget as much as we would have to in order to afford a 2-BR in this city. I couldn’t fathom the idea that she could not acknowledge the fact of my need.
One day after arguing about this, on the drive home I finally found the words:
Imagine that the way you recharge is through sleep.
You try to sleep every day, but you can only get an average of about an hour with an absolute maximum of 2-3.
Even when you lie down to sleep, you know that, no matter where you are, you will be woken up by the person you live with.
Imagine that, day after day, week after week, month after month. This is what alone time is to me, to my brain, to my emotional buffers and my ability to enjoy time with you, with my friends, and out and about.
She went home that night and found us the place we are moving into at the beginning of next month.
Introverts who date extroverts and vice versa: how do you communicate your needs to each other?
August 19, 2013 | Categories: Observations, Relationships | Tags: alone time, being social, communication, extraverts, extroverts, friends, introversion, introverted, introverts, relationships, social, social anxiety, social awkwardness | 5 Comments