I find myself drawn to loners for some reason. I’m not sure why, exactly. It’s not out of pity, or some moral desire to make sure that everyone has a friend. But for whatever reason, I seem to find myself becoming friends with people who don’t have many other friends on a semi-regular basis.

And you know what? I regret it almost every time.

My friendships with these people tend to all have similar trajectories, and can be summarized in four phases.

 

Phase One – The Meeting 

The meeting invariably happens when I notice someone doing something amusing and/or interesting. Maybe they’re photocopying their tie. Maybe they’re tossing a baseball into the air and hitting it with a tennis racket. Who knows. Stupid things, but so far removed from the realm of normalcy that I can’t help but approach them and ask questions. By this point I really should know how to recognize the warning signs and walk away. Perhaps I’m not as smart as I’d like to think I am.

Phase Two – The Friendship

Following our initial meeting, I’ll deem the person to be someone worth spending time around. We’ll become friends. We’ll hang out. During this period I’ll sometimes notice my new friend being insulted by one of the many people who don’t like them. When this happens, I’ll step in to defend them. And I often think to myself “I don’t understand why anyone would dislike this person. They’re so cool!” 

Phase Three – The Realization 

And then I figure it out. It sounds harsh, but when a lot of people don’t like a person there’s usually a good reason for it. And in a single moment, comprehension will dawn on me. “So this is why no one likes this person!” My friend will do or say something so stupid, so bizarre, or so horrendous that it causes me to completely change my mind about them. And I’ll feel the blood drain from my face as I realize that I’ve made a terrible mistake.

These are moments that I remember for a long time. 10 years ago one friend blurted out, rather loudly “Since when did girls start to grow boobs?” And he pronounced the word “boobs” oddly. More like “bewbs”. I laughed awkwardly, but this only encouraged him, and he repeated himself even louder: “Since when did girls start to grow bewbs?” I cringed, and in that moment I realized why I was this person’s only real friend.

Another time, I was riding the bus with a new friend. We were chatting with a third party, and he was telling us about his plans for the future. I nodded politely, but my soon-to-be ex-friend had a different reaction. She went with “That sounds really boring.” And in that moment I realized why she had no friends – she was really mean-spirited, or socially inept, or both.

In rare occasions the discovery occurs over a period of time. One person I knew had this habit of asking me “how are you?” twice in the same greeting. She’d start a conversation with “Hey, how are you?”, to which I’d typically reply “Not bad, and yourself?” Anyone else on earth would have replied with “Good”, and then the conversation proper would have begun. But not this girl. She insisted on replying with “I’m alright, how about you?” And this wasn’t something that happened once or twice, but almost every single time we spoke. I know it sounds like a minor thing, but it drove me absolutely bananas. Eventually I concluded that I couldn’t be friends with someone who I wanted to strangle every time she asked “How are you?”

Phase Four – Distancing

Once I’ve realized how wrong I was about the person, I start to backpedal. Hard. The goal is to start putting distance between myself and the person as quickly as possible, before we grow any closer together.

I know it sounds terrible, but I’d like to point out that there’s a difference between dropping friends because other people don’t like them and dropping friends because you don’t like them. This is the latter.

Getting rid of these people is easier said than done. Because these people were short on friends to begin with, they tend to be clingy. Having just gained a new friend, they’re determined to do everything in their power to hold onto me. And once they begin to sense that my attitude towards them is shifting, they grip on even tighter. They’ll start trying too hard to be funny around me. They’ll start following me around in hallways. And that just has the effect of annoying me more. The resulting situation is not unlike this episode of Untalkative Bunny.

It takes a while, but eventually they tend to get the hint and descend back into the hole from whence they came. The status quo is restored, and everyone carries on with their lives – albeit with a little bit more guilt on my part and a little bit more anger on theirs.

 

I guess the moral of the story, if you can call it that, is that you’re better off leaving the loners be. If you don’t know why someone doesn’t have many friends, perhaps it’s best not to find out.

Having said that, my nature is what it is. I suspect I’ll make the same mistake again within six months.

Advertisements