I received an unexpected phone call a few weeks ago from my blogging buddy Rebekah. She was frantic and harried and needed a favor.
“No problem,” I told her. “Anything. What can I do?”
This is my standard response when anyone asks for help. Always at the ready to give people a hand. Reliable and dependent, that’s me. I’ve said it before —
“I’m a bitch, yes indeed!
The most generous bitch you’ll ever meet.”
That’s right. I’m a real friend.
I’m also a poet and I fucking know it.
She sniffled and said I may have agreed too soon.
“How bad can it be?”
She needed me to read a 20-page dissertation on social media. By the end of the next day. She asked me to edit for errors. And, oh yeah, offer feedback on the content itself.
I had to seriously think about whether or not I still wanted to claim, “I’m a real friend.”
“Nothing like waiting till the last minute, Bek. What the fuck?”
She let loose a deep, sarcastic guffaw.
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way. My brother is an amateur, freelance editor, and I asked him a couple weeks ago to look it over. He never got around to it. And when I reminded him, he went off on me and now we’re in a fight and my mom agrees with him and I hate my fucking life.”
First things first.
“Okay, since I’m A Real Friend, I have to say, your timing is shitty.”
I wasn’t done yet.
“But ALSO since I’m a real friend, go ahead and send me the work. I will read it first thing in the morning and we can talk about it tomorrow afternoon and then I’ll have it sent back to you by tomorrow night.”
One more thing.
“For now, though, let’s talk about your douche-nugget of a brother.”
“He isn’t always a douche-nugget. Well, okay, yeah he kind of is. But he’s a good person. I just can’t ever ask him for help. And then when I dare to TELL him that, he somehow turns it around into me being selfish. Which, yeah, I guess if I’m always asking for his input, I AM selfish since I do expect him to be eager to get back to me.”
“But he’s your brother. I think it’s perfectly natural to expect him to WANT to help you or talk to you or whatever. Aren’t you guys kind of tight?”
I recalled previous conversations revolving around her awesome, saint-like brother who was always there for her, who protected her and never let her down.
I remember wishing I had a brother. And then re-thinking this wish because he probably would have turned out gay, which would have totally killed my overly-zealous, Bible-thumping parents.
Bek had told me stories about the two of them being so close in age that they understood all the same cultural references and could finish each other’s sentences and how they loved to do quote battles.
My kind of dorks.
“we’re tight. But over the last year it’s just kind of occurred to me that our tightness is more dependent on my adoration of him. Sometimes we go weeks without talking. He won’t answer my calls. He says he’s just busy or depressed or whatever. But then he yells at me if HE calls but *I* don’t answer.”
I quipped. Since Bek knows I’m a real friend, I can get away with this kind of riff.
“You think it’s funny, but it isn’t. I’ve considered that myself. I mean, how would I know? He won’t talk about it beyond admitting that, yeah, he gets depressed. And then all of a sudden he bounces out of it and goes camping with his family, or bowling with his buddies, or pulls together a project for work that’s ridiculously huge and unnecessary. I don’t get it. He falls further and further down, but always comes back… just never for me anymore. I don’t know what to do.”
“What does his wife think?”
“She hates me.”
Nobody can hate Bek. She’s too cute, funny, and sweet. Plus, she wears glitter.
“Bitch must die. Why does she hate you?”
“I have a theory. She hears about me via my brother’s complaints. And then when we make up, he fails to share the good bits. So she thinks I suck or whatever. And over the years she has come to dislike me more and more. So now SHE has HIM convinced that I’m selfish, and needy, and, like, unstable.”
“Oh! And when I talked to my mom about it, she said that she didn’t want to hear it because my brother had already talked to her and they are all sick to death of me. Which I don’t even understand because it’s not like I ask them for favors all the time, or even difficult or costly ones.”
More sniffles and a honk as Bek blew her nose.
“Like this one time, my mom OFFERED to come to pick me up to get some groceries since I’m stuck at home all day without a car, and I asked her if on the way to the store, could we swing by and drop off a bag of clothes at the donation place. She acted like I wanted to drive to China or something. I’m not kidding, this place was literally on our way. As in, it was on her side of the road. She stopped for me, but it was quite the chore. To donate clothes was a chore. To donate clothes that were already bagged up, and not go out of her way other than to cross traffic, was a fucking chore. And sadly, her reaction there is just so typical.”
I mulled this over.
“So let me make sure I understand. Your family is sometimes a piece of shit, but they all think that YOU are the piece of shit. Is that about right?”
“Yeah, I guess that about sums it up.”
I slammed my hand down on my desk, hard enough she could hear it over the phone.
she said again, halfheartedly.
“You know what you need to do?”
“Drop ‘em like a fucking hot potato.”
See how I’m a real friend? Who else would tell that shit straight?
“Andi-Roo, no offense, but that advice sucks balls. This is my brother we’re talking about, not just some random Facebook freak.”
“Just hear me out, Bek. Happiness comes from within. You know why? Because no one else is going to give it to you. Not your family. Not anybody. You have to give it to yourself. And when people treat you like shit? The best you can do is stop allowing it.”
“You aren’t selfish.
You aren’t needy.
You aren’t unstable.
You are an
awesome, strong, intelligent,
“Don’t ask your brother for help anymore. You are ON PURPOSE setting yourself up for disappointment. Send your shit to me from now on. Or someone who lives closer to you.
If you continue to hold your family to higher expectations than they are willing to hold to themselves, you will continue to beat your head against a wall. If they aren’t going to be there for you, you should get used to it now. Don’t wait till a year from now, when you’ve had your heart broken a zillion times over. Just let it go.”
A lot of silence commenced on the other end. I guess I was expecting applause for my awesome soliloquy, but all I received was the static sound of crickets.
When she finally spoke, it WASN’T to tell me that I’m a real friend.
“Okay, you sound bitter. I don’t know what you’ve been through, but it sounds like you’re trying to put your personal situation in my shoes. I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. I’m not giving up on my relationship with my brother.”
“Then stop complaining about it. Fix it, or move on. If it can’t be fixed, you’re only left with one option. Move on. You can’t force him, or your family, to change. And if your brother has a spouse who’s already turned against you, then it’s all over. Everything you say to him will get washed out of his ears by his wife. This is not to say you should hold animosity toward his wife, because she thinks she knows what’s best for him. So you’re fighting a one-sided battle, and you’re going to lose.”
“You are kind of a bitch, Andi-Roo.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that more than once. I’m also right. Your family is emotionally manipulating you into feeling like shit for breathing their air. I’m a bitch for saying that, sure. But I’m a real friend, too, because you need to hear it from an outside source.”
More silence as I messed around on my computer, so then I added,
“Bek, I just got your email. I’ll read your paper and talk to you tomorrow morning. Because, you know, I’m a real bitch like that.”
Conclusion: Bek and I are still good bloggy friends. She and her brother are currently not on speaking terms. Her paper was well received. No crickets were harmed in the making of this blog post. I would like to thank Danielle Steele for being the super-duper-crappy author that she is and thereby providing me with the inspiration to write.
If Danielle can do it, I fucking KNOW I can.