Monday, June 15, 2009

THE DOOM GENERATION

Great friendships are hard work. They require dedicated attention and upkeep, and for the most part, I'm ready and willing to do the necessary heavy lifting. Many of my familial relationships may be a bust, but I've been blessed with fantastic friendships.

Recently, though, a difficult one with a troubled, early twentysomething girl came to a grinding halt. It had run its year-long course, and after finding out about one particularly egregious lie, I knew I had to move on. I don't mourn the friendship at all, as it had become frustratingly one-sided in its final months, with the person in constant need of attention and doing anything and everything she could (inventing fake pregnancies in the middle of dinner and miscarriages over the phone, lying about the death of a family member, even jumping off a third-floor balcony) to get it. But I was there for her, listening to her, offering advice (usually ignored) and rooting for her.

I have no doubt that this person has deep-rooted mental issues to resolve, and the drugs clearly weren't working. The prescription pills that she was popping day in and day out only served to further damage her psyche and skew her reality. But once she'd faced mortality, spending weeks in a coma hooked up to machines in an intensive-care unit, and the drugs wore off, I was expecting, hoping to witness a glimmer of change. Her family had taken her out of the country to recuperate, and it was possible that I wouldn't see her again for a long time, if ever. I certainly didn't want my final mental image of this friend to be of her being carried out of my apartment building on a stretcher or writhing in agony on a hospital bed.

But there she was mid-recovery, back on Facebook, well enough to be making inane posts but not enlightened enough to make amends for all of the damage she'd done to her relationships. She didn't even have the decorum to communicate via private messages; she had to post her notes and comments publicly so that the world could see that she was back. I wondered, Shouldn't she be retreating for a second, trying to heal? Oh, but she can't, I answered my own question. Her life wouldn't be worth living if she weren't the center of attention. Staring down death, for most, would be life changing, and it would show. But she was treating it like a brutal hangover after a particularly intense drinking binge, still needing to be the life of the party. All eyes on her!

I was turned off, so I tuned out. I knew that I'd eventually reach out to her, but it had to be in my own time. Then a mutual friend revealed her most grand deception of all: lying about the death of a family member to garner sympathy (and yes, more attention) from her friends. She had even orchestrated a fake memorial service for the "deceased" here in Buenos Aires, for which we all put on our black Sunday best and attended, offering strong shoulders for her to cry on. That's when I shut down completely, deciding that I couldn't be friends with someone who would even attempt to pull off such a spectacular manipulation.

Eventually, the silence must have been deafening for her, and without ever contacting me to apologize or at least find out where I stood, she defriended me on Facebook. Good riddance, I thought, but I was angry. On principle. Not because I had any desire to continue the friendship. Once again, she was making it all about her. Rather than reaching out to the people she had hurt, including me, and trying to make amends, all she wanted was more attention. It would have been nice to see her owning her actions, accepting responsibility for them and then attempting to mend her fractured relationships. Isn't that one of the most important steps in recovery from alcoholism? I imagine that it must be essential in her recovering from her own alcoholism and whatever else is ailing her.

But she was too busy covering up her lies with more lies and frittering away her time on Facebook, defriending innocent bystanders in the train wreck that is her life to bother with contrition or self-reflection. If she had any talent (even for self-promotion), she'd probably be a celebrity. She certainly has the disposition of one. I just hope she doesn't eventually die like one, tragically and far too young.
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