Ask Jenn Vicious: Friends Are Just People

By: Jenn Vicious 

prunedShrub

Jenn Vicious is the radical community’s Agony Aunt, providing life coaching and social etiquette answers for radical cultures.  Need poly, kinky, or queer dating advice, need to to know what to wear to court or a family function (you know, one you have to look “respectable” at),  want to understand what to and not to say in some contexts, ask Jenn Vicious.

I’m having a crisis of faith in my friends, my acquaintances, in fact the entire scene.  Aspects of the Punk crowd get on my nerves and I just want to tell them to grow the fuck up.  But I think it is unfair to ask them to be different people or to be in a different place in their lives.  I don’t want to be one of those people who sheds friends or fades away from the scene when it gets hard, but it’s hard to see an alternative.  What do I do? 

– Anonymous 

I know a lot of us go through this from time to time, especially as we get older in a seemingly ever-youthful scene. And it’s hard to know what to do in those moments, because sometimes it’s them, but, honestly, sometimes it’s us.

Sometimes those feelings arise because we are part of a scene with shallow roots, a scene rather than a community with strong bonds to each other that aren’t going to fade away as we grow. If your connections to people are based on small things, like you all like the same music, or eat the same diet, or enjoy getting wasted together, or even like smashing windows together, it is safe to assume that y’all are not going to be together forever. Because what happens when you discover a new genre, or change your diet, or realize you have an alcohol addiction, or get arrested, or have a life-altering medical condition? You are probably going to need new friends.

My point is, that if that is your situation, you need to prune your friendships. Figure out which ones are tight, and relegate the rest to acquaintances, which isn’t the same as shutting them out of your life, it’s just prioritizing your time. I’ll tell you one way to figure out the difference: the people who are the most dogmatic, the most judgmental about whatever your scene is based on—those are the people most likely to flip in the future.

So, maybe that’s not your situation. Maybe you thought you had it all figured out, had made some deep connections and multi-faceted relationships. And now they suck, you feel. Here’s what I think about that:

  • Try to remember that your friends are just people. And sometimes people are annoying as fuck, even people you care about. I mean, I get irritated by my friends all the time. That doesn’t mean you have to dump them.
  • Find the things about your friends that you appreciate, the reasons you are friends in the first place. Of course, those might have changed over the years. But figure out why you are friends now.
  • Be patient with your friends. Let them deal with their shit in whatever ways they need to and don’t expect them to always be the perfect friend to you. That’s just impossible.
  • Try to understand why those relationships are feeling unsatisfying. Is there something you can do to make them better? Is it just a stressful time period in your social circles? Would it help to try something different, plan a dinner together or an event or something? Then do it, and don’t expect somebody else to do it for you.
Ok, my last point is this: Sometimes I hear people say this, but it is sooooo obvious to me that the problem isn’t their social circle, it’s just them. They are dissatisfied with something in their life or something about their self, and rather than dealing with that internally, they project it out onto their friends. I’m not saying this is what you are doing, but can you check and make sure? It happens a lot. When someone is overreacting to minor problems in their social interactions, or getting disappointed all the time at the people around them, or placing really high expectations on their friends (usually without telling them), it is often because of something internal. Try to figure out what the problem is, and what you can do about it, and then do it.
The good news is that if this is really about your milieu and not you, then probably there are other people feeling the same way. They will tend to be people who have been in the scene about the same number of years as you. Keep an eye out for them, and talk to them about how you are feeling. It might be that those are the people you need to reconnect with, not the people you wish would grow the fuck up.
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