If this and a few other posts over this week read as if they were conceived on the seat of a motorcycle and scrawled on scraps from maps, in lunchtime taverns across Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York—well, they were. —ed.
As I get older, the hardfast rules that I applied to life as a young man have all been broken, and most of them forgotten. But the guidelines that have been forged by experience are more and more useful. One of them is that I no longer spend time with people who feel contempt or envy or hatred for me—even if they like me or love me most of the time.
I once saw such relationships as a sign that I embraced the complexity of life. I now realize that life is complex enough surrounded by friends and family who do forgive my many faults. Complexity leads to perversion and degradation when I associate with people, even those I love, who fondle my shortcomings like their own genitals.
(The question arisess: Do I deserve to be resented? By my enemies, but not by my friends. And of course, I resent myself plenty: I think of my friend Bill Sweetland, who once refused to attend his own performance review on grounds that he and only he knows just what a slack and dishonest a worker he really is.)
My advice—which is as rare in my grown-up life as rules—is this: If you're friends with someone who loathes you sometimes—or even if you're married to that person—get away, and watch your whole life brighten up.
I’ve had conversations with female friends about this strange life lesson that surfaces in the 40s. I didn’t realize (stupidly) that it might for men, too. For me, it is the primary lesson of my 40s.
You know I’m constantly and annoyingly threatening the writing of a book and then never getting past the title. Not surprisingly, I’ve been making such an idle threat about this subject: “The Spirituality of Disliking People.”
A quote from my therapist last week: “It’s OK to run away from assholes!!!!”
David Murray says
And the book that I’ve often contemplated is, “Assholes I Have Known.” But I can’t figure out if that’s the best title, or if I should go for a more scientific, “Varieties of Assholes.” Or should I acknowledge my cultural limitations. “Assholes in America”? I’m still working on it.
“Assholes I have known” is hilarious. I picture the cover art as a page of an old year book.
Ron Shewchuk says
You could be the Samuel Johnson of assholes.
Mary Colleran says
I love this. Thanks to Suzanne for posting on FB. This is bringing me back to college when a couple friends and I wanted to start a group on campus called NAAA. Non-Assholes Against Assholes. “Assholes I Have Known” is cracking me up.
David Murray says
The trouble with hanging with people who despise you is that you operate from a defensive footing. Rather than presenting yourself as, “Here I am, take what you like and leave the rest,” which is really the only sustainable psychological way for grown-ass adults to operate, you’re reduced to saying, “I am NOT the proper object of your scorn.”
I am NOT a selfish prick, I am NOT a lazy ass, I am NOT a hypocrite, I have NOT had it easy all my life.
You spend lots of energy trying to justify yourself like that, and that’s when you begin to be unable to listen to other people’s ideas, because your mind is closing–out of self-preservation.
Ok, I’d like to pre-order “Assholes I have Known”. Where do I send the money? Awesome.
This post is topical – it reminds me of a question from a friend in her late 30’s: “When can I cut off my hateful/mean/angry/evil family members/friends?” With a list like that – I asked why she hadn’t stopped interacting with them already?!
David Murray says
An fun coda for this surprisingly popular post comes from Writing Boots regular Peter Dean.
Gloria Swanson, singing “I Love You So Much That I Hate You.”
“Assholes I have known.” Love it!
If I were writing it, I’d need several volumes. Starting with a choice selection of ex-bosses, ex-clients and ex-wives.
OTOH, anyone who really knows me likely has plenty of material for their book. 🙁