Why is #adulting so goddamn hard?
I’m sorry for taking so long to reply to you. The truth is, I started responding to your question a few weeks ago with some ridiculous libertine ramblings about Burning Man and turkey-baster babies, but then we were rocked, yet again (YET A-FUCKING-GAIN), by another devastating school shooting, and truthfully, I felt like everything I had written before became just a bunch of vapid useless drivel.
So, let’s give this another shot. Why is #adulting so goddamn hard? Welp, maybe it’s because our generation (assuming you’re a millennial from your use of the #hashtag) never really got a chance to #childhood. I grew up 15 minutes from Columbine High School and when that shit went down it was a huge effin’ deal. I was in 8th grade, and we went into full lockdown when no one even knew what the fuck lockdown was. I would say I was into lockdown before lockdown was cool, but lockdown is not fucking cool.
When Columbine happened, I remember thinking that the whole world was upside down and inside out, and I also remember the adults in my life assuring me that it would never happen again. Well guess what assholes, it has happened again, and again, and again, and ∞ times again. And as it happened over, and over, and over, and over, to teenagers, and college students, and FUCKING 6 YEAR OLDS, our generation and the generations that followed began to feel like it was pointless to even bother #adulting, if there was not guarantee we’d live long enough to become adults. Why buy a house, get married, or save for retirement? If we aren’t shot by a cranky white dude, we’ll just drown in the rising fucking oceans.
Want to know why teenagers are eating Tide Pods©? It’s because they grew up well after Columbine was just a blip on the radar, and they have been raised to understand that they could die at literally any moment. It’s their (admittedly stupid) way of saying “fuck you” to death. How fucking dark is that?
Sure, it’s easy to see that teenagers are doing some really stupid shit right now, shit that makes me want to shake my fist and yell for them to “get off my lawn” (not that I have a lawn… I’m not very good at #adulting either), but they are also 100% showing us up when it comes to real #adulting. Want to see a real adult? Emma Gonzales is an adult. The students staging a lie-in at the White House to demand gun control? They all seem pretty fucking adult. The 15 year old kids who had the clarity and poise to speak with reporters and demand action from their representatives, just hours after watching their teachers and friends get mowed down by a dude with a gun that he never should have had? That was some grown-ass shit. Meanwhile, all the fucking assholes with the grey hair and baggy suits, who believe themselves to be real grown-ups? Well, they are behaving like goddamn children.
So fuck it. I was going to say a bunch of trite shit about how our generation’s version of #adulting is all about rosé all day, insta-stories, and sex positivity (all of which are beautiful things), but that seems pretty fucking pointless right about now. I don’t give a shit if our version of #adulting includes marriage and kids and a 401K or whatever-the-fuck. I don’t even care if it includes making your bed everyday (which I firmly believe is the #1 most effective way to feel like an adult). All I care about is that our generation gets its shit together to make sure that the next generation gets a #childhood before they have to #adult.
Sorry I said ‘fuck’ so much.
I’ve known “Kevin” for about eight years. We’re in the same industry but we work for different employers. (Nowadays, we have no professional need to interact.) Through the years, we became good friends. We hosted each other at dinner parties, we visited socially, we celebrated birthdays. Good friends.
We confided in each other; we have both had difficulties with anxiety and emotional balance; I went through years of therapy and self-help before coming through (aside from the standard-issue stuff) optimistic and loving life. We gathered a small constellation of mutual friends.
As a friend, Kevin was always doing a little bit of negging. Little things. Like, when we had discussions or arguments, it wouldn’t be over until he checkmated me, somehow. Or how, because of his partner’s financial resources, he got to buy real estate at a really good time, and he’d find some ungainly excuse to talk about his bank account balance or the equity in his home.
I chalked it all up to low self-esteem; the negging wasn’t frequent or aggressive, and the good times we had were quite good. I continued, I thought, ultimately enjoying his friendship. Everyone has some downsides, and his wasn’t a dealbreaker.
Over the summer, and basically out of nowhere, Kevin accused me of being a bad friend – being hosted at his house without offering to reciprocate, failing to invite him to social gatherings, making him “do all the work.” I’ve interrogated myself (I agonized over a year’s worth of our text message history) and these accusations are unfounded. I strongly believe that his dumping me was a manifestation of his own emotional difficulties (like the negging).
So, about six months have passed now. Through the grapevine, I’ve heard that Kevin is now in therapy. I believe this is the right decision for his long-term well-being, and I am very happy to hear it.
But I’ve realized: I’m nervous (actually nervous!) that eventually he might apologize, or try to pick up where we left off. I don’t want to be his friend again. I want him to feel forgiven, and that there’s no bad blood. I want to celebrate his decision to seek professional help. But I simply prefer not being his friend. If it comes up – which, I acknowledge, is an if – I can’t think of words to say, but I want to be ready. Any thoughts?
Sometimes things finish. Marriages finish. Jobs finish. Lives finish….I’ma ‘bout ta finish this beer.
And friendships finish too.
Back in the days before social media (damn right I remember those days), it was ok to fall out of touch with someone semi-intentionally. It wasn’t rude, it wasn’t cruel, it was just the natural product of lives moving forward in different directions (or realizing someone had become kind of a dick).
Nowadays, we’re expected to keep in touch with everyone, all the time, forever. Even if you’re not a slave to the socials, the culture around friendship IRL has definitively changed because of them. Thanks to Mark Zucker-turd, we now live in the era of the ‘unfriend’, which is a lot more aggressive way to end a relationship than a good old fashioned ‘falling out of touch’. We can slide into someone’s DMs but it’s a lot harder to slide out. Instead, we’re expected to either keep in touch forever, wishing everyone we’ve ever met a Happy Birthday every single year of their goddamn lives, or dramatically declare the friendship over like a pair of trendy mom jeans (seriously, didn’t we learn our lesson in the 90s?!). It’s exhausting.
Kevin (sweet name bro) sensed this when he felt the need to “break up with you” by declaring you a bad friend. It sounds like he was mired in a well of insecurity, and decided that the best way to crawl out was with a flourish of unnecessary cruelty toward you. This was his deeply ungraceful way of navigating a murky culture around friendship, and unfortunately, it sounds like his actions were profoundly unfair to you.
I commend you for not being a dick in return (HIGH FIVES!), and for earnestly wishing him the best on his road to mental health and self-awareness. Frankly, I think every person ever should be in therapy all the time forever, so it’s good that K-dawg is hittin’ that couch. I also think it is a signal of your own self-awareness that you don’t feel the need to cling to a relationship that is so clearly finished.
So, 2 things:
- What do you say if Kevin ever comes knockin with a big ole’ “I’m sorry” sign around his neck like he’s in some sort of friendship version of Love Actually?
- What do you do, if he doesn’t?
Obviously for #1, you’ll have to say it in a way that feels honest for you, but these would be my words:
“Hey dude/bro/queen, it makes me super happy to know that you’re doing so well. Therapy is bomb, and I’m so glad that you’re finding it helpful! I am legitimately glad that you are happy, healthy, and #LivingYourBestLife. Speaking of #LivingYourBestLife, I’ve moved forward with mine since you’ve been gone* and though there is 100% no bad blood*, I don’t see us getting back to where we were before with our friendship. I assure you this isn’t because I don’t love and value you, it’s just because I think it’s ok to admit that our close friendship isn’t forever, and we have grown apart.”
*Optional: Sing the words “since you’ve been gone” like you’re Kelly Clarkson and “bad blood” a la T-Swift.
He may not be super happy with that answer. If he does come back to you, he is likely looking for absolution and an open door, but it is 100% ok for you to forgive him without making space for him in your life.
Now, for #2. What do you do if he never comes a knockin?
Well, pretty much nothing. Sure there is the chance that you’ll run into him, on account of some shared friend groups, but you don’t seem like a Donna, and I don’t see you causing drama at the Peach Pit. If you do run into him, you can small talk for a few mins (probably awkwardly), and then go get yourself a malt.
Love from your forever friend,