In the past couple of weeks, I have had more than one person ask me for advice on a situation that boiled down to, "X person is a member of Y demographic group which is traditionally oppressed in Z fashion, and also is acting like a histrionic wanker. If I tell them to fuck off, is that equivalent to Z? How do I make them stop getting their drama all over me without coming off as a complete Y-ist?"

Nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a thousand, the proper response to this is 'mu'. 'Mu', written with the character [無], is the traditional solution to many Zen koans, including the infamous, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" The ideograph's literal meaning is 'void', 'nothingness', or when attached to some other thing, 'lack or nonexistence of (second thing)'. It is the equivalent of searching the Great Database of the Cosmos for something and getting back MALFORMED_QUERY: 0 records found.

In short, it means there is no answer because you're asking the question wrong. You're asking how to escape from the sphere of influence of a complete douchecanoe without making other people think you're doing it because you're some sort of horrible anti-Y bigot. Nobody will think this. Unless X is telling them that's the reason, in which case, they'll quit thinking it after a little while when X gets tired of behaving nicely and starts acting like a complete douchecanoe to them, too.

There's a piece of dating advice which puts this, rather crudely, as, "No matter how hot they are, someone, somewhere, is tired of putting up with their shit." This is also true of non-dating relationships. Regardless of how many good points, nice moments, exculpatory subcultural affiliations, and/or excuses X has for being a total cockbite, it does not invalidate the observation that X is being a total cockbite. Destructively self-centered social behavior does not come out of the clear blue sky, ever, so if it occurs to you to pose that particular koan up there in my first paragraph, you can automatically assume you are not the only one. The reason that you think you're the only one wondering about it is that it's a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy -- if you're worried about looking like a Y-ist, then asking if disliking X makes you a Y-ist is exactly the sort of thing you are too terrified to do.

Moreover, you are stuck in this corner precisely because X is a total cockbite. I've found that, while the ratios of assholes to perfectly normal people remains roughly steady regardless of what social sub-group you're dealing with, the ratio of assholes to assholes who have figured out how to manipulate the normal people by reminding them of how society treats them horribly is asymptotically close to 1. The kinder and more compassionate a person you are, the more effective the bind. At the risk of pointing out the blindingly obvious, it doesn't work at all on other assholes. They're assholes, you see, and they don't give a flying fuck what other people think or feel.

One of the friends in question also got caught by another common drama queen tactic, which is giving you stuff you didn't ask for and then demanding payback for it. We in our society have developed a sort of hierarchical arrangement for personal information. There are some things we'll talk about with pretty much anyone we're willing to engage in conversation, e.g., the weather, and how much you think it sucks. And then there are maybe some other things we're a little more guarded about giving out, like maybe names, and a little more guarded than that, like anecdotes about children or pets, and so on and so forth, until you get to the extreme other end, wherein are the extraordinarily sensitive things that you might tell, say, a sibling or a spouse.

Normally, when we meet new people, we progress from least to most sensitive information as the acquaintance deepens, dependent on how well we get along. You give more and more sensitive information based on how much you trust the other person; conversely, receiving one of these pieces of sensitive information generally makes the other person realize what level of intimacy and trust they've gained. Assuming things are otherwise going comfortably well, the usual response to being trusted is being trusting, and to share things of equal intimacy in return.

Con artists know this. So do sociopaths, and people with serious untreated personality disorders. Particularly with people who have a pathological terror of abandonment, you'll often see them try to work the scale backwards. They'll jump straight from level 1 to level n, where n is the level that holds information appropriate to the level of intimacy they want the relationship to reach, rather than appropriate to the relationship that exists at that moment. Extra special super-duper bonus points if the information they share with you is chock full of deep personal pain, or involves something that Right Thinking People would never hold against them, but which could be socially difficult or damaging if others found out. "I'm bipolar"  is a popular option (protip: unless you are their new psychiatrist, people who actually have bipolar disorder will not fucking tell you this within the first five minutes of your acquaintance), as are various kinds of queer or questioned sexuality, and a variety of creative histories of domestic or familial abuse.

Feel free to get very angry at people who make this shit up for attention, by the way. This makes life even more difficult for people who genuinely do struggle with any or all of these issues, in much the same way the Westboro Baptist Church makes life difficult for a lot of perfectly decent people who also happen to be Christian.

You may also notice that I mention information that could be damaging "if others found out". This is because a lot of the time, someone who is trying to manipulate you will swear you to secrecy -- after they drop their blockbuster revelations on you. Usually they give you the inappropriately personal information without asking if you wanted any of it in the first place, too. This is designed to make you feel like you are a special snowflake and the only person they can trust so much, and also handily prevents you from comparing notes with anybody else they might be stringing along now, or might have been a shitheel to in the past. It is a very common tactic used by abusers of all kinds to isolate their target from anybody else who might point out how fucked-up this actually is.

Ask anybody who grew up in an abusive family, and they'll give you a laundry list of things they were absolutely terrified of anyone else finding out. And, if they've managed to escape, ask them how many of those were, in hindsight, things that the abuser swore them to secrecy over -- explicitly or implicitly, through complaining about other people being busybodies or airing their dirty laundry in public -- specifically because those are the things that would have prompted other people to intervene. Same idea with emotional abuse from "friends". By backing you repeatedly into the most completely insane corners imaginable, they essentially redefine what's 'normal' for that relationship, and they don't want you getting feedback that might highlight how this is totally different from 'normal' in other situations.

How you handle people like this is up to you -- avoid them, cut them off and tell them it's inappropriate to tell you this stuff, become a broken record repeating that they need a therapist, let them talk but tune it out and give no feedback -- but you do need to know that it's not your job to be someone else's Horcrux, especially when they tried to convert you into one without goddamn asking first.

These people tell you that only you can save them/keep their family together/prevent them from having a relapse of rectal-cranial inversion/whatever, and they are lying. They have for some reason decided that the way for them to get any kind of attention is to perpetually be a 'damsel in distress', and when this is the only way of getting attention that you're willing to use, this gives you an awfully big incentive to always be in distress, despite everyone else's best efforts. They do not want to be saved; that would fuck everything up. Skip trying.


  1. Horcrux! That's perfect. Thank you for this.

  2. Umm...I have a serious untreated personality disorder with abandonment issues. I do not behave like this online nor anywhere else. I cannot believe the group of vulnerable people ate that I belong to are spoken like this :(

    1. I have two responses to this.

      1. If it doesn't apply to you, then it doesn't apply to you. Not all people with a personality disorder behave this way, but the ones who do generally follow this train of thought. Personality disorders are many and varied, and for all you know, you have a completely different one than this particular abusive crazymaking person.

      2. My blog. Don't like it, don't read.

      Take your pick.


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