That Friend You Hate

"I hate you. Next round’s on me.”

Unless you stop and think about it, it’s hard to pinpoint when and how the frenemy got there. He’s just always been there, like some obelisk of annoyance from beyond the stars. A lot of the time, though, it goes something like this:

It’s freshman year. You and every other doe-eyed, undeclared kid that just wandered onto campus are by and large excited. A clean slate has been thrust upon you, and you can redefine yourself. It’ll be easy, you think. But deep down, you’re kind of nervous, too. You still want people to like you, so you do what must do: hang out with the people nearest to you, people on your dorm’s floor or in your class.

Photo by Gina Garcia

Photo by Gina Garcia

And, finally, after testing the water with a few different posses like shopping for so many used cars, you settle on one. You eat together, walk to class together, study (read: drink) together, et cetera, et cetera, and it’s a good time for all.

And yet, there’s one guy/girl, hereon referred to as Keith. Hate is the wrong word, in my opinion – such a strong emotion is best saved for mass murderers and traffic on the Capital Beltway. But like is the wrong word, too.

Tolerate. You all tolerate Keith, collectively. That’s the uncanny part of this whole phenomenon; the group’s disdain for Keith is universal and talked about, but no one cares enough to do anything about Keith. Keith is the global warming of the lot of you.

Why doesn’t anyone do anything about it? Where’s the Al Gore of your band of merry (wo)men, to put together an Oscar-winning PowerPoint presentation RE: Keith is a great big bag of douche and should be friend-banned post-haste?

Well, I’ll tell you why I put up with it back in the day. I thought I was being a good person. Sitting stoically and stewing in my disdain for the obnoxious tumor on my social life seemed a lot nicer at the time than telling Keith to fuck right off. But in hindsight, it’s a dick move of the highest order.

While I smiled and nodded while Keith was in my presence, the waves of exasperation for his ego masturbation slammed into my happy place over and over again. You don’t just keep those emotions bottled up forever; that’s how you get IRL tumors, not the figure-of-speech kind.

So, we made fun of him behind his back. As soon as he got up to refill his drink, we’d get to taking the piss out of him in the meanest way possible, like our lives depended on it. Of course, we had to be surgical about it. One slip up of our stealthy abuse and the cat was out of the bag: we’d hurt Keith’s feelings.

It became a vicious cycle of act as friendly as possible to Keith, wait ‘til he haplessly saunters off, drill into him retroactively about all of his shortcomings, and hit him with a half-sincere “heeeeeeey” when he reared his dumb face again.

It would’ve been better off for everyone to just cut our losses. But to be fair, that’s easier said than done. It takes some serious grit to walk up to someone you’ve spent hours of your life with, and say, “Hey, Keith, we hate you. Kindly piss off with your cockblocking and your self-aggrandizing diatribes and your racism-disguised-as-Southern-charm.” (I assure you Keith isn’t real. Really. Ahem.)

So, while I sit up here on my pedestal bemoaning your friendship cowardice, I sympathize. Honestly.

However, there’s hope. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that the friend we all hate is a trope that comes up less and less often. When I meet someone I don’t like, I don’t put on airs to seem amicable anymore. I just walk away, as do my good friends in the same situation, and we prevent the travesty from happening in the first place. I can sincerely say that nipping potential Keiths in the bud is adding years to my life. That, or I’m the friend everyone hates and no one is telling me. Oh boy.