If you’re reading this, then I like you.
Even if we haven’t met yet in real life, I like you.
I don’t have a reason not to, and even if I did have a reason, I wouldn’t treat you that much differently than I’d treat anyone else.
In the early 2000s, comedienne Ellen DeGeneres had a sitcom named Ellen where she played the title character, a bookstore owner named Ellen who was described as possessing a persistent, universal need to be liked. Even today, when she meets new people on her talk show, celebrity or not, she makes it her duty to make the person happy and bring him or her over to her side – the sunny side, the fun side. She has many different strategies on how to make it happen, but she usually gets by with a guilty smile and a chuckle.
I am not so lucky.
Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of friends. Actually, I didn’t really have any. Making friends has always been kind of weird for me. Whenever I meet someone, though, I greet them with a smile, and something like “hi, how ya’ doin?” or “hey, what’s up?” When people give me thoughtful answers, I feel happy, and when people give me a terse answer, it hurts my feelings. Maybe it’s just our American conditioning, but I’m your friend, not your Starbucks barista – when I ask you how you’re doing, I mean it. It doesn’t really matter if we don’t know each other well, or if we’ve known each other for years, but when I ask you how you are, that means I actually like you and want to know what’s new in your world. And if you return the question, that just makes my day. I wouldn’t say that I have quite that quality of a “persistent need to be liked” that Ellen has, but being liked just feels so much better than being disliked or hated. And it doesn’t take that much energy to like someone. In fact, it might make you like yourself more.
Even though I’m in my mid-twenties, friendship is still a tricky minefield for me to navigate. Just when I think I know what I’m doing, something will happen that I can’t control. Someone will do a complete 180, and get cold to me for no reason. Then when I ask, I either get no response, a terse one, like “nothing,” or a lie, like “you’re fine.” If it really was nothing, and I really am fine, then why not behave like a normal person and friend and be a little bit…I don’t know…friendly? You don’t have to pounce on me with a bear hug or anything, but a smile and a reasonably polite response, is that so much to ask? Or if I even have to ask…are you really my friend? There are so many times when I ask myself that question about people. For example, blocking me on Facebook and then saying that we’re not friends on Facebook because your profile is “being weird” is flat-out rude. When someone blocks me on Facebook, I feel a little hurt inside. I know it’s your Facebook and you can do what you want, and it’s just a social media platform, but don’t lie to me, because that hurts. Another example: If I ask you if you’re free and if you want to get together or make plans to, and you don’t respond, and then I find out that you decided to go out and just ignore me completely and think that I wouldn’t find out about it or even care, that makes me really sad. Even if you didn’t ask me to join you, which is perfectly okay, don’t just flat-out ignore me or pretend you didn’t see my message. When someone texts me, even if it’s just a little thing, I always respond. Nine times out of ten, I text someone and never hear back from them. It’s not like I text people constantly, but maybe if you took a minute to return the text, even to say, “talk to you later, I’m busy,” that would be a nice thing to do. I always have good intentions in mind, and I care, so don’t ever think that I want to bother or annoy you, I’m just genuinely interested. And I don’t call/text people constantly; I only do it if I haven’t heard from you in awhile, and want to hear how you’re doing.
I try to be nice to everyone, even if I don’t like them, but it seems to me that this isn’t a universal concept. When people who are supposedly your “friends” make you feel sad, unwanted, or disliked, are they really your friends? If I ever did anything to you, you should know that I don’t do things to purposely hurt people. If it’s important, talk to me about it, and if it’s not, move on. I have friends who do or say things that sometimes make me feel uncomfortable around them, but I swallow those things if they’re not that important to our friendship and keep my negative feelings to myself, focusing on things that I like about you and focusing on being polite, kind, and considerate. Once, I considered giving up having friends altogether. Or even trying to make new ones. Maybe I should do that. But then when I say that to myself, I realize how empty life is without friendship. Maybe I should delete my Facebook, but I have a lot of pictures and memories on there that make me happy, and it’s an easy way for me to keep in touch with friends and family members who are far away from me. Maybe I should lay low for awhile, and leave everyone else alone, but then they might forget about me, and I’ll never have any friends again. Maybe I should start treating people like shit, but that won’t solve anything. Maybe I should just get so drunk here in my apartment until I don’t have any feelings anymore, but that feeling will inevitably subside, and if it doesn’t, then…surprise, I’m an alcoholic. Maybe I should just lay down and accept the fact that people are just going to be rude to me and make me feel sad and unwanted, and that I can’t do anything about it.
Or maybe I should just dye my hair blonde and become a lesbian. I already have the blue eyes.
This post is dedicated to my late grandmother (1911-2005) who would have been 102 today. Everyone who knew her liked her, and she loved me so much, she called me her “best grandson,” which made me feel so special. But then when I was about 7, I realized that I was also her only grandson, so I see what you did there. I love you, Grandma, and I miss you every day.