This website was archived on July 21, 2019. It is frozen in time on that date.

Sonya Mann's active website is Sonya, Supposedly.

Ugh Please Shut Up

the annoyed boy -- illustration
Illustration by Elise Lesueur.

I’ve been going through Ask a Manager’s archives, and I came across this charming tidbit regarding how to put up with people who seem unbearable:

“My sister always advises me, when visiting annoying relatives, to pretend to be one of the many long-suffering characters in Jane Austen novels who have to be pleasant to and patient with irritating relations. It’s remarkably effective; it reframes things in a much more amusing (and bearable) context.”

annoyed french bulldog
Annoyed French Bulldog by RONLEWHORN.

I emailed that quote to my mom, because she tends to share Sartre’s condemnation: “Hell is other people.” Mom responded:

“Yes! I often think about how much time those characters had to spend listening to boring people prosing on and on about something completely uninteresting for the thousandth time. And they had to pretend to be interested and keep a pleasant look on their faces.”

After a minute she sent another email and quipped, “How lucky we are to be alive today, when no one is surprised if you’re rude.” If only!

I try to cope with irritation graciously but it is very difficult.

Reflections on My Low Friendship Bandwidth

I have X amount of energy. A “normal” level of friendship — talking and hanging out often — requires Y energy, and Y is more than I want to use. I’m happy to spend a lot of time with my immediate family and my partner, but beyond those four people I usually find social contact more taxing than fun.

I don’t know if this is an introvert thing or more specific than that, but I’m sure there are other people who don’t “get” friendship or want to participate in it. Alternately, I may have an unrealistic perception of other people’s social activity.

If we’re nominally friends, I probably like you and would enjoy hanging out every couple of months. My capacity for this has definitely increased; maybe it’ll keep going up. But mostly, I don’t want to talk beyond occasional texts or Facebook comments, and I don’t want to see you frequently. I just don’t want to. However, I can tell that I’m supposed to want to, and it’s frustrating both for me and my acquaintances.

The worst situation is when someone wants more from me than I want to give. This has happened in every single close, non-immediate-family, non-romantic relationship I’ve had. It’s been painful for people on the other side and puzzling/upsetting for me too. The mutual trauma probably could have been prevented if I had the chutzpah, vocabulary, or cultural training to be up-front with people about what I can and cannot give.

Occasionally the desired commitment is about emotional intimacy rather than time/energy allotment. This can be even harder. With rare exceptions, I don’t want to confide in you. I can commiserate and share jokes and disclose things that I disclose to most people, but I don’t want to tell secrets or “open up” to you. I almost never discuss my deepest hopes/fears/dreams/shames with my mom or my boyfriend or my goddam therapist! I hate discussing that stuff with friends.

I’m not sure how to handle this whole problem appropriately. The easiest way is to always stay distant, which doesn’t help anyone and isn’t feasible anyway. I do like people, after all. I could have an awkward “reality of Sonya” chat with every new person I get along with. That option doesn’t appeal to me either.

What do you think? What’s your experience of friendship? Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter or wherever. I genuinely want perspectives and suggestions on this.

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