I don’t know whether I am just being paranoid, but I am worried that a few people have taken my “How to say no” post the wrong way. In short, a few people might think that I am talking about them. In my practical day to day life, only a very small number of people, that is fewer than 5, are concerned by this new way of thinking, and all these 5 people are female! The interaction between them and me has been overwhelmingly one-sided, and to be honest, these people don’t simply sit down and wait for me to invest my one-sided efforts into their lives. Rather they actively encourage and ask for my efforts, while subtly giving nothing in return. So, deep down, they know exactly what they have been doing, and that they deserve to be demoted. But I am guessing that it has still come as a shock. Beyond these five ladies, “How to say No” is only going to be more useful in my life whenever I resume going to church, for instance, or put myself into any other setting where I will be meeting people. Then I will need to use a combination of “Two-yearing” people when I first meet them, and then “How to say no” when I am sure that I know their character.
This post, however, concerns some of those 5 people who have been affected. The question is, should I explain to them that they have been demoted, from “Yes friends” to “freebie friendships”?
I often find it hard to express what I need to say on this blog. That is often because my ideas contain lots of conditional statements, or hypothetical situations, and conjecture: this is what would have happened, or what likely would have happened, if…This is going to be another one of those posts that contain ideas which are technically difficult to express. (AS I’ve reflected on this statement, I have remembered that that is why I often use analogies.)
People say “communication is everything”. Thus far, I have not explained that the friendship is going to be demoted from my own side. And this is the reason why (this is the part that is hard to express.) In short, these people have not made communication a key factor of our interaction. So there have been times when they have subtly drawn back, and I have just had to deal with it. There have been times when they have apparently taken decisions about our “friendship”, without explaining them to me, and I have just had to deal with it. The difference though is that I have always been consistent. So it is as if it was somehow established that I would always make a deep effort, no matter how fluid they chose to be, and now that I too am uncharacteristically drawing back, now it becomes a matter of communication. If no communication was necessary when you started to pull back, then by the same token I don’t owe you anything now either! It is a bit like when a man (typically) keeps the status of his relationship with a particular woman undefined, so that he could take advantage of the ambiguity, so that the woman might demonstrate to him commitment that almost approximates to a relationship, while he feels no compulsion to offer her anything at all. But then if she starts to pull back, he can’t help expressing a little disappointment, because he had grown somewhat used to enjoying her efforts for free.
I don’t know how true it is, especially in these more feminist times, but this is such a cliche in Nigerian culture, that single women will cook for single men, sometimes by going to their house, to demonstrate their suitability as future wives. And while the man keeps the status of their interaction undefined, and fails to disclose that he has five other women all hopefully cooking for him, then he can continue to enjoy this particular woman’s delicious food, alongside that of all the others. But as soon as he has chosen one particular woman, then of course that chosen woman will start demanding the exclusive commitment that a relationship connotes, and the other women of course will immediately withdraw their efforts each to redirect them in a more maritally fruitful direction. I hope that it is fair to say that I would never do that. Seriously?! I can barely find the time to cook for myself! I just don’t tolerate this behaviour from men at all, although, surprise, some men have tried to keep me dangling in an undefined status of “interaction”.
And yet, even though I would not take this romantically, I have let friends treat me this way. That is because these relationships, and established patterns of behaviour within them, date back to before I started thinking through all these things.
So this is why I am not tending towards an explanation. Furthermore, explanations are hard!
I can’t help thinking that if I were to offer an explanation, because of the sensitivity of the topic, it might explode into a loud, angry argument.
A thought has just occurred to me: I will wait to see what happens. If they ask me for an explanation, then I will give one. Failing that though, I plan to remain silent. If you want to talk about it, then by all means bring it up.