Apr 05 Written by 

Turning Away from Toxic Friends

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People who make me cry in bathrooms at parties are now off my list. "You," said a former friend, "are a representative of the literary establishment in this town, and I want nothing to do with that, so I don't want anything to do with you." We'd been friends for 20 years, close friends for 10. There was no reasoning with this person, who had been alienating friends one by one, so I'd heard, and had said uncharacteristically hostile things before, but I blamed it on hardening arteries. I hid and cried. There was nothing to do but cut this person -- and I hate doing artificial, gamey social shit like that -- at the next gathering where this person called after me, "Hey, Catherine--" Jerk me around? Uh-uh. I choose my mental health.

Former good buddy lies around now smoking pot, having ruined his finances by investing all in a business scheme, complaining in an endless loop about how he's been blackballed and there's no use looking for work. Tells me he's going to write a novel, will I read it when he writes it? I am no longer getting any pleasure from this friendship.

Distanced myself from former very close friend who broadcast something personal I said in confidence. We still must interact, but trust this person again? Never.

I look askance now at a likeable person who wanted to make sure I'm still teaching ONLY at the night school while this person holds a slightly more prestigious position.

Years ago a close writer friend and I competed for the same prize. I won. Never heard from him again. That's probably a good thing.

A dear friend needs to be steered away from the toxic topic of why this friend isn't published in Poetry and why universities aren't begging this person to teach and do readings. I said, "You've got to go to them." This person replies, "I shouldn't have to." I explain that things have changed since the days of Allen Tate. This conversation is toxic both to this friend and to me.

Am sad when people remain miffed that they were not interviewed for Meet Me. I couldn't interview everyone in town. There are two writers I deliberately and with forethought chose not to include: David Clewell and William Gass. There's plenty of stuff about them in print and online. Writers, if you want to be interviewed, do something new or notable and then put yourself in the path of interviewers.

Writers and non-writers, keep positive people around you if you are going for your dreams. And you need to be a positive person yourself.

1587 Last modified on Friday, 08 April 2011
Catherine Rankovic

Writer, with 30+ years' writing and publishing experience, 20+ years' teaching experience. Last book read: Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton.