My little lady sobbed herself to sleep last night – not because she’d forgotten where she’d hidden her Shopkins, not even because we wouldn’t let her wear a tiara and tap shoes to bed, but because she didn’t want to sleep in Frankie’s room.
We didn’t want her to sleep in Frankie’s room. Alice didn’t want to sleep in Frankie’s room. But, Frankie wanted Alice to sleep in his room, and Alice wanted to keep her big brother sweet, even if it meant sleeping on the floor with Frankie’s arse in her face.
“I have to sweep in Fwankie’s woom,” she wept.
“You don’t have to sweep in Fwankie’s woom,” I wepwied.
“But he’ll be angwwwwwwyyyy,” she sobbed.
“Madame,” I said, firmly. “You must never, ever do something just to make someone else happy.”
Which is rich, coming from me.
Hypocritical, some might say.
And it would be a fair and reasonable comment, because I am both hypocritical and a people-pleaser. A hypocritical people-pleaser, if you will. It’s all well and good for me to tell my daughter to be assertive, and know her own mind, but I’m setting a fucking awful example in the meantime.
The problem is this: I cannot bear the thought of letting people down. While I am VERY well aware that I’m not a jar of Nutella, I still like to think I can please all of the people all of the time. When I do let people down (which I do, continually and constantly), I weep in the fashion of a four-year-old girl who doesn’t want to sleep in her brother’s room.
When life gets busy, as it inevitably does at this time of year, with class parties and teachers’ presents and graduation concerts and high-school applications and imminent birthdays and ELVES ON SHELVES, I let down more people than I’d like to, with the result that I lose my fucking mind, and cry a lot.
Letting people down takes many different forms. In its most basic form, it’s not replying to messages. I fucking hate that I’m so shit at replying to messages. It wakes me up at 3am and fills me with self-hatred and loathing. Who the fuck doesn’t even reply to a text message? Who’s so self-important that they can’t just type a monosyllabic answer while they’re sitting on the toilet? (Me, that’s who. What a cunt.)
Then there are the invitations that I accept and don’t follow through on, because I forget when I accept the invitation that I fucking hate social engagements and leaving the house. This also causes me extreme anguish. Who the fuck thinks they’re so important that they can decline an invitation simply because they “don’t want to go”? I’m not Russell fucking Brand. Or the Queen.
This leads us neatly into the issue of the invitations that I accept and do follow through on. These are the occasions on which I’m a real let-down. There is an assumption, you see, that I’m going to be fun, and funny, and possibly even stay out past 9pm. There have even been expectations of dancing. I don’t dance. I don’t stay out past 9pm. I’m not fun. And I’m going to try so, so hard to be funny that it will stop being funny and you’ll wish I’d faked a migraine in the first place.
The “funny” thing is something I find very hard to switch off. It’s my please-like-me defence mechanism, and it’s called into action at the most inappropriate moments, like in intensive-care units, and job interviews. You know, places where jokes about chlamydia are kind of frowned upon.
So yeah, I let people down. I have it on good authority (because I’ve been told) that I’m a spectacularly shit friend. I don’t check in. I won’t return your calls. I’ll never, ever initiate catch-ups. I’ll forget to send you a birthday card, and probably a Facebook message, too. I will let you down.
I’ve struggled with this a little bit lately. I’m aware of my plentiful shortcomings, and I’m working on them. I realise that I have the most spectacular collection of friends, and if I want to keep this spectacular collection of friends, I’m gonna have to return messages and invite them over for tea and biscuits, occasionally. By the same token, that’s going to mean saying no to the people I don’t give a fuck about, simply because I want them to like me. It sounds obvious, but it’s something that really does require my prompt and immediate attention. Like, that girl in my circuit class, who got all pissed off and shit ‘cos I suggested she might like to box properly, and not like a dick. Who gives a FUCK if she likes me? Why did I get all sad and shit because she scowled at me? And that dick of a football club president, who got all uppity and shit because I didn’t say thank you after a protracted exchange about the name on the back of Ben’s shirt. Fuck you, football president dude! There are so many situations that cause me so much grief, for the simple reason that I feel I’m letting someone down. I do not have time for these situations! I am very busy!
But, no more! No more time will be spent on pointless exchanges, and idiots. My time will be spent on meaningful exchanges, and excellent friends.
That means you. Hello!