Have you ever seen a middle aged, bro-tastic comedy where one of the 'bros' has a high-strung, bitchy wife that the audience is supposed to hate because she's such a buzzkill to the charming protagonist? The viewer sits there thinking, Why is she so condescending towards Vince Vaughn? He's so likable! But we never stop to think why she's like that. What made her so indifferent towards her husband's friends?
And that line of thinking made me realise something: I am that 'bitchy' wife.
When I came to live in London last year, I made a conscious decision to try to assimilate into my husband's friend group. I'd never been in a relationship before, but I always felt like if you loved someone then you should try to love all of the people in their life. He explained that his previous girlfriends had never really gotten along with his friends, and that put a strain on the relationships. And with that knowledge, I did my best to show his friends I came in peace. For someone who has social anxiety this is no easy feat, but nevertheless I did my best to earn their approval even if it was just in the form of bringing them gifts from America initially.
And you know what? At first, it was okay. We went on nights out, and in their drunken or high haze they'd tell me how much respect they had for me leaving my sense of safety and normalcy behind for love, or for how I preach body positivity online. They'd say, 'We've got to get together and do something soon!' and I believed that they were sincere, but after a hundred cancellations I realized it was bullshit. My husband would try to convince me that it wasn't personal, but when you see those same people hanging out together on social media, you can't help but wonder why you're never invited and why you're always cancelled on.
For instance, last weekend was my husband's birthday. I invited a few of his friends over for drinks and a chilled evening at home. One of his friends replied to my invite and said, 'Wouldn't miss it for the world!' On my husband's birthday I texted our address out to people. Most people said thanks, but the aforementioned friend text back and said he wasn't sure if he could make it because he'd recently injured his back and wasn't feeling well. Fair enough, right? Well, on my way home from work I saw said friend on the tube, not going to our house, but out with other friends. On my husband's birthday. I called said friend out and he acted cheerful and happy, obviously trying to play off the fact he'd been caught lying. And in that moment I realised, I was mentally done with this friend group.
And even on the times our plans weren't cancelled on, I just started to realise some of these people weren't for me. Call me uptight if you want, and you can chalk it up to Americans and Brits having different senses of humour, but I don't find sexist or mean jokes funny. I don't like constantly being talked over and one-upped in conversation. And above all, I really don't like people who use others.
My husband has had friends who put the weight of their mental health entirely upon him, even going as far as to say if something bad happened to them it'd be his fault because he wasn't replying quickly enough. Some of my husband's friends have even reached out to me during their own panic attacks, because I very publicly talk about my own mental illness struggles. Don't get me wrong, I'm more than willing to lend a hand if I'm able to to anyone who needs it, even if I hardly know them, but I take issue with those who've used me as a shoulder to cry on and then never called or text me again.
'If you want to hang out with people, you have to ask,' my husband's repeated to me a thousand times. And even up until recently, I have tried. I even trekked all the way up to North London under the pretence we'd go celebrate Pride in Soho a few weeks ago. We didn't, but it was still nice to get out of the house and be around people. And I thought it was a pretty good night. That was until I saw a group picture of everyone celebrating Pride in Soho two weeks later. Without me.
But this isn't to say that I dislike all of his friends, because I don't. Some have gone out of their way to be really, really lovely to me. Unfortunately, that's been more of a rarity than a common occurrence, though.
Not everyone is for everyone, and I get that. But where my husband is very forgiving of others' shitty behaviours, I feel like I'm too old to lie about wanting to be friends with someone or to forgive people's shadiness, and I - maybe naively - expect that from others as well. I'm past the We should hang out!'s, and I'm only interested in the When are you free?'s. And I'm way too old to try and impress or seek the approval of people I wouldn't be bothering with if it wasn't because of a certain attachment to one person. If we get along, great, and if we don't that's fine too. Let's just be honest though, okay?