The Guardian: @ The Music Industry: “it’s absolutely crazy to treat people as if they are disposable”




“Ditch a friend for being ‘toxic’? I’d never do that​

Maeve Higgins

Short of murder, there is nothing a friend could do that would make me say, ‘I feel like you’re a little toxic. Goodbye.’

Wed 8 Feb 2023 11.10 GMT

I lost a friend today, physically. She didn’t die. Worse, she moved to LA. I’m having a hard time with the idea of not seeing her every week, of not being in the same city, of no longer knowing that she is close by.

I asked another friend if this was normal, this sad heaviness I’m carrying around just because a friend of mine is moving away. “I’ll still see her sometimes, when she’s back in New York,” I explained miserably, “and we’re going to talk on FaceTime and all of that.” This friend said maybe I was sad because when a friend does something, like moving across the country, it makes you question your own choices in life. Absolutely not, I said to myself, realizing at once that it was not that deep. The reason I was crying on the subway platform, that public/private tunnel of tears, was because my friend is leaving.

As I mourn the loss of proximity to my friend, a tornado is growing on social media, about how best to break up with a friend. It started with a viral video on TikTok in which a psychologist role-played telling a friend that they no longer have bandwidth to maintain a relationship with them. That spun into a big online shouting match about how best to cut people out of your life and how to generally run your life like an individual marketplace where you ditch the stock that isn’t performing.

Now listen: if someone is bothering you, it’s important to address that. It’s fine to slow things down and to take breaks. Sometimes you’ll find it’s your own wretched stuff you need to face. Perhaps the friendship will drift away. Maybe it’ll come back. I’m not a psychologist, but I am a psychiatrist, which means I spent even longer in university and I am telling you right now that it’s my professional opinion that it’s absolutely crazy to treat people as if they are disposable. OK, I’m not a psychiatrist, but I am a friend! And short of murder, there is nothing a friend could do that would make me say, “I feel like you’re a little toxic, and I’m setting a boundary and that boundary is all around me. Goodbye.”

Actually, even if they did commit murder, I’d consider the context. I can see myself baking a nail file into a birthday cake for my little jailbird, even if that person had moved to LA years earlier.

I think of what friends are. I could list what they do: carry their old sofa up four flights of stairs to my new apartment, nod in encouragement as I repeat my stupid little stories to impress some stranger, pick up my call when they don’t feel like talking. I could continue to list what they do: look past me at a party because there’s someone in the corner who can better help their career, sleep with someone I want to sleep with, ignore my call when they don’t feel like talking. But I won’t go on because really, it’s all part of the deal. Knowing a person is not about collating a balance sheet, the whole beauty is the knowing. My friends and I are just strangers who have decided to be friends. What a wonderful thing!

There are rules about how to be in a family and rules about how to be in romantic relationships, but friendships are an under-explored and unregulated space for us to practice being both human and humane. Flawed and troublesome, beautiful and beloved, sometimes at the same time – friends are perfectly human and happen to be alive at the same time as us. We have met and connected somehow, and that is what makes us vital to each other. It’s strange: I feel deeply that my friends are rare treasures, and at the same time I see people on the street and think they too could be just as important to me if I came to know them. I hope that whatever transpired, I would not be cruel to them, and they would not be cruel to me.

It’s hard enough, this life, made harder by knowing we all die in the end. Die, or move to LA.”

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