We all have that one, ahem, friend. You know the one. He has some weird ideas about how the world works. Or maybe he doesn't. She doesn't agree with you on religion or art. Or maybe she does. But either way, whenever you make an assertion or comment, he feels the need to counter you. This usually happens on social media like the Book of Faces or the Page of Tweets. But not always, some people actually do this in real life, right to your face.
I'm not proud to admit, but I've occasionally been that person, too. I'd make a ridiculous counter point, and say something stupid like, "aw, I'm just trying to get your goat." I remember various older uncles other sundry patriarchs at family gatherings saying rather inflammatory things just to get the young'uns fired up. Then they'd all laugh like they'd stirred up a wasp nest and it was somehow funny.
Today, I decided that I'm done with that. I don't have time for that. No one does.
I'm not saying that I don't like people who don't agree with me. I'm friends with a number of people who do disagree with me. I've been through a lot of changes in my life, so my political party has changed (I consider myself a recovering Republican), my approach to my faith has changed, my relationships have changed. And, I've realized, my tolerance for people just wanting to "get my goat" has changed. It hasn't really changed so much as it's expired.
Here's how it went down (keep in mind this is a single instance, there are many others, but this one is the proverbial straw that broke this camel's back): Yesterday was the first annual National Women Doctor's day. Being a woman doctor, I posted an article about it and said "yay women doctors! Let's celebrate the progress we've made." Okay, those weren't my exact words, but you get the idea.
My "friend" then responded with a comment about how choosing to celebrate one subgroup was not really fostering or encouraging diversity, but rather exclusion. I had a not very grown up response and told him to shut the fuck up. Okay, I should have been more mature, I get it. But then he came back with his "I thought you were all for inclusion, so if you're going to celebrate women doctors, then you have to have Native American Doctor Day and Black Doctor Day and Caucasian Doctor Day and Men Doctor Day..." and some other crap that white dudes like to say to other people who are not white dudes. (More on this below)
I snapped. I went through and deleted all of his comments. I then responded with a comment of my own: I'm done. It hurts you exactly ZERO to recognize progress people have made. It costs you NOTHING to say "hey it's cool that women have made progress in medicine." NOTHING. But instead you've decided to make it about something else and to crap on it. You do this literally all. the. time. So, I'm done. Sincerely, have a nice life.
Look, I get disagreeing with someone on politics. But a day, ONE DAY, to celebrate the progress women have made in medicine (despite the continued rampant sexism, lack of equal pay, lack of equal representation in medical leadership and education, and sheer number of times people ask me when the doctor will see them) hardly encourages exclusion any more than Black History Month hurts white people.
Then I realized it: I can't even have a normal conversation with this friend anymore, because just seeing his name on a comment in my Book of Faces feed gets my hackles up and before I even read what he has written, I'm already getting ready to fight him. And that's not friendship. So, I did what my husband did with this friend nearly a year ago: I clicked on his name and when the drop down menu came up, I selected "unfriend." And I immediately felt better.
Then I thought back to the friends I've had in the past who used to drive me batty in this same way. Invariably, they would say, "you know I don't mean it, I just like to get you riled up." You know what? I don't like to be riled up. I like, most days, to be calm, to experience joy, to be happy, to celebrate. And if the only time I see you, your primary way of interacting with me is to "get my goat" or to "rile me up" then, pardon me, but what the fuck kind of friend are you? What is wrong with you that you want your friends to be in a state of constant irritation, anger or frustration? What is the point of that kind of friendship? There's nothing wrong with the occasional spirited debate or disagreement, but to constantly have to be at odds over every. single. topic. is exhausting. Not only that, it doesn't move the friendship forward, it reveals and contributes nothing but negativity. It only grows anger and resentment. And, frankly, fuck that noise.
I'm sure some will say "oh you just don't like people who disagree with you." That's simply not true. I'm willing to discuss opposing points of view. But it's 2016, and you say some seriously stupid shit like "you have to have Men Doctor Day" to me, then you are being purposefully obtuse. You have not heard anything I've said about sexism or racism for the last 10 years we've been in each other's social circle. More importantly, you have ignored all of history. And I just don't have time for that garbage.
Rather than try to review this history to try to explain why we need things like Black History Month and Women Doctor Day, I will leave you with this brilliant bit, found on Tumblr.
More important than this specific topic, however, is that I've learned that the only way to deal with the friend who constantly feels the need to get my goat is to realize that he or she isn't my friend at all. It's someone who only enjoys my company to see what happens when I get wound up. I'm not a toy, I'm not a show. I'm not here to perform for anyone.