Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My Toxic College Relationship, Conclusion

After graduating from college, I drove straight back to the west suburbs. What was supposed to be a three-month layover has dragged on more or less for nine years. Regardless, after that last encounter with Babs returning home felt cathartic; I knew our friendship was strained, and she wouldn't bother me in a part of the suburbs that she detested for vague reasons. (Her July 2006 visit was a disaster, but she already had a preexisting bone to pick with Downers Grove and Westmont.) We were still Facebook friends, but I felt no inclination to drop a private message, or leave a wall post, or even a solitary poke. The distance was geographical and emotional, palpable yet comfortable.

Babs reached out by DM in March 2008, three months after I graduated. It was a sincere apology but also a belated one; it seemed like she was finally doing something about her hair-trigger temper. She suggested meeting up over summer break, but with my work schedule and general lack of interest, I didn't take her up on the offer. Communication after this point was sporadic, the occasional email or Facebook message, and just that.

Even though I felt cool and collected, I was still struggling to move on. My inherent social awkwardness and lack of dating experience made asking women out a landmine of failure, and the handful of dates I went on went nowhere. I created an account on POF, but that was also a dead end. Babs continued her pattern of meeting guys of her particular type, getting bored and cheating on them, then dumping the cuckolded guy for the new slab of meat. Then this happened.

I was lethargic for days, and a phone conversation with Babs a few days later did little to console me. I thought it was strange that she would get engaged less than five months after meeting this guy, but knowing Babs' tendency to act on impulse and not thinking things out, I was almost certain the engagement would fail. Did she even know the guy? Indeed, it did fall apart and for a lot of the same reasons she dumped me: she clashed with her would-be mother-in-law, religious differences, her fickle tendencies. In our next Facebook chat, Babs implied that he was verbally abusive, and legal action was taken to prevent the two from ever encountering each other again.

Professionally, Babs was also fledgling. Her lifelong dream was to be a park ranger, or at least work in the U.S. Park Service in some capacity. Apparently, she had a job interview for a ranger position, but lost the job to a woman of color. Not only did Babs complain about affirmative action to me, but she also complained to the woman who conducted the interview... in person. (She was escorted out of the building.) Ultimately, she landed a gig working in a rehab facility for troubled teens, which was demanding and only sporadically fulfilling. From a distance, I worried if her temperament would be her undoing again.

I continued to maintain a distance. Our last real conversation was in July 2011; she wrapped up the late night chat by saying she wanted to see one of my improv shows someday. She loathed city driving, or being in urban areas in general, but I knew in that instance she meant well. At the same time, her hair-trigger temper was starting to spill into social media. On three occasions, I commented on a status update she posted, and she called my response pointless and idiotic. On the last of those occasions, she posted something about a sick grandmother, though it was unclear if she was talking about her own grandma or someone else's. She left a terse wall post clarifying that it wasn't her grandma, then unfriended me. I replied in defense, but I knew she wouldn't have read it. It was the last time I attempted to contact Babs. I knew she was overreacting (again) but this was the final straw. It was March 2012, six years and two months after we first met.

For some inexplicable reason, my sister is still in touch with Babs on Facebook. She claims they only talk about dogs, and only every now and then. I have asked my sister to sever ties with Babs, to no avail. On the one occasion when I dared to ask about her current whereabouts, my sister told me she moved to Dallas in 2014. Babs and I one had a dozen mutual friends; when I last looked at her profile two years ago, we were down to three. I was still friends with most of these people, and I wasn't the only one that get fed up with Babs. Maybe she was projecting her insecurities, maybe she had an as-yet-diagnosed case of borderline personality disorder. I'll never know and quite frankly, I don't care. It goes without saying that I have no intention to reconnect on my own volition.

So why am I sharing this story? In some ways, Babs is a cautionary tale; it took a lot of growing up and introspection to realize that abusive relationships may not necessarily be rotten at the surface. It was my first relationship and the one that provided the harshest learning experience. There is something cathartic about excising toxic people from your life, a person who may seem sweet or wayward on the surface who gradually exposes the worst attributes of their personality. I've moved on; I've been in relationships with other women, and I'm content without Babs in my life.


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