I hate that abandoned feeling. Thinking I can rely on someone, taking a chance at opening up and being vulnerable, only to find that trust betrayed. That’s a terrible feeling.
When I was a teen, 16 or 17 I believe, I was invited to a Halloween party. It was a big party, with a lot of people I didn’t know, at a place I’d never been. I was incredibly anxious and scared about it. In general, I still feel this way about parties. Basically, the chances of me actually showing to an event decrease exponentially for each of the following:
1. It’s at a place I haven’t been before. (What if I get lost? What if I can’t find parking? How much time do I need to avoid being late? What if the location itself is threatening? What if it’s very expensive and I have to blow my entire monthly stipend just to attend?)
2. There’s people I’ve never met there. The more new people, the more anxious I’ll be. (Will I say something dumb? Will I forget their name? Will they hate me? Will they think I’m an eccentric weirdo? Will I get in a fight with them? WILL I FIXATE ON A TINY DETAIL AND FRET OVER IT FOR THE NEXT THREE YEARS BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW THEM WELL ENOUGH TO EVALUATE WHETHER OR NOT MY OFF-HAND COMMENT BOTHERED THEM???)
3. The activity is something I’ve never tried before, or is out of my comfort zone. (Will I look stupid? Will I feel pressured to do something I don’t want to do? Will I feel torn between caving to pressure or hating myself later for not standing up for myself? If I stand up for myself, will I be chastised or shunned for having done so? Will I make other people unhappy with my unhappiness?)
Needless to say, this Halloween party had all three. I remember in the car telling my boyfriend at the time about how scared I was. He assured me everything would be fine and I should quit worrying. I comforted myself thinking that at least I had an ally going into this perceived warzone, and he’d look out for me and my wellbeing.
We got to the party, which was being held in the basement of a lovely house. Parents upstairs, party downstairs. Seemed fine. Down the stairs I went.
Turns out, it was a Rocky Horror Picture Show Party. And all that can entail. The boyfriend I was counting on to look out for me turned out to be one of the ringleaders and organizers. It was like a flip switched, and I was abruptly on my own.
They lined up everyone who hadn’t been to a RHPS party before, declared us Virgins, and used lip-stick to draw big red Vs on our faces.
At which point, my anxiety cranked up so far it probably could have reached escape velocity and shot to the moon. It felt…awful. I felt exposed, targeted, and violated. My stomach was in nauseous knots and if that was how the night was starting, saying I had a Bad Feeling was an understatement. I decided I absolutely had to get out of that room, immediately.
I walked towards the stairs. Only to discover that the party organizers had posted a bouncer at the bottom. I was told that nobody was allowed to leave the party.
Now, I’m not here to yuck somebody’s yum. If a person’s into being part of a “virgin auction” or lewd party games, more power to them. Have fun! But that person should be informed about what they’re getting into and agree to the experience. It shouldn’t be pressed on them and they certainly shouldn’t be prevented from leaving or stopping. That’s just a rotten thing to do to anyone, regardless of the activity.
At this point, we hit my “silk to steel” point. I’ve talked about this behavior before. Where I am abruptly done capitulating and I will go from very accommodating to incredibly uncompromising. I hit that point with that bouncer. I looked them in the eye and said, “I am going to leave, and you are going to get out of my way.” And I kept saying it, and kept staring them down, until they moved.
I remember feeling utterly numb and on the edge of tears when I got upstairs. I think I’d pretty thoroughly disassociated from myself at that point. The parents looked at me, concerned. I think they sensed something was wrong. “Is everything okay?” they asked.
“Oh. No. Everything is fine,” I said. To this day, I don’t know why. I guess I didn’t want everybody to be mad at me. I’ve been the kind of person that people accuse of being “No Fun,” for a lot of my life. I felt like my discomfort was my own fault. I was too scared, too anxious. I thought if I was just tougher or more relaxed it wouldn’t have bothered me. I was probably angry, incredibly so, but I’ve always been afraid of my own anger, so I likely had already buried it so deeply by the time I got to the top of the stairs that I didn’t even know it was there. Above all, I felt abandoned and betrayed. I’d confessed my fear, something I’d never done about anything to anyone before, and the person I’d relied on to help had been instrumental in creating a situation EVEN WORSE than what I’d been afraid of.
I made my excuses and left. I later heard stories from some of the other people who’d stayed, many of whom had been in that Virgin lineup. None of them seemed to feel good about that party, and I wished I’d made a different choice. Said something. Been a defender, I guess. Was that my job? What if I was just projecting my own bad feelings onto their accounts? Maybe they did have a good time. Maybe they would have resented me if I’d done something different.
Or maybe that was just me, as usual, trying to take all the fault on my own shoulders.
I didn’t learn the larger lesson for years later. Namely, that true friends are ones that care about my wellbeing. Who will hold my comfort and sense of safety as important as their own. If a person puts their own desires over the physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing of a friend, that person isn’t a friend. Friends respect and support boundaries. It’s okay to push boundaries, but friends will do it WITH me and in SUPPORT of me, not force experiences on me that THEY want even if I don’t. That’s the difference between treating a friend as an equal, and treating a person as a toy or accessory.
I’m glad that in the past few years I’ve acquired more true friends. Friends where mutual affection and support are the basis for our relationship, and we work to understand and reinforce each other’s boundaries. We can have tough conversations and face difficult situations together, grow together, learn together. Never at the expense of each other, but instead working as a team to explore. If you’re reading this, my wonderful friends, thank you. I appreciate you all so much!
Who do you call a true friend? What important moments have you shared with them?
Soul’s Journey by Sophie Pf- Trapped in a wolf’s body a prince has to find a way to stop a war.
Children of Eldair by Jemma Young – A sorcerer saves a girl from flesh-eating demons. After trying to use magic to find her friends, he’s trapped in a vision of the past–one that will help him save the world and the girl he loves.