The Ask-hole and the Overachiever
There are a couple of people in my life who are constantly seeking-out my advice.
With the first, I'm simply faced with the realization that the person is an ask-hole.
Friendships never start out this way with me. I usually get to know someone as a result of some shared interest. Perhaps we met each other at a volunteer event, or at a fundraiser, or a marathon. I bump into them in a few places where it is clear that we have similar interests. It's the way friendships normally unfold, with similar interests, similar paths in life.
I deliberately start out with healthy boundaries, explaining that while I am a licensed therapist, I really don't allow for that talk in my personal life.
Things progress nicely. We're having fun. Days, weeks, perhaps even months pass by while we're having friendly fun, and then there's a frantic call in the middle of the night. The person is in crisis because of a (fill in the blank) problem and I'm the only one in their world who can help them through this issue. It's late. I remind them that I don't do this sort of thing for professional reasons. The person starts to cry, and I relent.
So begins my friendship with an ask-hole.
An ask-hole is someone in your personal life who asks for advice, expects you to use both your personal and professional knowledge to develop that advice, and then doesn't follow-through with anything you suggested. They've wasted a tremendous amount of your personal time. You've received nothing but exhaustion from the interaction, and, unlike your professional work, you didn't get paid for giving this advice. The pattern is repeated because this person has direct access to you in your personal life. They are oblivious to the fact that they are abusing your friendship.
They have even come to believe they are entitled to your advice. Perhaps they once walked your dog for a day or two while you were away at a conference. Somehow, that one gesture of help facilitates an air of entitlement about this person. They may even mention your dog regularly, offering to walk it at any day or night that works for you, as long as it is only on Friday mornings, between the hours of 3 and 4 AM. And this is a privilege, mind you, because they would never offer to walk anyone's dog at 3 AM, but they would do it for you.
You see how this person interacts with their other friends. They actually have a lot of fun! They go out, they do recreational things together. They talk about nothing but frivolous things, things I'm actually interested in like vitamin water and fruit infused water or what cologne actually smells good on them (or me). They do all the fun things that friends are supposed to do. Only, with me, they see Freud. Freud is captivating. Freud is all-knowing, and Freud is also free!
I head out to a movie with this person. The person wants to talk about their relationship issues. I head out for a hike in the woods with this person. The person wants to talk about their relationship with their mother. I go on a road trip across two states with this person. The person spends the entire time talking about the (inappropriate) relationship they had with a married person.
Can I get out of the car now? Is there a bridge somewhere nearby? I'm contemplating jumping off it. No? No bridges for the next 75 miles Garmin tells me.
I try a different tack with the person. I'm deliberately talking about vitamin water now. Nope. The person redirects the conversation back to the relationship issues. Then, I whip out a couple of magazines with cologne samples on them and ask the person to smell them with me. That works for about two minutes and we're back to the relationship talk again.
I change tack again, only this time I'm using the person's bulldozer methodology to talk about vitamin water. The person says they need to leave, they have a dog to walk. I mention that I really need some advice on the vitamin water. It really matters to me because we're friends and I know this person actually has a great understanding about vitamin water. They say they'll forward me an article about it and that they really have to go. It's time to walk another friend's dog. Really?
The person comes over again, unannounced, on a Saturday morning. This time I'm resolute in my conviction to not allow the kind of dialogue this person is seeking. As soon as the person starts in about the relationship issues I remind them of my professional boundaries. I'm accused of not being a caring friend. I remind them of the conversation we had the first time they called me up in the middle of the night about (the same) relationship issues. I deliberately start talking about vitamin water and the person says I'm cruel. Oh, and I'm ungrateful because nobody would want to walk my dog for two days in a row for free because it shits too much. Mind you, this was the only thing this person has ever done for me. It was five months ago, and, for the record, if my dog shits once a day I'm happy for it. It's not a shitter.
Do yourself a favor, folks, pay for a dog walker when you go away for two days. You'll avoid this ridiculousness.
And then the person thinks that being flip with me is going to get us back to talking about the relationship issues, so, they mention they can pay me for the time I've given them. I know this person is wealthy and can afford the fees associated with the work I do. So, I do a quick calculation in my mind.
No, wait, this is a horrible idea. I can't talk about this! This is wrong on so many levels! The person spends the next hour hammering me for a number. I'm exhausted from it. In a moment of weakness I mention a rough figure, $6,000.
The person starts to cry.
Rich people can sometimes be the cheapest, most self-centered people you've ever met in your entire life.
Especially the ones who offer to walk you dog for free.
I just wanted to talk about vitamin water and cologne.
* * *
And then there's the other friend. This is a tough one for me. We've known each other for years. She is the dictionary definition of an overachiever. In almost every way, this woman is the embodiment of healthy lifestyle, healthy living. She is a marathoner. She is an expert in her field. She is an entrepreneur. She is a philanthropist. She is very spiritual and does tons of volunteer work.
Remember, I said she is the embodiment of healthiness in almost every way.
Except for her children.
Her children are the most useless layabout twenty-somethings I have ever encountered in my life.
In this moment, I recall watching an episode of Mad TV from years ago. In this episode of Mad TV, the actors are lampooning a television show called Laguna Beach, only, on Mad TV it's called Laguna Biotch. In this episode, the useless characters talk nonsense and (literally) cast themselves from one piece of living room furniture to another, because, for them, life is so hard.
Her children are in their early twenties. They stay up all night partying and driving around in their BMW convertibles. They sleep all day. They complain about how hard life is as they (literally) sit in their living room eating popcorn. One day, I even observed them watching... wait... wait... a rerun of Mad TV!
Is this a living example of life imitating art?
She talks about all the therapists she's sent them too. She talks about their expensive schooling. She talks about how one of them has a job now, working four hours a week at a local nail salon. She is so proud of this latest development. I am actually starting to feel proud of the girl for starting this new job, myself. And then she tells me her daughter works at the salon in order to get free manicures and pedicures. And it's four hours a week. And her daughter is exhausted from it. She thinks her daughter may have developed carpal tunnel syndrome from the repetitive nail filing.
I want to scream.
I want to shake her.
She is such a lovely person. I so enjoy exercising with her and I am so inspired by the truly amazing things she's done with her life and for so many people. There are times when she's told me of yet another amazingly inspirational thing she's done, and I find myself shedding a tear, it's so wonderful, and then I see her TWENTY-THREE YEAR OLD daughter who just got out of bed at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, shuffling by in her filthy UGGS and her ass hanging out of her track pants and I want to take my friend and run away from this place.
But this is a hell she has made for herself.
So, when she talks to me about the layabouts, I listen, and I feel my inner battery being drained of its lifeforce because I want to tell her to drop them at the nearest bus depot, but I don't. I just listen, and I imagine my body as various iterations of Duracell and Everready batteries as I toss myself, piece by piece into the trashcan I'm so drained by having to listen to this.
I've given her tons of advice, but even this lovely person has become an ask-hole. She asks in-depth questions, exploring every option, and then deflects every piece of advice that I give her about her daughters. There is an excuse for everything.
* * *
I'm going to make friends with the guy who makes my coffee at the local Dunkin' Donuts. At least I know what I'm getting myself into, there. Maybe we can talk about my favorite flavor of coffee? Perhaps he likes to go bowling?