A few years ago, I hit what is known as a snag in life. After ending things with a romantic partner who was emotionally abusive and physically violent towards me, I found myself in a tail spin. I found myself in an unscripted Lifetime Movie. To cope with the stress of an ex who wouldn’t let go and ultimately getting a separate mailing address, I rededicated myself to my art. Through it all, I leaned on my friends who were there for me. I considered myself grateful to have what seemed to be their unwavering love and undying support.
One friend in particular was very supportive. I will call him Jeff. A close, plutonic friend, he was part of the larger group I ran with at the time. The two of us were a closer pairing than a lot of the others. Jeff and I had a similar sense of humor, and our guilty pleasure was old Beavis and Butthead reruns. When we hung out, he would ask me what to say to the current girl he was pursuing. We were Elaine and Jerry minus the previous romantic history. My inner Teddy Ruxbin said, “We are going to be friends forever.”
While I pushed with the art, success did not come overnight. As a matter of fact, it seemed like I was waiting for Godot. Some of it was because of the nature of my particular art form, ventriloquism. Then there is the factor that I am an artist who creates her own work. Finally, it was just timing and the way I developed as a creative person. However, soon the tide started to shift.
Opportunities presented themselves because I showed up for my career but most importantly, for myself. I found myself working as a talking head on a web network performing for young people all over the world with my puppets. Despite a lifetime of wanting to try, I was now dabbling in music. Some of my songs got internet radio airplay, and a cover I did was number one on several online stations for weeks. I took the first steps at publishing what turned out to be my first book. Paying my dues looked like it was starting to pay off. All my friends were happy my life was starting to come together. That is, except for Jeff.
When I posted updates on facebook, Jeff would leave a snarky comment or two. At first I brushed it off. Jeff had been through a rough patch losing his job, and then discovering his girlfriend was cheating on him. This wouldn’t last. Jeff did it again. After this happened several more times I wrote Jeff a facebook message telling him I didn’t find his comments funny, but rather hurtful. I pride myself in having a good sense of humor but this was just mean. Instead of apologizing, Jeff snapped back telling me I was too sensitive and that I was getting a “big head.”
I went cold on Jeff for about a month, figuring he had to work out whatever he was going through. That is when he dropped me a line wanting to know if I wanted to have coffee. I thought, “Why not?” I missed him anyway. So we got together and talked like we never left off. Then he asked me what I had been up to. In my naivite, I mentioned the new projects I was working on. At that point, they were the front and center of my life. I thought if the old Jeff was truly back he would be happy for me. Wrong. Jeff began to rip into me telling me hated the “April Brucker superstar affect.” He then proceeded to tell me my career was more imagined than real, and it’s not like what I was doing would lead to anything. I sat stunned for a brief second before my legs did the thinking. That is when I got up and left.
For days it nagged at me. Had I changed? Was I now an arrogant wench of a girl? Later that week, as I was hanging out in my local deli reading my newspaper and drinking my coffee, I posed my dilemma to my neighborhood friends. For the most part, these are guys who work the high rises on 10th Avenue. We click because they love football as much as I do. I posed the question to my buddy Terrence, an elevator mechanic and closet book junkie, who not only has traded books with me but read mine several times. When I was done Terrence explained, “You have met what is known as a spirit snatcher. Or as my mother used to call them, a wet blanket friend.”
Terrence explained that a wet blanket friend was someone who was your friend when you were down, because it gave them a chance to be on top. Therefore, they appeared to be a “good person,” and it also fulfilled their need to be superior. However, now the tables were turned and I was no longer down and out. Jeff had lost his footing, and now had to knock me down in order to get it back. Terrence’s explaination made sense. While it hurt, it guided me to the next right action. That is when I got home and blocked him online.
This experience taught me a lot about what friendship was. While a friend is someone who is kind to you when life isnt, they are also kind to you when times are good. I knew I deserved better than a bully as a romantic partner, and now I deserve better than a bully as a friend. Self-respect is the rent I pay for living in the house of self-esteem. Being ambitious, driven, and successful only makes me a snob to losers. Cutting out a toxic friend is like cutting out cancer, not only does it make you feel better but you live longer.