Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Effusion's Startlingly Brief Half-Life

Over the course of my life, I've met a number of people who quickly turned effusive, telling me how fantastic I am, how smart and funny I am, how very very very glad they are to know me. (I hasten to note that I've also met a gazillion times more people who found me as impressive as a slug, as funny as a canker sore, and who, in light of my congenital lack of gravitas, were unable to take me the least bit seriously in any way.) But, strangely, not one of these admiring people - not a single one - remains in my life. The people who've stuck around mostly think I'm just okay. A mixed bag, but overall worth keeping around.

So what happened to all those instant-on best friends? Like so many deep enigmas, it can be summed up via an appallingly banal cliche: Easy come, easy go.

It unnerves me to be cursed with knowledge of how easily people can slip from "you're my hero" to "you're an asshole". There's a scene in Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories" where a woman is speaking on the telephone as Woody's character (a filmmaker) walks by. She interrupts her call to gush to him about how she's his biggest fan, and asks him to say hello to her son, who's on the other line. He politely declines, whereupon her face contracts into a mask of rage. "Cancer!" she screams. "I hope you get cancer and die! I never liked you!"

When I first saw the film at age 18, I assumed this was surreality. But, no, it's terrifyingly true. With a certain type of person, "beloved hero" and "despised asshole" are precisely one notch apart.

My problem is that, after years of this, whenever anyone new starts flattering me, I react in a way that seems very strange: I recoil, as if punched in the gut, and start to lose interest in further conversation. It's terribly unfair of me, but if whenever you walk outside people wearing purple t-shirts gather to slap you, you won't be able to control yourself from flinching at anyone approaching in a purple t-shirt.

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