You know how it is. You have somebody in your life who belongs to the Church of My Life Sucks and are bent on spreading The Bad News. This friend of yours can send you into a tailspin even after you’ve just won Powerball. You find yourself cringing when they find you enjoying a Java chip Frappuccino with whip at Starbucks. You were having a wonderful time pretending to be productive and now the mayor of Downer Town is shuffling towards your table. How did this happen and do you have an escape plan?
Life has a nasty habit of throwing us curve balls. People can have good reasons to be unhappy. If they were just diagnosed with cancer, they need your support. And if you think being a stand up human being is too much to ask of yourself in that situation, you’re a lousy friend. And possibly a sociopath.
Keep in mind that your response to their troubles needs to be measured and situation based. Maybe your girlfriend is beside herself because she discovered her husband having sex with a sheep in the living room.
“Honey, I’m so sorry. I thought you were gone for the day.”
In this instance, being supportive takes on a totally different meaning. If you can keep from cracking up, you are truly a great friend.
Neither of these people are residents of Downer Town. They have reasons to be wearing a frown. No, the Downer Debbies and Downer Dans always see the world through dreary black glasses. And they always want company. That means you. Once they have you in their mental friend directory they never want to let you go.
“You know, you’re the only friend I have.”
How did you get so lucky?
Downer Towners come into your orbit several different ways. Not unlike Lyme disease, it’s devilishly hard to permanently get rid of them. It can require drastic action.
•You befriended them in childhood. You were lousy at sports, had no other prospects for friends so it seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t. If you catch it early and go to a different college you may be in the clear. Even then, you need to stay proactive. Never go to a school reunion.
•Infection by association. Your spouse’s best friend is married to them or your kids are best friends. You aren’t in control and that makes it rough. If you’re lucky your spouse or children will get pissed off at their counterparts. Now you have a reason not to interact with the jerk. Extra bonus. You get credit for being supportive and selfless.
•They work in the next cubicle. Very, very tough because your livelihood is at stake. You may just have to chalk this toxic relationship up to another reason you hate your job. Nuclear option. Orchestrate your own firing. Revel in isolation and 26 weeks of collecting employment.
If these techniques sound extreme, remember one thing about your sorry sidekick. Guilt is strong in this one. Just to try to pack and run five minutes after they arrive at your table.
“Listen, I’m sorry to do this, but I have to go.”
“I have an appointment.”
“Okay fine. Go ahead and go.”
“Yeah, a really important appointment.”
“No, I understand.”
“I should have left twenty minutes ago.” Finally, you’re telling the truth.
“It’s okay. You have better things to do than listen to me.” Unblinking, sorrowful, heartbroken eyes lock in on yours.
“It’s not that. It’s just…”
And you spend twenty minutes explaining why you have to leave. By the time you extract yourself, the world is devoid of joy. Solitary confinement sounds inviting.
Snap out of it. There are less radical ways of dealing with the gloomy guys and girls in your life.
Never ask a Downer Towner “How are you doing?” The reason is simple. They will tell you…in excruciating detail…why their life sucks.
Change your cellphone number. So what if it’s been a part of your life for the last decade. Isn’t yor sanity worth it?
Take up an activity or sport. It needs to be something that makes you sweat. Think running, basketball or tennis. Forget bowling or golf. Invite your bleak buddy to join you in your new found passion. The odds are good he or she will disappear from your life. Your active lifestyle is just too damn depressing.
Plot, plan and scheme. Pack, run and hide. Do whatever you have to do to escape from Downer Town. That means, when it comes to friends, separate the wheat from the chaff. Don’t let anyone take that smile away from you.