tumblr page counter

Manipulation

I was just remembering that time at the end of 2010 when this fairly prominent blogger emailed me to propose that we manufacture a rivalry of sorts. I say "of sorts", because we had no rivalry whatsoever. We barely interacted, and, when we did, it was largely pleasant.

People do that. It's weird. Well, it's not actually weird, because people have manipulated social groups since time immemorial to squeeze something out of it for themselves, but it's weird to me.

I have nothing important to say on the matter, I don't feel bad about that exchange. It just occurred to me this afternoon that some of you might be having fake relationships right now in order to get in with the right people or garner some measure of internet attention for yourselves.

I try not to think about it too much, because things can start to feel very Truman Show-y, and paranoia isn't sexy. Con artists, though, fascinate me.

----------------------------

Another time, I think I must have been in grade five, this girl in my class who was more popular than me said "Hey, let's pretend we're best friends at recess." "Sure," I said, because why say no? She had this floaty, soft hair that bunched up in her collar, and she smelled like cherries.

At recess, we played tetherball, which I normally never got to do, because the hockey players and the pretty girls always dominated the tarmac. She showed me a temporary tattoo she'd gotten out of a Cap'n Crunch cereal box. She had this delicate line along the top side of her wrist where the baby fat had receded.

I said as little as possible and did what she said. I had no idea what the protocol was in this sort of situation. We had fifteen minutes to be best friends, and I had no idea how to read her. I wanted it to pass without incident.

Near the end of recess, she pulled me over to stand by a fence and went to the trouble of arranging me so that I faced a particular way.

"Now, you say something," she said, "And then I'll laugh like it's really funny."

"What should I say?" I asked.

"Anything. It doesn't matter. Look like you're having fun."

"What if it is funny?"

"It doesn't matter," she said. I could tell that she was irritated with me. "I'll just laugh, anyway." And then she tossed her fluffy hair around and laughed this really loud stage laugh that I found embarrassing.

It was then that I noticed her usual best friend staring at me over the popular girl's shoulder down the length of chain link fence.

While it was clear that I was being used in a bid to manipulate her friend's emotions, I wasn't hurt by it. The whole thing was a short-term social adventure for me, and it was a relief to be able to see the end of this thing rushing in. I felt bad for the other girl, though, the usual best friend. She stood there squinting against the sunlight with a slack mouth, looking displaced.

The sunlight was suddenly more harsh, and the tips of the usual best friend's blonde lashes flashed out from the dark shadows of her eyes.

I instinctively shrugged my shoulders with my palms face up, not wanting to be blamed for my part in this social slight. This, of course, blew the game, and the popular girl shook her head at me. Her mouth held this subtle sneer that probably worked to great effect on other kids, but to me it signalled a glad dismissal.

She never spoke to me again over the remaining seven years that we attended school together. I was happy to be free of her. That short fifteen minutes as her fake best friend had exhausted me.

----------------------------

I find neither situation alluring — the former was looking to manufacture entertainment for what amounts to her job, and the latter was just being shallow and manipulative to entertain herself — but I could watch the players in question for years. It all just seems like so much work to plot scenarios that have to be acted out meaninglessly just to get a reaction, and I kind of have to hand it to them. That shit takes serious commitment.