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The Nerve

“Oh no she didn’t,” I said to my screen.

“What? Who?” David was seated in a chair five feet behind me. I stepped to the right of my standing desk so he could see my computer. He squinted his eyes and then widened them to indicate he was waiting for me to elaborate.

“Remember that chick we met at Charley and Rebecca’s wedding in the summer of 2009?” David shook his head. “Lia? She wore the white dress, but wasn’t the bride?” I watched the light come into his eyes. The bride, Rebecca, had chosen a lavender gown, and had invited guests to wear white. The only woman to take her up on the offer had shared a table with us at the reception.

“Yeah, well…” I was about to launch into a Twitter tirade, but then I remembered David doesn’t speak Twitter, so I took a breath, turned to face him, and explained: “Someone I don’t know tweeted that she’s looking for a place to crash in San Diego during Comic-Con with a ‘non-murderer-slash-rapist type.’ I only know this because I was atted — which means I was mentioned with an at-symbol so it shows up in my feed — along with three other people in Lia’s tweet back, which says…” I turned to read from my screen. “‘I have a shit ton of friends down there.’”

David still looked confused, so I broke it down another way: “Some random asked for a place to stay in town and Lia offered us up as an option. She replied to this girl’s request for a crash-pad by recommending me as her friend, along with Charley and two other people I don’t know. Get it?”

Realization washed over David’s face and was immediately eclipsed by a scowl. “Uncool,” he said. “You should tweet back, tell her you’re not running a hotel.”

“Who does that? Even if we were friends, which we are not — I haven’t seen her since 2009 — you don’t just offer up someone else’s place. That’s so presumptuous. It’s beyond ballsy. It’s straight-up rude.” I stared at my screen. “Yeah, you’re right. I have to squash this shit.”

I was sure to copy the others, including the would-be couch-surfer, when I tweeted, “Uncool. We’ve only met twice and I’m not running a hotel.”

Lia had been cool enough at the wedding, but my second, and last, encounter with the tweet-offender proved her to be irritatingly audacious. It was December 2009, and I’d scored four free tickets to Disneyland. Because I hadn’t been to the park in 15 years, I wanted to go with Disney freaks who could show me around. I offered two of the tickets to the newlyweds, Charley and Rebecca, and told them they could extend the extra ticket to Lia, whom I knew shared the couple’s love for all things Mickey.

The drama began a week before our excursion. I hadn’t realized Lia lived in Northern California when I extended the invitation. Suddenly there were all these logistical complications. Lia had to juggle her work schedule, Lia needed a ride, Lia needed a place to stay, Lia wanted to go later in the day, Lia wanted to meet up with another group of friends at a particular place in the park at a particular time. Lia was the nail to my tire, her participation serving only to deplete and hinder.

Uninterested in sorting her needs, I left Lia’s ticket at will-call. I was not disappointed when she arrived at the park only to hook up with her other friends. And now, a quarter of a decade later, Lia was publicly claiming me as her friend, and as someone to hit up for a place to stay.

I’m not sure what I was expecting after my terse tweet. An apology, perhaps, some admission of overstepping that I would pardon and then we’d all winky-face emoticon and go back to our regularly scheduled tweeting. I checked my @s. What I saw made me fume audibly, the hot steam coming out in a huff of appalled breath that caught David’s attention. “What now?”

“The chick looking for place to stay is okay, though she made sure to name-drop in case I didn’t realize how ‘important’ she is — she wrote, ‘Don’t worry about it. My Marvel coworkers can probably hook me up.’ But Lia — wow. Get this: ‘It’s very acceptable to connect friends with other friends,’ she says, but here’s the clincher: ‘Am I to assume that you would not be kind or giving?’”

“Are we supposed to assume that she’s selfish and presumptuous?” David quipped. We shook our heads at each other.

“Holy Manipulation Tactics, Robin,” I said. “Seriously? Connecting friends with other friends? Bitch, I just tweeted that we’ve only met twice. Any real friend of mine would have had the courtesy to feel me out first before offering my shit up to some random. So you presume to claim me as a friend first, as a possible free room second, and then have the audacity to contend that if I say that’s uncool it’s because I’m not a kind person? Are you fucking kidding me?”

David sighed and returned his eyes to his laptop. I remained standing and seethed at my screen. This attempted guilt-trip and shaming strategy had hit a nerve. I’m no stranger to the art of manipulation — it was my mother’s contrivance of choice for keeping four spastic girls in line while my father was on naval deployment.

For a time in my early 20s, certain people took advantage of my excessive empathy and desperate need to please. But my susceptibility for being guilted into some sense of obligation to satisfy other people ended the day I learned how to politely kick out a friend-turned-squatter without losing sleep over whether or not the person I’d just embarrassed and disappointed would still like me. And that had been an actual friend.

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