As I get older, my relationships and the ones around me become increasingly more serious. Being single can be hard but relationships have so much more scope for disaster. Singledom might result in the occasional night of feeling alone, or the heartbreak of a failed date. In relationships, the difficulties come up not as fleeting moments, but as heavy, ongoing obstacles. My friends line up the pills on my desk, and I try to knock them back. Which is the bitterest pill?
Maybe the bitterest pill is having to see an old friend at their happiest, and knowing that happiness will take them to another country. There is a pang of selfish longing that I feel. I long to see them happy, but if they go be with a person overseas, it means I cannot really see them happy.
Maybe it’s the pill of another friend finding love with a person who seeks to keep the friend away from me. Worse, finding love with a person that invades my life in their quest for control. They find love, they speak of marriage and babies, they plant roots. They will stay far away, with this person who doesn’t like me and these unending commitments. It’s another selfish pill on my part, but knowing that I am being selfish doesn’t make it any easier.
Maybe the hardest pill it’s having to feign interest for a group of people I do not like. A daily pill that doesn’t seem to get any easier as time goes by. For so long I felt secure with my trusty pack of pals at my side, and now there are new people weekly, some of whom I find deeply problematic. Abusive girlfriends; manipulative boyfriends; racist relatives; freeloading friends; offensive siblings. With each new romantic partner that comes into our lives there seems to be a whole party of people to meet. It’s selfish and childish, but the bitter pill of having to pretend to want to spend time with people I really do not want to is exhausting. How you can you tell somebody you care about that their new pride and joy puts you on edge? It’s hard.
Some of the pills are rooted in fear. I have a few friends in relationships that are breaking down, almost to the point of no return. My friends just manage to paper over the cracks, but I nurse doubts that they’ll reach the same point of breakdown again. If they do, I’ll wonder if I should have said something before.
There are the friends who fall back into the arms of a problematic partner we’d all hoped they’d left behind. Other times I hear friends talking about children with their horrific partners, children who will solve all their issues. In reality these children will grow up in messy homes with parents who can barely stand each other. The solution is really just another massive problem waiting to happen.
There is pill of a friend who finally realises the awful truth: they’re in the wrong relationship, yet they can’t leave. They live together or they’ve booked a holiday or they’ve got a kid and there’s no return at all. How can you help? What do you do? The bitter pill of seeing friends who’d love to be single but can’t hack the idea of it. They stay in limbo-like relationships and congratulate themselves on finding somebody, having literally found anybody.
I place myself and my friends on a pedestal. Who could possibly be good enough for us? Sometimes I want to line my friends up in a row and just shout, what the hell are you doing? You deserve so much better!! The aftertaste of that bitter, selfish pill in my mouth. I wish I could veto everyone in the world and thoroughly examine them before passing over my precious friends but of course, I can’t. Maybe knowing that is the bitterest pill of all.