How can you have a BFF if you don’t have a WFF? If you’re going to place one person at the top of your hierarchy of interpersonal relations, why not place one person at the bottom? On a normal curve, there is a symmetry between the two sides of the bell – equal quantities well and above the mean to those far and below.
Perhaps that analogy isn’t very good. Social relationships have an obvious bias, in that we’re selective from the population as to whom we consider friends. As human beings we tend to choose to ignore other people who don’t meet a certain level of common interests or compatibility instead of go to the lengths of finding reasons to despise them. If anything, the inferior half of the normal distribution would be considered “enemies” and not friends. But there are always some exceptions.
I have a Worst Friend Forever. His name is Dirk. I met him several years ago, through one of my best friends who took a summer class with him in university. They became friends because Dirk tries to acquaint himself with everybody he encounters. He’s a very outgoing personality, and as it turns out he had a lot in common with my friend so they bonded well. She always had places to go and things to do and wanted to drag somebody else with her, and he always wanted to hang out with somebody even if it was for no particular reason. So even further, they found uses for hanging out, and sometimes that coincided with where I was or what I was doing and I met up with them coming from my own direction.
And as stated above, Dirk tries to acquaint himself with everybody he encounters. He got my e-mail address and phone number and added me to his instant messenger contacts so we could chat whenever both of us were at our respective computers. At those times typically neither of us was doing anything particularly important. And as also stated above, Dirk always wanted to hang out with somebody even if it was for no particular reason. I was perfectly content not hanging out, but when I had no particular reason to justify that, he invited himself over.
(And before you start to think this is going anywhere sexual – ew.)
I learned plenty of things about Dirk as we spent time together that we happened to have in common. We were both big fans of the early 90s sketch comedy series Kids in the Hall. We both really liked Soundgarden. We were both strongly pro-LGBT. (When other friends of mine became acquainted, I was often asked if he was gay, to which for a while I could only respond “I don’t think so…”) We were at similar points in our lives, for a while, where we had nothing to do late at night – no school or work related reason to wake up in the morning, no other friends available, no money and/or motivation to go out on the town – so he often took his mother’s car and drove down to my parents’ house. He’d pick me up and we’d take out pizza and rent DVDs then go back to my house to eat and watch them respectively.
This was habit-forming. As I spent more time with Dirk, I learned what an utter asshole he is. He makes jokes about German world domination all the time, pretending that his 50% German ancestry qualifies him as one of the Aryan-elite. (In reality, his half-German background is Mennonite, and therefore exiled from said homeland well before Nazi power. His mother was born in England in the early 1940s, so her childhood was filled with, you know, the Blitz.) He’s quick to judge how much something “sucks” before taking the time to think about it, or ask anyone else’s opinions in case he’s offending them. On countless occasions he has fallen asleep on my couch and refuses to wake up and see himself home. (Once I had to start plucking out his leg hairs to get him to wake up and leave.)
He’s judgmental and inconsiderate and unreliable, in so many ways. He’s shockingly inappropriate to those who don’t know him and even to those (like me) who do. Not that long ago when we arrived at my apartment, he showed himself to my bathroom as I sat in my living room on my computer. When I started playing The Daily Show from the night before he opened the bathroom door as he was sitting on the toilet to ask me to pause it so he could watch the whole thing too. I don’t live in a big, or soundproof, apartment. I could have heard him through the door. But he had to open it – and keep it open as he laughed after I yelled at him for opening it – while taking a shit.
I’m irritated by his anal consumer behaviour. Speaking of anal, he talks about all sorts of fetishes and things he wants to do to girls all the time, to details I care not to hear. He always has some new money-making scheme up his sleeve, some heavily-researched (everything he does, except open the door while pooping, is heavily-researched) plan to make it so he can go to school without working. (He’s 30 and has “gone back to school” probably four or five times, never having obtained a degree.) He usually gives up on those plans after purchasing some kind of equipment that he then stores at his parents’ house, but since his latest venture is buying and renting out houses (one I warned him against from the very beginning) that’s not quite an option.
So why do I tolerate somebody so irritating? Beyond the major things we have in common (KitH and gay people are just that fundamental to our value systems), it’s a friendship of honesty. I can honestly tell him when I disapprove of what he’s doing. I can yell at him in frustration when I’m specifically frustrated at him. I let him know what bothers me and why. And lastly, which is very important, I frequently say “Fuck, Dirk, I hate you” but we still keep hanging out.
There is a lot of value in having a terrible friend, but it’s a terrible friend of a specific kind. Terrible friends validate your life choices by doing something different. Terrible friends keep you in check by reminding you that nobody is obligated to change course based on your objections. Terrible friends give you stories to tell to others. Terrible friends – the good kind, at least – are just terrible in themselves, and don’t try to inject the worst parts of their behaviour into the friendship itself. They serve as a good gauge of what to really be offended by. If Dirk does or says something that evokes a “Fuck, I hate you” response yet I still continue talking to him, either that night or later that week or in whatever duration without ever having to forgive him for anything, I know that there are bigger fish to fry.
And I need all of that. It’s especially convenient, and I think better for my emotional well-being, that I have all of that in one person: Dirk, my WFF.