The Fine Art of Learning the Fine Art of  Self-protection

Hortensia asking several other people to the dinner where we were supposed ‘to catch up, just us two’ was the last straw. Hortensia sent a message an hour before we were supposed to meet; she had decided to invite X and Y and I didn’t mind, did I? I might not have minded but she had pulled this bait-and-switch trick before. It was getting to be a regular occurrence: making a plan with me and then altering it to suit her.

A few weeks before when we had set up dinner plans she said, “make a reservation for two,” which I did. Then she showed up with Armand (who I cordially hate), looked at me sitting at the reserved table for two and explained, “Oh, when I said, make a reservation for two, I meant Armand and I, ha ha.”  Let me see if this butter knife is sufficiently sharp to cut off one of your ears, ha, ha.

So I started keeping track of when she changed plans one me. It’s not natural for most people to keep track of the times someone misbehaves, it is a terribly low type of pettiness, but in some cases it is so helpful. Every so often you need to keep score so you can realize that no, it’s not you, it’s them. [For the truly evil, you keep track with precision so you can hand over details to the police.]

Please note, however, we don’t recommend that you tell the person when you start keeping the list (especially if it is spouse) as they might keep lists as well. That is why this essay is called ‘the fine art’ not ‘the blunt art.’

Further, this is not a technique for people who can’t control themselves (looking at you Sagittarius and those who must be honest at all times. Aries don’t try this, you and that tendency to blurt…). It’s a last resort to be used against people who say ‘I never’ or ‘just this once’ several times a month.

But if you are starting to get that, “I have heard this before” feeling, sharpen your pencil. Come up with easy code and make a short note, on smart phone, paper calendar, whatever – just date and a few words and then wait. Sometimes you realize that the person flakes out, loses their temper, drunk calls you not that often or in a pattern. Sometimes you realize that you’ve got a stealth troll on your hands and it’s time for defensive action.

You need to decide whether it’s worth it to continue as friends (or spouses). And let us remember, Darling, no ghosting. You decline invitations and if the person asks, you explain your reasons. Or you tell the police, the landlord, campus/ building security. Disappearing without reason from non-harmful people is the worst kind of petty weakness and results in flatulence in important business meetings and romantic tête-à-têtes.

“I am taking a season for myself, for me-time, for introspection, to deal with issues from my past, events from long before I met you, and to come to a better understanding of how I would like my future life to be situated” is a fine expression – please, feel free to borrow it.

As is, “I am so grateful for your friendship but I feel us moving in different directions, so let us take a moment to appreciate our time of togetherness and as we go forward separately, let me say that I wish you the very best.”

Also good: “There are places inside of me yearning for emotional fulfillment which I don’t feel you are able to provide and so by setting you free, I will find a wholeness, currently lacking, and you will find the joy of completing the person you are supposed to be with, your soul mate is out there, waiting, may you find him/ her/ it quickly.”

What you are aiming for is to produce a speech so thoroughly self-centered that is causes the other person to gladly leave in haste. If they interrupt, interrupt back, pretend you are alone in your room, spout the most arrant nonsense and never stop talking. The bad birthday party in 6th grade finally has a point – start recounting in excessive details – the color of the rug, the whole family history of every person who attended, the music that was playing. If you can’t remember, make things up – just don’t stop talking, lay down a boredom of such profoundness the person will be thankful to rid you from their lives.