I booked in a few days’ leave to travel with a friend visiting from Australia. It’s not the time of year that I’d pick for a trip but she announced she was coming and that was that.
Naturally, visiting my estate was on the list of places to go. (I’m rather pretentiously referring to it these days as “my estate”, mainly because I can and it makes me laugh to say it). It’s a four hour drive so I thought we could go a bit further over the next few days, visit a few tourist spots and drive home the scenic route.
All of which seemed like a not unreasonable plan, except that I didn’t actually want to go on holiday at this time of year, I had to do all the driving and all the bookings and planning, and I went down with the flu the week before. She used to live here, so it wasn’t as if it was a once in a lifetime trip either.
I knew what I was in for on this trip, which meant I could mentally prepare for 5 days of company. I knew I’d be doing the listening: knowing I wasn’t going to be listened to meant I didn’t expect the conversation to go two ways. I mentally noted one day that during a 2.5h stretch of uninterrupted driving, I made one substantive contribution to the conversation, which wasn’t followed up on, and the rest was all her. I wasn’t passive: I was expected to, and did, ask questions, probe complicated situations and react appropriately to scandals and outrages. I didnt tune out. But it was tiring and my resentment did build.
It wasn’t until I’d dropped her at another friend’s house for the remainder of her stay, that it suddenly dawned on me I’d volunteered for this. I was under absolutely no obligation to take time off just because she came to visit. I’d fallen into the social trap of doing what I thought was the socially expected thing rather than sticking to what I wanted, enjoyed, and was willing to give. I resented it more because I’d felt pushed into it than because of the near-complete lack of reciprocity (although that didn’t help). In short, I felt used.
But it’s my own fault. There’s nothing malicious in what she did, she’s just self absorbed. I’m the one who first ignored what I needed and wanted. She just walked through a door I’d already opened.