Relationships in Histrionic Times

You know how people always talk about how ‘attention seeking’ we have become in this Facebook/Instagram generation?? We will post almost anything – even bodies in coffins – to get likes and sympathy. Or videos in compromising situations that should be private. Our bodies have become viral artwork we display on the internet-of-all-things. Viral in various states of undress or redress to get approval from strangers we will never meet.

How about on the ground? Is it different in real life?

I will tell you a story of real-life histrionic virality. In teenage years, I loved reggae music more than I loved myself. Almost all of us are are this way when we are young. Totally unaware that we should be loving ourselves more than we love our first boyfriend or our favorite music. Others love the approval they receive from their parents and peers so much, they will diminish and ignore their own needs in-order to gain approval and attention.

So we dedicate years to loooviing something other than ourselves. I sneaked out of home to go to reggae club. I secretly bought a Bob-Marley hat, and wore it in the reggae club and made sure no one knew of it’s existence except for my reggae buddies. I said ‘ganja’ as other young girls said ‘boyfriend’ and I dreamed of a pilgrimage to Jamaica. Culture for me meant THE band, not cultural practices. Lucky Dube was my dream man, albeit too old for me. I was safe in reggae heaven.

At one reggae gig, I met Eva who was 3-years older than me and we became fast friends. There were few reggae-loving-girls, so we hang with each if only for the safety-in-numbers when we were out with ganja-smoking dudes. Ganja-smoking dudes rarely drink alcohol and reggae is mostly a peace & balance loving movement. We will say what needs sayin’ in our music kind of folk. The rest of you can shed blood for it i you think blood-shedding is necessary. Still, a young girl knows what she is risking when she is hanging out with dudes in reggae joints. So, two is better than one and Eva became my best reggae friend.

I am a life-time advocate for situational friendships. The friendships that arise in certain situations and end when the situation ends. Like first-child-motherhood-friendships. You meet these other women who have their first baby at the same time as you and you bond on that experience. Once you gain confidence and baby survives the first 2 years in your life, the friendship kind of dwindles, because the issues that were keeping the friendship relevant are no longer there.

Or moving-to-a-new-country/city friendships. You are friendless and vulnerable with zero understanding of the new culture or language. So, at language classes or at the university, you bond with other newbies and become fast friends. This friendship nourishes the soul for some years until you find and choose friends that fit other needs in your life.

Sometimes, situational friendships survive the situation, if they grow with the changing situations. Sometimes they don’t. And that is OKAY. Choosing the people who remain your friends in the long-term is part of the art of choosing a life for yourself. Friends can be the icing on the cake that life. Also, friends can be the toxin needed to make that dormant-childhood-scar a festering wound all over again.

Nerdy-Virgin-Mouse

Eva was a very good reggae-friend. However, she was a horrible regular-life-friend for a teenage girl of my particular leanings.

This is not to say that I was a good friend for Eva. I did not know, and still don’t know what kind of friend she needed. In reggae meet-ups, Eva was the center of attention. The loud one. Le dancer magnifique. The beautiful one. A sexually experienced goddess. And I was the nerdy-virgin-mouse who hid in her shadow and enjoyed the music.

Unknown to me, my nerdy-virgin-mousyness infuriated her. She made horrible scenes about me playing hard to get and pretending to be better than her. Because in a patriarchal society driven by wife-material rhetoric, being a virgin was being better than other girls. Obviously, being a virgin AND smart at school was being almost perfect. She apologized as often and as profusely as she insulted me, but it was so exhausting for me.

People loved Eva for her life-of-the-party persona and she was invited to all reggae gigs. The same people feared Eva because she could break all the bottles at a party and drown a sofa in alcohol just to make her point. Me? I was Eva’s shadow – protected.

Because I was hiding in the shadow of a goddess, I often sat silently in a corner swaying my head to the music and learning the lyrics as the goddess danced. Dudes who did not like dancing would gather at my corner and sit, also shaking their heads and swaying to the music. To talk and learn lyrics. But my goddess did not like this one bit. God forbid that a dude spoke to me longer than ten minutes when we were out – it didn’t matter if she liked that dude or not. It would hurt her, and infuriate her, and she would throw a huge tantrum so we could no longer listen to reggae, dance, learn lyrics or talk to reggae-dudes.

Paradoxically, if I sat in that corner and ignored all contact with dudes – just did my thing and followed her with my adoring smiling eyes; that too infuriated her. Then she would scream how boring I was, how un-energetic, how un-entertaining. I never knew how to make her happy. She loved me, and declared her love for me in dramatic fits of tears and hugs and public displays. That bothered me because I am not a public-display-of-love kind of person. I love being loved and respected silently, steadily and privately.

Heart’s-hierarchy of love

Our friendship ended when I started dating – let us call the dude Jeff. Jeff was cute and reggae-obsessed and relaxed in an alpha-male fashion. He did not smoke ganja. Alpha males don’t smoke ganja or drink so much alcohol so they loose control. Eva hated him and made a public-display of her hate. One night, Eva threw such a fit she wanted to throw Jeff over the balcony of some club because he was hogging my time and attention. When Jeff wasn’t swayed by the histrionics, she started trying to hug and kiss him. That shocked me because she had made such a display of hating him.

Note, Eva being the goddess she was, always had a date on our night outs and paid little attention to me except to check that I was not in harm’s way. Checking I was ok was a big deal and well-appreciated – obviously that was exactly what I had needed. In the fight with Jeff, Eva insisted that I was like a little sister to her, and she did not trust Jeff. She threatened all sorts of things. At last Jeff and I managed to leave.

When next morning she came home to me to apologize, I knew I was done. I had loved reggae more than I loved myself. And reggae and Eva went together. As all teenagers, I now had met a boy – alpha-boy – I loved more than reggae or myself. And because he loved reggae, I could still love reggae, just a little less because now, almost all of my heart was Jeff’s. My heart’s-hierarchy of love was clear:

  1. Jeff
  2. Reggae
  3. Sleep
  4. Me

There was no place for Eva and her emotional dramatics. There would come other loves, greater than Jeff or reggae. It would take years before I was first on my heart’s-hierarchy of love.

Well, lately, I have just been learning that there is a ‘normal’ level of attention seeking and there is an histrionic level of attention seeking. Eva came to mind and my heart aches for Eva in hindsight.

Characterized by unending attention seeking and emotional overreactions, people with histrionic personality disorder are always in a dramatic situation. If all attempts at getting attention fail, they will become extremely seductive to catch attention, even if seductive is inappropriate in that situation.

The symptoms of histrionic personality disorder must cause significant impairment and/or distress in an individual. Often, this distress and social dysfunction leads to low self esteem, self-hate and can eventually lead to depression.

Symptoms

For a diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder to be given, five or more of the below symptoms must be present:

  • Self-centeredness accompanied by feeling uncomfortable when not the center of attention
  • Excessive dramatics with exaggerated displays of emotion
  • Seeking reassurance or approval constantly
  • Inappropriate seductive appearance or behaviors
  • Rapidly shifting emotional states that appear shallow to others
  • Overly concerned with physical appearance, and using physical appearance to draw attention to self
  • Highly suggestible with opinions that are easily influenced by other people, but difficult to back up with details
  • Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they actually are

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Recommended reading: If you are looking to read from other bloggers on dysfunctional relationships and how to take control of your relational-life – Visit Shaftstuff

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