Enough Is Enough
Ever have one of those friends?
by John Francis Leonard
Have you ever had one of those friends? Someone that you can have fun and get along with, but who has certain things about them that make your friendship untenable and sometimes volatile? I had one until recently and looking back now, I’m surprised that it lasted as long as it did. I put up with things that go against my sincerely held convictions in order to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Never again.
I met “Dwight” on a dating app. We really hit it off and he was cute, but quickly some cracks started to show. At the time, he lived in Baltimore and eventually we decided that I would take the train down and we’d meet. However, there had been serious alarm bells already. He reacted to my HIV status poorly, to say the least. He refused to accept the reality of U=U, no matter how much I tried to educate him otherwise. We reached a détente at condom usage and safe sex practices, but it was an uneasy one. The thing that should have been a deal breaker was his statement that people with HIV somehow were culpable and deserved what they got. I cringe typing that now and wonder what compelled me to give him any kind of chance, but I did.
If there’s something I can’t tolerate, it’s racism or intolerance of any kind. Dwight made various racist, transphobic and intolerant comments often and when I’d get angry, he’d accuse me of not being able to take a joke. Surprisingly, but perhaps not so surprisingly, he disdained his own community, often saying that all gay men only care about wearing make up, Madonna, and either dressing in, or watching drag—as if any of those things was a problem in the first place. He saw the world in generalities and through a narrow lens, to put it mildly. The most surprising thing is that his mother is South Asian and his father was Latino! He, by all rights, should be tolerant, but is the product of wealthy parents and grew up in Scarsdale, New York, this country’s wealthiest zip code. That background makes for a very conservative world view in his case.
Well, the trip to Baltimore didn’t end in a love match, to say the least. I just wasn’t attracted to him for various reasons, but primarily because of his views. Suffice it to say that he was quick to turn it around and make it as if he was rejecting me rather than just let it settle into just a friendship tactfully. Surprisingly, however, we had a nice time and he was a generous host. I felt sorry for him, I could see that he was lonely and shocked to learn, it’s not so shocking now, that at forty-five he’s still a virgin. I returned home and we remained friendly, but I would constantly get angry when he would say something racist or intolerant. Why are you so sensitive, can’t you take a joke? I heard that from him far too often. He worked for a nursing home as an administrator with a large number of black employees that he would often criticize. He was fired after a dispute with one of those women, and I’m dead certain that I didn’t get the whole story. He moved to New York City to take another position and we fell out of touch for nearly a year. I didn’t even get in touch when I visited the city and just let sleeping dogs lie. To be perfectly honest, it was a relief.
Earlier this year, he turned up again. Like a bad penny, as my grandmother used to say. He was considering a great job offer in my city. He had often talked of moving to a smaller city. It, for him anyway, was some sort of sign that we could be best friends. I was reluctant at first, but, while I have made wonderful friends here over the years, I don’t have a lot of other gay men among them. I got caught up in the excitement and we made lots of plans. I still had misgivings, but decided to give him another chance regardless. But as Maya Angelou famously said, ”‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Things went well for a few months. I’d go to his loft downtown and cook occasionally, which I usually enjoy. But it was challenging in his poorly equipped kitchen. It was a gorgeous kitchen, don’t get me wrong, but he lacked a lot of the basic tools and supplies, which made it tricky. But he was generous and bought the ingredients for these vegan feasts, so I didn’t complain. It was a fair exchange, or so I thought. I don’t have a wealthy mother bankrolling me and my budget is tight, which he wasn’t exactly sensitive to, but again, I let it slide. He had an attitude when one of the meals didn’t turn out as well as it could have, but I let it slide.
I don’t think he became more tolerant this time around, but he managed to not make too many racist comments in order to keep the peace. But I knew who he was; I should have ended it.
It all came to a head about a month ago. He said we couldn’t get together that weekend as planned because he had a chance to catch a ride to Scarsdale to see his mother and it meant he could bring his two large, boisterous, but loving dogs. I happened to log into the dating app we both use that same weekend, and there he was, online and a few miles away. There was no need to lie—we had both postponed plans before; no need for excuses. When he got back, I didn’t confront him about it, but I was already irritated with him. He knew that I had viewed his profile, but we kept up the fallacy. I let it drop.
Then he texted me a question that always led to a problem. Could he ask me a question without my getting offended? When he’d ask that, it was a guarantee that he would, in fact, say something offensive. He wanted to know how would I feel if someone reacted negatively to my status online, someone I had been interested in. Was he kidding? That’s exactly what he had done to me previously. When I replied to him saying that I would simply wish them well and move on, he went off on me. I asked repeatedly if we could have this very sensitive conversation face to face, but he said that I had an attitude when he had simply come to me for advice. Evidently he had met someone who’s poz online. He went on and on disparaging me completely and throwing his generosity in my face. Yes, he had bought ingredients for me to cook and bought me brunch when I was in Baltimore. What’s the point of being generous only to throw it in the person’s face? I bit my tongue and let him end the friendship. I felt guilty about it for about a week. Could I have been more patient? Certainly, but this is the man who went off the deep end and impugned my character when I told him about my own HIV status, the man who said that black people are lazy, that thought the word tranny was funny. I just can’t be friends with someone who has no respect for others, that is someone that I can’t respect. I don’t miss him one bit!
John Francis Leonard is an advocate and writer, as well as a voracious reader of literature, which helps to feed his love of the English language. He has been living with HIV for fifteen years. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.