The first time I had an inkling that my friend Ben was writing articles about our friendship was when I read his Daily Hail piece titled, ‘Is it ever okay to tell your friend they’re a terrible person?’
In the article Ben wrote about a friend called ‘Jenny’ who had borrowed his red jumper and returned it covered in cat hair. I decided not to assume his writing was about me. The jumper I’d borrowed from Ben was orange and the hair was Pomeranian. (I didn’t own a lint roller and had done my best with a wad of Blu Tack).
The next article Ben sold to Men’s Daily was titled, ‘The five ways to dump a toxic friend’. Ben had done extensive research for this article. He had interviewed a real-life celebrity psychologist by reading their book and distilled their advice in between stories of how awful his friend was. Ultimately, it was really only one piece of advice, ‘Don’t spend time with your toxic friend’ but Ben managed to break it up into five parts: Don’t respond to their emails, Don’t respond to their text messages, Don’t answer their phone calls, Pretend you’re very busy and important, and Hide.
I couldn’t help but wonder, am I Ben’s toxic friend? Particularly when I found Ben crouching in the pantry. He said he was looking for a potato and I chose to believe him.
It was when I read Ben’s article in Junkabel, ‘The day I realised I hate my housemate’ that I finally had no doubt that he secretly publicly hated me. Ben included an anecdote about his horrible housemate sending him a passive aggressive email asking if he wanted a puppy. Despite Ben anonymising the email address as firstname.lastname@example.org I knew the email he quoted was from me because I had written it and he included my spelling errors. No-one else spells bureaucrat quite that badly.
The scales fell from my eyes and I realised Ben was maintaining our relationship just to write about how awful it was. After a minute of reflection, I calmed down. We all need to earn a crust. Not everyone is lucky enough to own a Pomeranian walking business. I just wish Ben would stop tagging me when he shares the links.