Frenemy of the State

10 Oct

I have this friend who I hate, and…

Hmm. I hate to get bogged down in semantics so early on, but the above statement is not strictly true. She’s not really my friend, and I don’t really hate her. My dislike of this girl runs at various times from ‘vague’ to ‘prickly’, but mostly it’s a low-grade irritation that spikes occasionally – for example, when I’m in the kitchen washing the dishes in blessed silence and she detects my presence, walks out of her room (which is divided from the kitchen by a single wall which is apparently made from papier-mache), stands right next to me and attempts to begin a full-blown Small Talk Marathon. Or when I get stuck in the lift with her, or when she uses every space on the hob in making her dinner when all I want to do is heat up a bowl of damn soup, and…

I digress, once again. Perhaps it’s best to fully introduce this character before I can accurately describe how much I can’t stand her.

She is

  • Nineteen years old
    Recently arrived in the country
    Portuguese
    Capable of talking for approximately six hours on the trot without running out of ideas or becoming bored
    Incapable of being persuaded that any of her opinions are wrong

and she likes

  • Anime
    Arthurian legends
    J-Pop
    Chatting amiably (about herself)
    Complaining (about everything else)

and she dislikes

  • British food
  • British weather
  • British television
  • British films
  • British customs
  • Drinking
  • Any meal that does not involve vegetables or salmon fried in milk and served with fusili
  • Comedy
  • Western music
  • Letting other people talk
  • Mess or disorder of any kind
  • Loud noises after 11
  • Anyone who likes any of the things listed above

and I’m living with her in a student flat in my first year of university.

Honestly.

If you have ever met me in real life, you’ll understand how much this kind of person would grate on me. And grate she does, with apparently no idea that she’s doing it.

She doesn’t understand how British customs work, or why anyone would want to live the way British people do. She doesn’t understand why people watch TV so much, or why people get drunk, or why people eat unhealthy foods. She doesn’t see any need for the news, sports, politics, books that aren’t about fictional monarchs, and music that does not come from Japan (with one notable exception, about which more later). Despite her dislike of all things British, she considers herself to be a worldly and culturally sensitive individual, and is studying (God save us) International Relations, which is apprently part of the university’s new “Ideas Written on The Back of a Packet of Tabs at Four in the Morning” initiative. Her status as any kind of cultural mediator is somewhat in dispute, given the fact that if you refute or question any one of her opinions, she’ll cut you off with a “Yeah, but…” and immediately repeat her original point or segue into a completely irrelevant one. She is as irritating to me as it is possible to be without being actively leprous or one of the landed gentry.

Now, I’m sure that if I was a neurotic neat-freak with a bizarre attitude to other people’s lives and a case of OCD you could block out the sun with, I’d get along with her just fine. But her interests and mine clash in a way that almost seems purposefully designed to prove the most aggravation with the least contact. Take tonight, for example. It’s a Saturday, my two best friends are ill and I have about fifteen quid to my name, so I look up the local cinema’s website and see that they’re showing Scott Pilgrim vs. The World at 22:55. Perfect. Not so early that I’m bored when I get back, and not so late that I’ll have to battle through the endless hordes of drunk people on their way home from the clubs. I shuffle off to the cinema and enjoy two hours of Edgar Wright’s best work. In the last ten years, I’ve only seen one movie multiple times at the cinema, and Scott Pilgrim is it. I’m a fan of the original graphic novels, Edgar Wright is a great director, the movie is dripping with indie rock, pop-culture and eighties beat-em-up references: it’s a perfect storm. The film was awesome the first time, and awesome the second time. I wandered back up the street to my building and congratulated myself on catching it one last time before it leaves the cinemas.

After an hour or two, I hear the flat entrance open and close, and I’m struck with the traditional feeling of dread mixed with anger: It had really better not be her, otherwise I’ll…

It was her. She flounced in with a cheery “Hiii!” and began to busy herself pointlessly around the kitchen, as is her wont. Unfortunately, she’d caught me just as I was making a cup of tea (the cunning little shit) so I had to wait around for at least a minute. The silence was growing deeper, and I know how much she loves pointless conversation, so I threw her a bone (I’m not a complete bastard, after all) and asked her where she’d been.

“Oh, I just went to the cinema with some friends.”

“What did you see?”

“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World?”

Oh, please no. Don’t tell me she’s going to constantly turn up in the places I like to go.

“What? Really? Which cinema did you go to?”

“The one in the Light.” The same one I went to. Fuck.

“You went to the showing at five to eleven?”

She frowned.

“Yeah, why?”

“I was in that showing.”

She got unnecessarily excited about this.

“SHIT! What, seriously, like… SHIT! Oh WOW!”

She began to laugh uproariously. Maybe I’m just not astute enough, or maybe her comedic mind is more finely tuned than mine, but the situation did not seem overly hilarious.

“I didn’t see you! Where were you?”

“In the middle.”

“Oh! I was in the back, with all my friends. That’s where the best seats are, in the back.”

Right. “So what did you think of it?”

“Well, I’m going to download the soundtrack, because a couple of songs were really good…”

I’m taken aback. She likes music that doesn’t come from wanky Japanese animations? Maybe there’s some hope for her yet.

“…but I hated the movie.”

Oh.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. She is my polar opposite; if she can’t catch any of the Anglophonic pop-culture references and hates American films, video games, and laughter, then obviously she’d hate the movie. I fight the urge to break her neck and continue with my excruciatingly in-depth interrogation.

“Really?”

“Some of the lines were really funny and the music was good, but the rest was the worst shit ever. It made me want to bang my head against the wall.”

There are so many things I could have said at this point, like

Really? I could do that for you, if you like. Here, come stand against the fridge and wait while I fetch the iron

or

Well, you’re foreign and you hate mirth, so I suppose you probably didn’t catch the point of it

or

Indeed? It’s hilarious to British people. Maybe you’re not as internationally knowledgeable as you thought you were, eh?

or

Could you do me a huge favour and leave the room before I eviscerate you for being so fucking arrogant?

Maybe that last one was a bit harsh. In the end, I decided on:

“Well, it’s very Canadian, so maybe you didn’t pick up on some of the humour.”

“Yeah, but… well, maybe.”

The conversation stopped there. She left to go to her room, and I retired to mine with my cuppa to consider the many discrete ways in which I hate her guts.

Hopefully at some point she’ll get sick of the rest of us having fun all the damn time and move to a different floor. Or maybe she’ll drop out and find another country to irrationally despise, or maybe…

Well, I can’t see me getting to July without blowing up at her at least once. Here’s my question, beloved audience: how might I make her existence tolerable for the rest of the school year? Answers on a postcard, kids.

-J

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