Every once in a while I have, in my real life interactions, what I like to call “a Nacho moment.” I’ll sort of slip into the Nacho persona and say or do something that horrifies the regular people. Actually, it probably happens more frequently than I realize, and I know that it’s happening only when I’m well into that second bottle of wine, so shut the fuck up. Stop doing that judgmental fucking staring thing that you do. Jesus Christ.
So, anyway, in the last three years or so I’ve gathered a whole new group of friends. They’re neighbors who have become friends more or less solely because we live in a gated townhome community and we’re all living right up against each other, sharing paper thin walls and never out of each other’s lines of sight. We’re bound by paranoia, affluence, and entitlement. The last three years of this new life with these new friends has felt disturbingly like I’m Dr. Laing from J.G. Ballard’s dystopian suburban satire High-Rise. (They totally dropped the ball on the movie, by the way. Don’t waste your time. But you should read the book.)
So it’s inevitable that there would eventually be tension in these close-quarters neighborly relationships. The problem is compounded by the fact that my household of two is the only one where we actually drag our asses to shit-swilling day jobs. All of our neighbors are wealthy beyond avarice and have nothing to do all day but develop complicated hobbies and stand at their windows trying to think up unnecessary drama that they can inflict on everyone else.
In the last year or so, my girlfriend and I have been rubbed the wrong way on almost a weekly basis. It’s always a small thing that we choose to ignore because the problems are probably just in our heads, or they don’t matter (because nothing matters, really), or we’re afraid to rock the boat because all these people sitting around all day are on the very powerful HOA board and can visit untold misery upon us. (Since we’ve gleefully egged them on when it comes to visiting untold misery upon the neighbors we dislike, we’re very much aware that the worm must always turn.)
Generally, I’ve felt like the court jester for this group of elites. Let’s see what Nacho says/does when we pour wine down his throat. Ha ha, isn’t Nacho a funny guy? The words “we’re inviting you to the party just to see what hilarious things you do” have actually been spoken to me. At one party, where I minded my P’s and Q’s, I was told, “I don’t like you when you’re sober. You’re just not as funny.”
Those are comments and attitudes that I would classify as “symptoms of an unhealthy relationship.” Those are just two examples of something I’ve felt (or, worse, have heard vocalized) on a routine basis. So I’ve started to back away from my neighbors. I’ve busied myself on other projects – I have a book coming out, I run my own company, I’m writing more for GS, I’m going to stockpile enough weapons to kill everyone at my day job and last through an FBI siege for eight days. You know, the usual stuff.
This has led to the neighbors being more and more insistent that I come to their parties. I’ll decline the invitation (or, increasingly, just ignore it) for days and days. But, most of the time, I cave in. Certain neighbors have learned to prey upon the Catholic guilt. Which is easy. If you don’t come to the party, then… X will happen. Where X = the host and/or a guest will be hurt or insulted. Like, say, someone has planned something special for me and my failure to come will be bad. Some examples are: “someone baked your favorite dish” and “we’re only having the party because that’s when you’ll be in town.”
Of course, these things are never true. It’s just the final attempt to get me to come over after I’ve said no three times. And, once over, alcohol is forced on me. I get a private bottle, I’m seated in a corner, and I’m verbally bullied to finish the bottle in what is a bizarre homage to college drinking games and heightened peer pressure. All of this becomes especially sinister when the precedent is basically “we want to see what you’ll do.”
In the most recent adventure, what I did was slur an alarmingly racist joke that would have made my grandfather proud and I dropped the dreaded N-bomb. In mixed racial company, no less. Which is horrible and I am appalled at myself, I admit. It was the ultimate Larry David moment. I have no explanation for my actions and I feel bad even writing about it. But, you know, this is what the internet is for. This and bukkake.
My hideous joke broke up the party instantly (which, in a silver lining sense, I found rather gratifying). My day after mental state did involve a heaping helping of regret because, yes, jeez… Dude. What’s with that shit? There was an equal measure, though, of, well, I don’t know…a weird sort of peace. Like, hey, your lesson here is: Don’t nag me to attend your parties and then treat me like a clown. This is exacerbated when you talk about my broken fucking family and childhood in front of people I’ve recently met, mock my girlfriend, and revisit tired old stereotypes and jokes about my own culture and religion.
I know, I know. “Jeez, Nacho, cowboy up. You need thicker skin.” Well…maybe. Maybe not, though.
I was repeatedly asked to issue an apology. I was told that two of the partygoers became “physically ill” because they heard that word. My girlfriend got long texts about the horrified state everyone was in and how they still all like her despite my evil, hateful ways.
I sent out apologies, and they were not accepted. Which is fine and understandable.
So here we are, a few days after Nacho said a highly charged racist word. Friendships have ended, the community has ruptured. And… It’s fucking great! Along with this party where I vented racist insanity, I was also heavily guilted into attending multiple other parties next week. I have about a million things to do next week, so I tried to politely refuse those events as well and, after about three weeks of nagging, I was told that my refusal would be “the highest of insults and would severely damage my friendship with the host.”
Well, turns out it wouldn’t have beenthe highest of insults, so, at the very least, I hope I provided some useful perspective.
We’ll call this Social Lesson #5823/A: “Forget All of Your Grandfather’s Black People Jokes.”