I just saw this movie on TV, late at night, and was haunted by its depiction of a suffocatingly close friendship that revolves around need and control.
Have you ever had – or observed – a friendship like that? There’s usually one person who seems more dominant and demanding, and one who allows this to happen. They seem to share an identity, one that doesn’t permit either to grow or change. But you can’t really cite either one as villain or victim, since it’s a dance that takes two people to perform.
When an exasperated lover tells the Michelle Williams character that her best friend “controls” her, she is shocked. It’s not always easy to recognize the dynamics of a relationship when you’re in it. From my perspective, the controlling friend, played by Anna Friels, was more like an emotional vampire who thrived on sucking the joy from the other girl’s life. She is also a classic portrait of Borderline Personality Disorder, a condition so fucked up and harrowing that many shrinks balk at trying to treat it.
My mother was a Borderline and bipolar, too. Because of her, I can’t watch movies that feature a Maniac character; I still get freaked out by the trailer for The Shining. Because of her, I can’t stand people who try to control me, even though I have married two of them.
The first one is still a “control freak” who won’t even talk to you unless he gets to control the conversation. When I met him, I must have found that reassuring. I was only 16. Later, it was unbearable.
The second one, the Love of My Life, is so controlling that he won’t let me buy the groceries, because I “can’t do it right.” The other day, he said to me: “Let me open the sugar next time.” This gave me a frisson* of perverse glee; I’m 56 and my husband thinks I’m too incompetent to open a box of sugar!
Today, I experienced another secret thrill when I opened the new box of sugar while he was at work.
I think the moral here is that people can only control you if you let them. The control is yours to keep or give away. And sometimes, you can pretend to give it away as long as you remember deep down that you are the boss.
* frisson is the word for this week. Try to use it in conversation or in writing. See if you can keep a straight face!