Often being used is a two-way street.
I was being manipulated. There were no two doubts about it.
It should have been easy to see from the request I received. But, I was disarmed by time, conversation, and a kind personality. There’s no point in lying, the attractiveness of the person who asked also helped.
Alright, maybe that last characteristic should have been the number one factor I listed.
We met completely randomly. We’ll call her Amie. I think that would be a perfect name for her. Mainly, because there’s no other Amie in my life right now. There’s also no other memory of any stellar Amie’s in my life who would be tarnished by this story; so Amie it is.
We had bumped into each other at a college function. Somewhere our social circles had intertwined in one of those weird 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon ways. When I think about it, it was a bit odd, because our social circles are so different.
I had graduated undergrad and was meeting a few of my friends at a function. We were both introduced by a friend of a friend. Despite us being so different, something clicked. We ended up talking for about 15 minutes and then talking through the rest of the function. Towards the end of the night, we exchanged information.
We’d go on to IM, text message, and call each other for a bit afterward. It’s been a while, so I don’t even remember how long she was part of my social circle.
Amie wasn’t the usual person who would be interested in chit-chatting with me. She had spent time as a model, she also danced, sang, and performed in stage shows. She also owned her own business as an interior decorator. It’s safe to say she was on the far edge of the artistic spectrum.
If you scroll through just things I’ve written, it would be easy to see I’m on the polar opposite end. Science, history, philosophy, and tech are my wheelhouse. My artistic abilities are limited to a sickly looking stick figure, sketched in one of my idea books. My stick figure looks extra skinny, like I haven’t fed him ages. He’s a sad creature.
We started talking about business oddly enough. I had been working on and off at my family’s small business. As a small business owner herself, we were able to speak the same language to a degree. She also had a good sense of humor and didn’t seem to take herself too seriously. We connected in this area too. A 25-minute long conversation wasn’t that hard when you had two links like that in common.
Our polar opposite lives were probably interesting for each other too. I’d listen to her explain traveling to a different country to put on a dance performance. That was entirely new to me to have that brought up in a conversation. Nobody I knew did things like that, it was an alien world. Maybe she got a bit of that from me as well. The books I read, people I interacted with, and things I saw didn’t fit into her standard world either.
A bit of novelty can truly make your world interesting. It almost gets turned on its head in a way.
Amie had told me that she was taking grad school classes. But after a while, she let her guard down a bit and told me she was having problems. Between running her business, the artistic career, and life in general, she was having problems dealing with grad school. She wasn’t a great student to begin with, having a serious time crunch made it even more difficult.
In particular, she had a major problem writing papers about business topics. She didn’t think she was up to par compared to other people in her class.
She showed me an example of something she wrote and she wasn’t far off. It seemed hurried and just thrown together. I gave her a couple of tips on how she could improve it and we moved on.
A week or so later, the topic came up again. She was struggling and had an assignment coming up and had to do much better. She showed me the assignment and I blurted out that I thought it was easy. I had a subscription to an M.I.T. Technology magazine where they talked about something her assignment revolved around.
I should have probably thought before I blurted that out. It probably wasn’t a good idea to admit I read that magazine too. It could make me a good candidate for getting beat up and having my lunch money taken.
She asked me since it was so easy, could I help her? I said of course, but quickly noticed something. She didn’t want me to help her, she wanted me to do it for her.
Insert evil foreshadowing music of doom right here __________
I laughed at first. C’mon Amie I thought, you can do this. You should do this, you signed up for this class. But I saw this look of desperation and I wanted to help. I’d also secretly wondered about grad school. I’d been thinking about going, I wondered if I was up to it.
As you could see, I was already making up excuses for writing the paper. You know where this story goes.
After the first paper I wrote, I was curious how it would be perceived. I wanted to know what grade I would get honestly. Amie called me right after she got the paperback. She was elated. I guess I did well. We met up and went over it and to my surprise, I guess I could write a paper on the level of a grad school student.
Of course, Amie thought this was awesome and started showing me my next assignment.
Woa, hold on there lady, what’s this “my next assignment” crap?
She gave me the desperation speech again. She was going to be out of town this upcoming week and she needed help. I explained how she could do the assignment herself and offered to give her material I would use to do it.
Nope. She needed help and she couldn’t do it by herself.
At some point in this new phase of our friendship, I became her employee and she was handing out assignments to me. I told her I didn’t want to do it, but it was Amie. I’d help her out again. It wasn’t like I was doing anything anyway certain nights after work. There was some free time in my life. I’d also see if my paper was a fluke or if I truly had the chops for grad school.
That’s what I told myself.
After the second paper, the results were the same. Her grade drastically improved and she had another assignment for me. Of course, there was a reason she couldn’t do this one either. At this point, I just flat out said no. The happily and bubbly Amie wasn’t happy or bubbly anymore. She was pissed. It wasn’t long after that we stopped talking.
I Let Myself Get Manipulated
I could go into a woe is me / poopy pants mentality about this.
I could cry about how I was manipulated and used by someone.
I could also bitch and complain about somebody using their looks and personality to cheat.
That’s not what happened though.
I let myself get manipulated. I saw something shiny and totally ignored everything else about it. Someone pushes me in a direction where I could be manipulated and I accepted the push easily.
I’d never thought of Amie as a girlfriend or somebody I’d want as a partner in a relationship; she was far too different from me. But, she had loads of attractive friends who instantly talked to me because they saw me with her. She had loads of interesting contacts that brought me near a portal to a new world.
I ignored certain things just because of the world that surrounded her. I hadn’t been totally truthful either. I just wasn’t interested in Amie as a friend, I’d been interested in her for what she had around her.
It also felt good to be needed as well. I had a skill that was necessary. It may not have been flashy or worthy of putting on film, but it was valuable.
My skill was thought of as valuable by someone of value.
Now, it’s not totally abnormal to befriend somebody for their qualities or abilities, but there should be more than just that. I wondered if I would have been as easy to make friends with her if she looked like an older version of me and her hobby was sitting on the couch and watching reruns of the Simpsons. Who knows? I’m sure I wouldn’t have been as willing to do a homework assignment for that person.
Manipulation can be a two-way street sometimes. There are those who are users and try and suck as much out of others around them as possible. However, manipulation often works two ways. You may very well let yourself be manipulated for something you’re manipulating in return.
It could even be the sympathy you get from those around you when you cry about the manipulation.
We’re strange creatures. Sometimes we take love in any way we can get it; even if its people hugging you after you’ve been stomped on. Some will even get trampled intentionally, just so there’s a reason for others to hug them.
So the next time you feel as if you’re being manipulated, examine it. Did you put the path in place for the manipulation? If so why?
You may have become somebody’s “employee” willingly.
I’m sure if you look at it more deeply, it’s not the first time either. The more I think about it, I wonder if this is a repeating story in my life.