The Reciprocation Confusion (Flash Fiction)

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Flash Fiction #155

I wonder if you have experienced this, but I certainly have. There’s this acquaintance, with whom you haven’t had much interaction. She (or he) showed up in a party or a meeting you both attended. Then you met in grocery stores, hair salons etc. After a while, you know each other. One day, she becomes friendly with you and talk you into accepting a favor from her, which you don’t even know you need such a favor before she talks you into it. It could be a brand name outfit you never know about, for which she has a way of getting a discount; it could be a book fashionable people are all reading, which she could lend to you; or it could be something related with one’s spouse, in-laws, children etc. Anyway, what I am saying is that you really don’t know that you need this. However you are convinced you need it.

When she starts to ask you for a favor, you feel very happy to return the favor. And the next thing you know, you become her friend. And slowly and gradually, you feel that she’s always politely saying something to you for a certain purpose or trying to convince you of something. And it is often that you are obliged to accept her more “up-to-date” or “high end” or “fashionable” favor, which you never really know you need it before she persuades you into it. And you are always owing her a favor. You end up doing all the real favors for her out of the rule of reciprocation, sacrificing your time, energy, convenience etc.

This is all happening in a very polite and imperceptible way. You don’t even know it happened but it happened. After a while, other people consider you to be her sidekick. Worse, other people start to think she has done you a lot of favors and you just can’t repay her enough. When you finally wake up and realize the toxic nature of this friendship, you break up with her. What would happen? You suddenly find that other people consider you a heartless friendship breaker; other people think that you don’t want to repay all the favors she has done for you; other people eye you a little warily.

And the problem is that as an introvert, you don’t go around to talk with people about your friends or family members. But she loves to talk with others. And she has told everyone the favors she has done for you, but she has rarely told anybody the things you have done for her.

This was a typical narcissistic friendship I fell into several times before. As I was a country lout from the southern border of Mongolian Steppe, I tried hard to blend into the city crowd when I attended the boarding high school in the city. I was so diffident and I had a contemptible accent. Nobody wanted to be my friend. The only ones who wanted to be my friend were one or two narcissists who wanted me to be their narcissistic supplier.

Since then, I have learned my lesson and understood how to watch out for the subtle sign of narcissism embedded in everyday conversations, transactions and relationships. Even though I am very vigilant, I know that I can still fall victim to the next narcissist looking for his or her enabler, flying monkeys or victims.

27 thoughts on “The Reciprocation Confusion (Flash Fiction)

    1. Me too. I had several disastrous friendships. I feel like I tried hard to please others, but others were hardly pleased. I behaved like a damaged person (but look normal from outside) and it is hard to step out of the shadow of a narcissistic upbringing.

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    1. Oh, narcissists will do that. So true. And introverts are not outspoken enough to defend themselves. After a while, everybody is recruited by the narcissist and stand by the narcissist. It is quite comical and quite sad.

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        1. Narcissists are also helped by modern medicines. They take pills to jack up their energy and suppress their depression. The modern society is creating more and more narcissists…

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  1. One doesn’t realize these things till one hasn’t sunk deep enough to feel the discomfort and suffocation. There are always people waiting to take advantage of others. Just have to learn the lesson and move on and those who wish to thrive on gossip are welcome to be their petty best. Sometimes turning a blind eye is the best. 🙂

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    1. Yes, sooooo true. Terveen. You are right on the point. Narcissists can be very subtle. Some of the narcissists identify our weaknesses and work their way subtly to suck us in. Actually some of the narcissists are just people who brought up by narcissists, who behave like narcissists through habits… Narcissism is a very very messy thing and it is almost hard to delineate its borders or categorize it since it is sometimes manifested in this way and sometimes in another way.

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    1. Haha, it is true. There’s a pandemic of narcissism right now. And it is infectious. One narcissist in a family can infect many people around him or her. Yes, be careful and try to avoid them. If one can’t avoid, one has to pretend to be a grey rock.

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        1. Haha, yes, pretending to be someone emotional can really turn narcissists away since they don’t know how to deal with emotions, which can’t fall into their pre-designed plans or their emotionless life patterns.

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