I recently wrote to a somewhat famous “serendipitous friend” on Facebook, asking for assistance writing my memoir.
Serendipitous friends are, for me, one of the prime reasons to be involved in Facebook at all. They are people I don’t really know, or have perhaps met once through the whims of whatever forces guide these things. I have crossed paths and befriended them, enjoying insight, information, and perspectives that I would not have otherwise been exposed, and I hope to offer the same.
But, I am as they say, “working through some shit,” and I realize that contacting this author made her the latest victim of a pattern of behavior I wish to end. For brevity’s sake, and for lack of any kind of professional diagnosis, I am a “Serial Taker.” It manifests differently with close friends and family, but in the case of “serendipitous friends”, (especially those with public profiles and/or fame) it takes the form of me asking for free professional advice. I simply have not put in the work, yet I feel it somehow appropriate to ask someone else who HAS put in the work, and succeeded in a field In which I wish to play, to give me a free review. This not only gets me free professional advice, but spares me the ignominy of revealing my writing and personal self to a broader public and it’s criticism. I get to entertain the illusion of having this friend’s audience through her. I don’t have to earn my own audience, nor suffer its criticisms. Beyond that it allows me to inflate my sense of self-worth by claiming to know famous people who have responded to my emails. I gave up autograph seeking a long, long time ago recognizing the utter futility of vicarious fame, but I continue this pseudo-stalking, in search of effortless, riskless connection, fame or appreciation.
It’s a sickness. It is rude, self aggrandizing and wrong. It is quite frankly an abuse of friendship; a shitty, “no-risk” tactic on my part, by which I protect myself from ever having to give, or risk being vulnerable.
Being a Serial Taker is like walking into a bank and setting up a savings account, depositing a few pennies, to make the bank like me, then inevitably (and unexpectedly) asking for a sizable mortgage. But unlike a bank, friends –even serendipitous ones — aren’t doing credit checks on my reciprocity, and I have written all the terms in my contract so that I have nothing to lose.
I set myself up to live on the kindness and good-faith credit of friends, then default on the loan.