Monday, April 14, 2014

Unless You Are In Providence, RI; Friendship Is A Two-Way Street

Dear Tazi:

I find myself in a rather delicate situation, and I am not quite certain how to address it. I have a friend who is a lot of fun to be around when times are good; but when things start to go downhill for "Chris" he turns into a selfish jerk who can't see past the end of his own nose. More often than not, times are bad or teetering on bad because Chris also has a horrible work ethic. He refuses to do what he needs to do to survive, preferring to do what he wants to do; even if it doesn't bring in enough money to pay his bills. This is where my problem gets complicated.

"Chris" considers himself to be a modern artist, which I guess is one way you could describe his work, because I don't consider that stuff to be real art. Chris' work is very simplistic - he will take a plate of half-eaten food and spray it with shellac; then declare it his latest work, calling it something like "Remains of an Appetite". His titles are always catchy, but his work...just isn't art. Unfortunately, Chris just doesn't see this and is constantly pressuring me - and the rest of our friends - to buy his "creations"; offering us a "friends and family" price, usually in the range of a few thousand dollars. When we refuse to buy his stuff he accuses us of being un-supportive of his artistic and economic endeavors, and then blames us for his financial woes. When we suggest that he look for a steady job with a regular paycheck, we get accused of not understanding him, on top of not being supportive (this is a regular complaint from him: that he - and his "art" - are misunderstood). He then offers us the chance to "make up for it" by loaning him money that he will repay in the form of favors - mowing the lawn or other house-chores that we don't pay others to do, that he never gets around to doing anyway, and that will not return the cash he "borrowed" to our bank accounts.

I realize this letter probably sounds fake by now, but trust me it is a real problem. I would like to tell Chris to take a hike the next time he harps on me to buy one of his sculptures or paintings or to outright give him money (in return, of course, for favors from him); but the last person who did that got trashed on every social media site you can think of, including here on Chris wasn't just blowing off steam - he mentioned this person by name, which now appears in Google searches for her, which is making her search for a new and better job rather difficult. When she asked him to remove her name from his rants, he told her that she had made her bed, and now she could lay in it. He later apologized to her (after she threatened legal action against him), claiming that he was "depressed that day" because yet another gallery had rejected his portfolio for display. However, the damage to her reputation has been done. I would really like to avoid a similar fate, but am not sure how to disentangle myself from this delicate situation. Chris and I run in the same social circles, so I can't avoid him forever.

Part-Time Actor, Full-Time Realtor

Dear Part-Time Actor...:

I take all letters seriously, and can generally tell when they are fake. Yours sounds sincere.

Some artists - like some actors - can be extremely sensitive about their work, taking to heart the slightest criticism of their craft. These people are also the type to be chronically unemployed in their field because they have inflated their own worth to a level far beyond what others see. Does this describe your friend Chris?

I can understand your desire not to be publicly flogged via the social networking sites that litter the Internet, but you cannot allow yourself to be coerced into maintaining a friendship where all of the benefits are headed in one direction. Friendship is not a one-way street (unless you are in Providence, RI; where Friendship Street actually is enforced for one-way traffic).

Welcome to Providence, RI!
The next time Chris asks you to purchase one of his creations, surprise him: tell him you would like to view his selection, and take a few days to consider where you might display it in your home - and then do it. If you still decide his work is hideous, you can honestly tell him that you considered his work; but that is just doesn't go with your decor. This may not get him off your back completely, but if nothing else it will buy you a few days of peace from his incessant requests. Should his requests continue, ask him if he has anything new since you last reviewed his stuff and if he thinks it would go with your decorating. In other words, humor him until he gets tired of making an effort to actually sell his work.

When you see Chris at social functions I suggest that you do not approach him, and do your best to be in deep, personal conversation with another should he choose to approach you. To interrupt would be rude, but if he does you will have an excuse to ignore him for a few days; until you "get over the slight". As childish as this sounds, you need to play his game in order to beat him at it.

The next time Chris asks to "borrow" money in return for favors worked, suggest to him that he do the work up-front, and that you will pay him an agreed upon price. If his work ethic is as awful as you claim, I doubt he will approach you again about one of these loans. Sooner or later (hopefully sooner!) Chris will stop seeing you as an easy target and will most likely distance himself from you, as there is nothing that you can do for him that would not involve a serious effort on his part. Either that, or he will work on changing his attitude...however, I would not bet my money on that horse.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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