There are few more uncomfortable, emotionally-conflicting circumstances than disliking someone who’s universally esteemed by everyone around you. Maybe it’s the new boss who rescues puppies with paralyzed tails or the friend of a friend who throws really awesome theme parties with free swag. Every time this unpleasant individual comes around, you find yourself stifling eye-rolls and pokering your bitch face.
The person in question may be completely innocent of doing or saying anything off-color, but they’re just not your cup of tea. These people are the people whose company you’d rather avoid. They give off one of those “vibes” that would make your hair stand up if you were a Labrador Retriever.
And yet you’re alone in your distaste, because it makes you seem like you’re auditioning for Mean Girls nine years too late, or you’re just being a stubborn asshole. Nobody else you know hates them. Everyone else loves them! But there’s something about Mr. Perfect that you just can’t shake.
“So what did you think of Cassandra!? Isn’t she a sweetheart?”
“I heard you met Bob! What a swell guy.”
“Have you seen any art by Ricovi? He’s a genius!”
You’ll be completely dumbfounded, because Cassandra didn’t impress you as a human being, you can’t imagine why anyone would ever describe Bob as a “swell guy,” and you’ve seen good ol’ Ricovi’s art, and it looks like the kind of finger painting an optimistic art teacher would cite as budding “the next great talent” during parent-teacher conferences.
When you break this bad news, your companion will react with the same level of horror as if you’d informed them you hate Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Jennifer Lawrence. They will start rattling off all the wonderful qualities about Cassandra, Bob, or Ricovi to try and convert you with all the shamelessness as most Jehovah’s Witnesses in your front yard. Did you know Cassandra volunteers? Bob is helping us re-tile the bathroom for free! Ricovi is showing in a gallery you’ve never heard of!
My affections aren’t determined by a list of impressive qualities or qualifications—in my book, you can be both Astronaut Mike Dexter AND an asshole. In human interaction, there’s no logarithm to determine if you and so-and-so are going to complement each other as flawlessly as french fries and a chocolate shake. Sometimes you just don’t like someone, as frustratingly simple and arbitrary as that may be.
… But then we’ll start to doubt our own minority opinion. We’ll rehash every interaction to see if we’ve been unfair. We start to assume this unpopular feeling is a system failure in our emotional epicenter, so we’ll Google images of puppies running through a patch of daisies just to be certain we haven’t become totally heartless. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds. With all the things there are in the world to feel insecure about, your dislike of another human being should be a priority even lower than your pores or your love handles.
I think we’ve all been on both sides of the struggle. We’ve played both the friend caught in the middle who’s desperate for harmony and the skeptical, out-of-fucks-to-give rebel who wants nothing more than to be free to dislike whomever they choose. Difficult as it may be, we need to accept that not everyone we meet is going to become our new emergency contact, and our antipathy doesn’t foretell sleeping with Cassandra’s fiancé, slashing Bob’s tires, or writing caustic reviews about Ricovi’s latest magnum opus.
Too often we push people to “give _____ a chance” when what we’re really saying is, “realize you’re wrong and feel the same way about _____ as me so we can film an episode of Three’s Company!” We need to give up our rigid vegetarian stances and let people have their beef with other people. But by that same token, there’s a big difference between respectfully, but still causelessly, disapproving of someone and being outright rude and ignorant toward them for no reason. Disliking someone doesn’t give you a free pass to act like a jerk; as tempting as it may be, save your frustrations for your kickboxing class or your significant other’s sympathetic ear.
When you’re eventually wrong about someone you identified as “the worst ever” in the past, don’t let your pride get in the way of letting them become one of your closest confidants. If nothing ever changes and Cassandra’s still being Cassandra, there’s nothing wrong with not liking her. You don’t need to apologize or explain yourself to any Pollyanna who’s trying to turn your bitchy lemons into lemonade. Similarly, keep in mind that your opinion about someone you adore isn’t the law of the land. If your college bestie doesn’t like your new work friend, let it go and stop bringing them together like it’s another remake of The Parent Trap.
The people in your life who rub you the wrong way shouldn’t give you an eye twitch. Enjoy the people who are your cup of tea, unjustifiably loathe who you loathe, and be nice. Who knows: your attitude may be making you the friend that somebody else loathes unconditionally, too.