How to Make Friends with Damaged Girls and Boys

Let them be honest, and they’ll love you for it.

First dates aren’t a great place to share stories about your screwed up childhood, or so I’ve noticed. Surprisingly, it doesn’t turn anyone on. Most guys will bang damaged girls, but never date them.

At least not for very long.

Personally, I don’t mind when people commit the supposed sin of oversharing. One of the most interesting people I ever met told me about how her step-dad sexually assaulted her for months. Until one day, she smacked him with a golf club and sent him to the emergency room.

She told me all this on our first night out. It was a cool story. She told it in a funny way. Even added sound effects.

When she describes hitting her step-dad, she goes “WHAM!” Then she thanks her real dad for leaving the clubs behind.

This story makes her acquaintances uncomfortable. They’ve never lived through anything like that. So they have no idea what to say. They don’t even know why she would share a story like that. But you know who appreciates it? Other survivors. People like me, with our own damage. It’s not weird for us to talk about taboo topics.

My friend uses this story as a kind of litmus test. If you can handle it, then you can be her friend.

And maybe more, if she likes you like that.

If you can’t deal with her stories, then you’re friend-zoned and moved to the outer circle. She doesn’t have time for sheltered puppies.

We often judge people for how they reveal their past. Girls aren’t much better than guys on this front. We want to read about brooding, moody gentlemen in Jane Austen novels. But we’re not exactly swiping right on the real life Mr. Darcy’s of the world.

Seriously, could you imagine that guy’s Tinder profile?

It’s not exactly smart to air your dirty laundry in public. Even if someone else is the one who sullied you.

But it’s not exactly fair to judge, either.

We throw around terms like “damaged” as a callous insult. As if they asked for their uncle to touch them there.

As a damaged person myself, I’ve learned that you’re never really allowed to talk about the bad shit you survived. Ever. You’re expected to keep it to yourself, unless you can make it entertaining.

At best, you’re allowed to tell your story once or twice. Then people don’t want to hear it anymore.

Even our spouses get tired of us.

Let’s say I’m in a bad mood because I had a flashback about calling the cops on my mom. Or a trip to the emergency room. Or a visit to the mental health clinic. Or a night of cleaning her piss and blood off the floor.

Well, nobody wants to hear about that. So I just have to deal with it — by writing, by going to the gym, blasting heavy metal on my headphones, or having a drink. I’m extremely lucky to have these outlets, and know better than to post vague status updates that irritate everyone.

Our friends will say things like, “You should talk about your problems.” But wait a minute. Not with them.

That’s not what they meant. Hah.

Forming connections with survivors can be hard.

Sometimes, a friend or colleague actually does want to “get to know me better.” They want to knock down those walls. So they start asking deep, almost invasive questions — hoping that I’ll start talking about how deep down I really did love my mom or something.

But I didn’t love her. It’s not a big deal anymore. We simply never formed a connection. She didn’t like me until I accidentally wound up becoming all the things she wanted, despite the abuse.

Those of us who survived abuse know the importance of honesty. Of not white-washing our past. Of the power to forgive, or withhold forgiveness. Some of us needed therapy, others just a lot of work.

Our past doesn’t mean we need a hug and an ice cream cone every afternoon. Abuse isn’t a booboo that can be kissed or f*cked away.

But anyone who wants to be a real friend to a survivor has to accept the honest answers to the personal questions they ask us.

Not the fake ones.

Sure, some people share way too much about their past. They wear their trauma and abuse like a scarlet letter. It’s true that reliving your abusive past over and over can keep you from moving forward.

Feeling sorry for yourself just stunts your growth — your career, your relationships, your health.

Survivors don’t want the world’s pity.

We’d just like to stop lying about our past in order to make all of our friends feel more comfortable at lunch.

We’d like to stop pretending we love our moms, in order to make ourselves palatable for a culture that doesn’t like talking about abuse.

We’d like everyone to respect us for doing such a good job with life, despite our shitty foundation.

We’d like the world to acknowledge that survivors don’t ever really “get over it.” There’s echoes and residue.

If you can handle all that, then you can be a good friend to a survivor. And they’ll be a good friend to you. Some of us make really nice guard dogs. We promise not to eat the couch pillows while you’re at work.