[Two Pronged] A barkada that pries too much
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I am Hanna, 50, 20 years single. My boyfriend, “Phillipe” is 54, and lives in France. We are in a long distance relationship. We are very ok. The problem is my high school “barkada.”
Twice a year, we meet to make sure we never lose touch with each other. My 3 closest friends whom I see weekly also come from this barkada.
Another problem is my “Europe group.” My boyfriend is French. Two years ago, as my surprise birthday present, he arranged a European trip starting in Manila so I would be among my fellow Filipinos.
His thoughtfulness made me so happy. Because we were the only intercultural couple, everyone noticed us, asking questions like my close barkada friends do. After they met Phillipe, they kept on asking about whether “something happened between us?” Too awkward for me to answer.
My close barkada friends always ask me the same thing: “Oy, may nangyari na ba sa inyo?” (Has anything happened between the two of you?) I just ignore the question. They are my close friends so they should know what kind of person I am – private and not liking those kinds of questions.
Plus, it is always impromptu, when I am not prepared and no warning. It is like they want to shock me into telling the truth. I say nothing so they think nothing is happening physically
The Europe group are different. When I don’t answer, they immediately tell me: “Dapat may nangyari na. Bading yan. Mag break na kayo pag balik mo sa Pilipinas." (Something should have happened by now. He is gay. Break up with him.)
We have been together for six years. I know Philippe, he is not gay.
Like my high school friends, they ask in front of other people, which makes it doubly hard for me to ignore them. Maybe I am imagining things, but I feel they are disappointed because I don’t open up to them.
It’s as if gusto nilang makilig, but I am not cooperating. (It’s as if they want to live vicariously through me, but I’m not cooperating)
I want to shout to all of them: “Leave us alone!”
HELP! Should I leave my Filipino group? My Europe group?
Gossip being a mainstay of so many social groups worldwide, it should not come as much of a surprise that both your barkadas are interested in your relationship with Phillipe, an interest that is perhaps enhanced by the fact that he is a foreigner. Were he Filipino, all sorts of information could in all probability be mined from your barkadas’ relatives, friends and acquaintances but his foreignness adds an air of mystery and enhances their curiosity.
What is noteworthy is the difference in their approaches to the subject. The Filipinos seem merely interested in how far your relationship has gone whereas the Europeans appear keen that you should demonstrate your independence and leave Phillipe if he doesn’t measure up to the appropriate standard.
Of course, this may be reading too much into what is after all a very abbreviated summary of your problem.
What you don’t really address at all is your own attitude to all this. Sure, you tell us you are a very private person but you are 50, you have been friends with these people for years and you surely have developed coping mechanisms over all this time to deflect unwanted questions about your erotic relationships or indeed other aspects of your life that you have no desire to share.
So why has this Phillipe business ruffled your feathers? You would do well to analyze this matter since your findings could tell you much about yourself and your relationship with your barkada friends. Since you are powerless to change the way your friends behave, the way forward seems to be to change yourself and how you react to their questioning and/or change your friends.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. My hypothesis is that the anger you express is not really anger, but more sadness about people you believed were your friends but who thought nothing of betraying you.
As you yourself said, “they should know what kind of person I am—private and not liking those kinds of questions”.
Indeed, they know it, but that is not because they are close friends. If not, would they knowingly choose the most difficult situations for you before asking their uncomfortable questions?
According to Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, there are three types of friendships: The first type, friendship based on utility, people associate for their mutual usefulness. The second type, people associate for the sake of pleasure. These are relationships one forms to facilitate or eventuate one’s own pleasure. The third type is grounded in virtue, an essentially selfless relationship, unbound by maintenance of utility or pleasure but sustainable over a lifetime
Your “friendships” belong to the first or second category, certainly not the third. The third would mean being grounded in virtue and no one, by any stretch of imagination, would consider people in your high school or Europe group as that.
If you want to shout to all of them: “Leave us alone!” by all means do so. I would suggest not to do it with your entire barkada/s present as this would merely be giving another opportunity for them to gang up on you.
Bakit ka pikon? Concered lang kami sa welfare mo? — which is bullshit to the 9th degree, but no use being distracted by arguing about this. Best to just move on.
Des, this mean you can never join them for meetings and parties? Not necessarily, as long as you “demote” them to friendships of the second type (so you can still enjoy being together) and not let them closer into you heart. A sad lesson to learn indeed, especially at our age but a lesson worth learning if we want friends Aristotle describes as belonging to Type 3 which surely all of us do, Hanna.
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.