If you could wave a magic wand and make one of your friends disappear forever...which of them would it be? I know the answer. It would be the one whose texts you dread. The one who sends you a Christmas card even though you haven't returned the gesture for seven years. The one who invites you to parties again and again and again...even though you would rather feed your genitals to a horse than go to one of their thinly-populated house parties. The one who always calls you up when you're eating dinner and who always leaves a message and who never gets the hint.
They are your social circle's inflamed appendix and I am diagnosing you right now with (wait for it) aFRIENDicitis! (OMG I am totally like Carrie bloody Bradshaw!)
I remember the first time I cut out an afriendix. I was in my third year of university and Amy was a somewhat needy young woman with only two friends: Ben and Jerry. I hadn't known her for more than six months but she had rapidly become attached to me. Who wouldn't? I just could not get rid of her. I tried ignoring her phone calls and avoiding her at lectures. I hid in doorways when she passed by and took circuitous routes to and from my halls but she was surprisingly energetic and remarkably persistent.
Now, it just so happened that I had crabs at the time and I was busily enacting the scorched earth approach to getting rid of the little blighters. As I burned my towels, shaved my body hair and smeared myself in foul-smelling chemicals, I looked at the three missed calls and five unanswered text messages on my phone and thought: perhaps the same approach might be necessary with Amy.
So, I waited for her next pounce. I did not have to wait long. That evening, my phone rang and for once, I answered it. The conversation went something like this...
AMY: Oh Andy, you're there!
AMY: I haven't talked to you for ages! Where have you been?
ME: Oh mostly in my room.
AMY: I know, I saw your light on! Listen, I'm having a dinner party on Thursday night.
ME: Uh-huh. Who else is going?
AMY: Well no one yet.
ME: Right. Listen, I think I should just be honest...
AMY: Oh no, you're not busy are you? It's fine, I can change the date!
ME: No, the thing is I don't like you that much.
ME: I think you're lovely but I don't want to be your friend. We're not going to be in touch in ten years' time.
AMY: Aren't we?
ME: No. So, really, why bother being in touch now? We don't have much in common. I just think we should go our separate ways.
Well reader, I shan't carry on. She was crying by this point and I had to put the phone down because I felt like such a monster and because my ragu was burning. Guess what though? The next day I felt brilliant! A considerable weight had been lifted.
Isn't it funny? We deem it perfectly acceptable to dump our unwanted girlfriends and boyfriends, and yet we are expected to walk through life like fly paper, collecting any unwanted social acquaintances that happen to buzz past.
The problem is more pressing than ever. Afriendixes now have a plethora of multimedia tools at their disposal. Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp...together, they allow them to map your every movement and bombard you with their worst character traits. Unfollow. Unfriend. Block.
Now before you scurry like a turgid vole down to the comments section to state that poor Amy was well shot of me, answer this: Did I say anything mean to her? Did I say anything particularly personal or cruel? No. All I did was tell her the honest truth. I was doing her a favour as well as myself. Do you want to be friends with someone who doesn't like you?
Weaker sorts put up with afriendixes for years...entire lifetimes even. And do they lie on their death beds thinking, 'Thank goodness I stayed in touch with that tiresome idiot, Fran with the dogs'? I doubt it very much. They would regret the lunch dates and the pointless emails and the tortuous chance meetings in the Sainsburys biscuit aisle. That, to my mind, is cruel, patronising and - more importantly - utterly pointless.
So listen. Afriendixes are wasting your time. They are wasting their time and they must be done away with, clinically and cold-heartedly.
In fact, I am about to get the old scalpel out again. I moved to London four months ago and already, my time is being eaten up by a bevy of people I would barely want to share a bus with. I must gird up my loins. I will, of course, keep my wonderful, lifelong, fantastic, loving, funny friends...unless they take heed of this article. Then I'm done for.