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I have a "friend" that I've known for a little over 20 years. He was my first love, the guy that I hung all of my teenage hopes and dreams on.

Then I wised up. He was an insensitive jerk. For all of his intelligence and ready wit, he was an asshole. I never hesitated in telling him that he was an asshole, and perhaps for this reason he has continued to call me his friend for over 20 years, long after our romantic involvement ended. I continue to allow him to be my "friend" because I can't bear to throw anything away. I'm a social pack rat.

When we were teenagers, he used to play really mean pranks on people. At the time, I participated in some of these pranks and thought that they were pretty funny. When they were played on me, I generally accepted it with grace. In college the joke started to wear thin, and I put him at a distance. It was at that time that I decided that I would never again loan this guy money, let this guy stay at my house for any reason, or tell him anything in confidence. I firmly believe that as a result, I have been spared more than one instance of public humiliation.

He told me yesterday that, once again, he played a "prank" on a friend and it had backfired. His friend is in a band, and he went to their website and "anonymously" posted some very inflammatory, hurtful things. And when they discovered who he was and confronted him, he squirmed and weaseled and generally tried to minimize what he had done. They had deserved it. Nobody looks at that website anyway. He didn't mean it.

I told him that he was not just an insensitive jerk, but that he was a stupid insensitive jerk. I told him that I hoped that at least one of these guys punched him hard in the face wearing a signet ring, because only then would he realize what he did.

He thanked me for talking to him about it, despite the fact that I likened him to Arizona's Bishop O'Brien who hit and killed a man and then said "I thought it was a cat. I thought someone threw a rock at me. The guy was jaywalking at night in dark clothes." But I worry that he uses our talks as some way of absolving himself of all responsibility. I don't want to allow people to be bad to each other.