I’ve started and scrapped this post six…teen times in the past and I can’t seem to find a way to articulate it in a way that does it any justice. So I’m just going to write it and be done with it. It’s been gnawing on my brain tissue to come out for too long and I’m finally excising the ferret running around doing the chomping.
I don’t make friends very well. Unlike my sister, who seems to collect awesome people and keep in touch with them forever, I can’t seem to find the awesome ones very often. In grade school, I was part of a collection of girls who hung out together because we were labeled with the ‘popular’ tag. Not that I ever thought I was popular or better than anyone else. But I was part of a gaggle of girls that somehow got others to believe we were the popular ones. It was a miserable experience.
One day, we were standing around the building at recess (in grade 6, so we were a bunch of pre-pubescent catty bitches with claws fully extended) in Our Corner, the one where no one else dared to go lest they receive an evil eye from Amelia* who was considered the leader of The Group, which was what we called ourselves. Original, I know. Angela* snorted when she looked down at my feet. “I see your taste in shoes has improved.” She snickered to the other girls, and Amelia laughed. The rest of them took their cues from her and laughed, too.
Puzzled, I said, “What are you talking about, Angela?”
“Those idiotic shoes with the puffy rainbow hearts on them. Those are so stupid.”
I knew which shoes she was talking about, but they didn’t belong to me. They belonged to my other friend Betty, who darted a glance at me to see if I’d out her.
Insecure at being laughed at, I jumped to defend myself. “Those aren’t my shoes. Those are Betty’s.”
Angrily, Betty piped up, “I borrowed them from you one time, because they matched a bow I had in my hair. But I threw that bow away because it was ugly and gave you your shoes back.” She glared at me with betrayal, daring me to question her. Since she was new to school that year, and the novelty of her long blond hair and pretty clothes hadn’t worn off yet, Angela and the other girls jumped to her defense, regardless of her lie.
The jeering and teasing continued, and I bowed my head, having resigned myself to taking on the shame of a stupid pair of shoes I never even owned. As soon as school was over and Betty and I were walking home (we only lived a couple blocks away from school and from each other) she apologized for not speaking up in my defense. “That Angela has a mean streak in her. I’m sorry I didn’t tell her the truth, but you’ve been at this school for awhile. They all know you. They don’t know me well, and the smallest things can send me to the dork side of the fence. They won’t send you to hang out with the dorks. You could get away with having stupid shoes.”
Wordlessly, I nodded. I knew she was right, and I also knew she was a coward at the same time. But she was my friend, the best one I’d had and so I took the teasing for her, so she would still be ‘allowed’ to hang out with us. The next time they criticized my hair or clothes, she told them she liked it. The next day, two of the other four girls that hung out with us sported the same hair style as I had the day before. If Pretty Betty thought it was nice, then it must be. Too bad she couldn’t have defended the shoes. Betty moved away the next summer, and we all split up to different middle schools. Happily so, in my case.
In middle school, I had a few girlfriends that I would hang out with, but the connection was tenuous. Sure, we were all friends, perfectly pleasant to each other. I appear to have survived middle school years unscathed by torment that so many others experience. I had acquaintances. I had people to talk to. I had friends with whom I did things like watch movies or stand next to at dances waiting for a boy to have enough guts to ask me to dance (no one ever did) and I even went to a few of the popular crowd’s chaperoned ‘parties’ where the parents relegated us to a basement and we pigged out on chips and soda and listened to loud music that was dictated by a couple guys that played the same songs over and over. I had crushes, got crushed, had notes to pass and passed to me in the halls, doodled guys’ names on my binder and then scratched them out. It was typical, and very superficial. High school was much the same way, but I decided I didn’t much like the parties when alcohol and drugs and sex came into the picture, and the parents disappeared.
It seemed that even in college, I couldn’t manage to stay away from the one or two toxic people who befriended me only to beat me down for their own enjoyment and self-esteem fulfillment. I ended my most serious high school relationship when the guy in question moved to his own college and promptly forgot he promised to give a long-distance thing a try; I met the man who would become my husband, and made some friends who forgot me and were forgotten by the next year when I changed residence halls. Then I moved colleges and went from class to class knowing names and faces, sitting next to the familiar ones in my core classes, and chatting. I know none of them today.
The people with whom I interact now are work related, or were friends of my husband’s before I moved to be close to him. A few of his friends’ wives stand out as confidantes to me, and one particular coworker ‘gets’ me, but I find that my sense of humor is off-putting. I’m disturbed, and I laugh at disturbing things. I make rude jokes, or say off color things, cannot stand political correctness stupidity and point out when I think something is dumb. My husband thinks this is a coping mechanism that I use to keep people at bay because I don’t want to endure The Group kind of thinking again, that I don’t want to open myself up to esteem crushing teasing. He may be right. I have a couple friends to whom I relate, but it doesn’t come easy to me. I have a guard that I keep in place. I float a few jokes out there and if they don’t get my sense of humor, I dial it back. I behave myself.
The result is that a lot of the time, I am snarking in my own head about things, things I wish I could say to a friend out loud and have them snort laughter in understanding. I have thoughts that I know people would deem inappropriate, so I keep them to myself. The result of this is that I’m often outwardly a very sanitized version of my true self. The one place where I’m free to be truly myself is on my blog, and moreso, in 140 character snippets on Twitter. I often will see a group of women having a great time over drinks somewhere, or two friends shopping together laughing hysterically over something only they know, and I’m jealous. I feel like the orphan looking into a warm home through a foggy and cold window, standing barefoot out in the snow while a group of girlfriends in pajamas share popcorn and boy stories in front of a warm fireplace. I don’t know the secret handshakes of sisterhood, or the passwords to even try to break into this place of sacred friendship. I’ve never been a bridesmaid, though I had 8 myself. (Yeah, I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.) I’ve never been the one who gets the phone call from a devastated friend over a breakup. I have girlfriends, girls with whom I laugh and have a good time, but I can’t geek out over Twilight with any of them, excepting one. I can’t call and say, “OMG, you HAVE to see this YouTube!” and be understood why the cat jumping clumsily over the gate is so frakking funny. Or even someone to laugh that I’m using the word ‘frak’ instead of ‘fuck’ and understand where that came from, and my obsession with Battlestar Galactica to the point of knitting BSG themed socks!
I just don’t make friends that easily. I wish it were different. It just seems that my friendships tend to cool off or peter out over time. I hope that isn’t the case with everyone. So far, it has been.
So imagine my shock when last week, I responded to the tweet of a girl I’ve been following for years, have had a blog author/commenter acquaintance with since my first blog, but whom I’ve never really talked to in depth until I answered this one tweet. We’ve been emailing constantly back and forth for the last week and a half, texting each other when not near email, and we get each others’ jokes. She’s as snarky and disturbed as I am and it’s a blast. We have so much in common, and so many of the same thought processes that it’s sometimes eerie. Come to find out, I have found my personality clone. And I may just weep with joy over it. A new friend. For me. Maybe for life.
*names have been changed. I have no idea where most of these people are and they could be perfectly human by now. I’m assuming maturity may have a hand in some attitudes by now.