friend n. a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.
“True friends stab you in the front” – Oscar Wilde
The word “friend” is a loaded word for me. I am and never have been good at making or keeping friends. Perhaps it will be my life’s greatest challenge. Lately I have been thinking a lot about friends and friendships. Once upon a time in a world without social media you could just move on and forget your previous friendship failings or tragedies, but these days they linger in throwback photos that a “friend” posted online of that 5th grade birthday party that you weren’t invited to. Seeing your bully included in that photo instead of you can inflict quite a sting and bring back all of those insecurities and questions you once had about yourself…and justifiably didn’t want to deal with in adulthood having already triumphed over them.
I think I am a member of the majority when I say that I was a victim in a female trio friendship tragedy. Early in my life (Kindergarten), things were pretty copacetic. I never attended preschool so most of my “friends” were neighbors who stole my Barbie dolls and babysitters whom I idolized and watched Duran Duran videos with when my parents weren’t home. It should be this way as a child. Friendship should be simple and far from tragic. When I started Kindergarten I was pretty reserved, but I made friends easily. I got along well with little boys better than little girls, and that is still the case. Things were just great. I had a “best friend” and I was hers as well. She had another best friend who wasn’t really my best friend – and we tolerated each other. We were both in competition to be the only “best friend” but in the end it was mutually accepted that we would coexist…until around the 4th grade that is.
The 4th grade was a really turning point in my life. It was the year that my bully came to town. Being the new girl at a small, private school made you an instant celebrity – especially if you came from a street clothes wearing, bubble gum chewing allowed, public school. You were a rebel, the cool kid – automatically – even if you sucked. Usually the cool kid was indeed cool – or I just got along with them relatively well. But this year the new girl set her sights on my trio of friends and I was marked as the odd man out. She did all of the back talking, rumor spreading, “mean girl” things a bully does and the result was the end of my friendship. She sought to replace me and as 9 year old girls haven’t learned a ton about loyalty yet, she was successful – and I became the lone wolf.
Having been ejected from my first foray into friendship, I sought new friends and found some. They were never the same. The bond just wouldn’t form the way it had back when I was 5. They already had other friends and I wasn’t new or interesting enough to be an attraction. I spent the next 2 years as the third wheel, all while watching the girl who bullied me fill the space that had been meant for me.
The school closed and I ended up in public school, finally away from one bully only to find another. Being new in public school as a 12 year old was like being a leper at the Oscars. I was also pretty awkward and fat, so of course I was tortured day in and day out for being so. My new name was “meatballs” and I was called that for almost a year until I starved myself thin.
Things weren’t awesome in high school either. Being an athlete helped, but the connections I made never stuck. College was a fiasco which is worthy of a blog post of it’s own – until I met my husband who is the bestest friend I have.
When I think about this checkered past, I have to believe that what happened way back when left an indelible mark on my ability to make and care about friends. Having been hurt so early on, the fear is now an innate part of my personality. I’d like to think there are others in the world just like me.
When I was friended on Facebook by the original “best friend” I was hesitant to accept for the reason that I am writing about today. I questioned why this person wanted to add me to their list having rejected me so long ago. Could she have never known how painful it all was? Did she ever care? Then I saw the posted photos of the fun times without me…the group photos of the 3 of them where I should have been, and I felt hurt and hatred all over again. A thirty five year old mother with a successful career and loving husband reduced to an insecure 8 year old in the blink of an eye. So I’ve been thinking on it for some time, and here is my conclusion.
I have a handful of people that I can call true “friends” that I am convinced will be with me throughout whatever comes my way, and I with them. We don’t take a lot of group photos or give each other “BFF” embroidered pillows. If you look on Facebook you might not even see them – because they are real people and I don’t need to post them like badges on the internet to prove to the world I indeed have friends. Some of them might not even know I consider them so close. Sometimes we don’t talk for months – years even – and it doesn’t matter. We are not a fad or a trend. We are not cool or begging for admiration. They don’t abide by the rules of FIFO or seniority. We can connect on day 1 as well as 10 years from now. We like each other “as is” – warts and all.