My oldest daughter is breathtakingly beautiful, sweet, kind, and intelligent…and she’s also shy and struggling to make friends. I know at her tender age, having friends means everything. One would rather have friends at this point in her life than eat or sleep. It’s absolutely vital to life itself. I get that. Dealing with this brought me to reflect deeply on the issue of friends and friendship.
In short, the issue is I don’t have any. And if I want to get real down and dirty honest with myself the ugly truth is I never have.
Sure, at any given point in my life (prior to this point, of course), I’ve been surrounded by friends and acquaintances. My phone book is chock full of names and numbers ranging anywhere from the “chick I met in the bathroom at a bar” and got into a meaningful conversation with all the way to a few (a very few) people I’ve known for fifteen years or more. I’ve had BFF’s whom I spent every waking moment with. I’ve even had a few “fatal attraction friendships” where things got ugly when it was time to walk away from that person. I’ve had co-workers who I went to Happy Hour’s with and discussed everything from what’s for dinner to their extra-marital affair. I’ve had “activity buddies” who loved the beach or yoga or some other mutually adored pastime. Other than a few times in my life (now being one of them), I’ve never had a shortage of people to call to hang out with or, more frequently, people who called me daily with their troubles (I’ve always, ALWAYS been the “counselor” type). I never minded that, I embraced it actually and felt I was maybe special because so many people trusted me with their important, heart-felt issues and turned to me in their time of need. Awwwwww… I even think it encouraged me to believe I had some close ties with certain people in my life. After all, they would share their dirtiest, most horrible inner secrets with me…that certainly must mean we were friends, right?
No. It meant I’m a friend. It meant they recognized me as a caring, trustworthy person and felt comfortable turning to me in times of need. It did not mean- and has never meant- that we were friends.
I get back to this realization anytime I happen upon that fantastical program Sex and the City. As much as I heart that well-written and entertaining show, I avoid it! Can you believe it? And I mean avoid…like I avoid the-adopt-an-Ethiopian-child commercials…you know, the one’s that hurt to watch? I can hardly tolerate watching it (and have certain moments where I literally can NOT tolerate watching it) because it’s an absolute fantasy from my perspective; a fantasy along the lines of Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. And here’s the thing, I’m not jealous of their cute clothes, their fun dating adventures, their gorgeous shoes, or their great careers… I know those things are realistic and totally plausible in this world. I enjoy that aspect immensely…to ponder the likes of living in a world where I might spend my mortgage payment on the. Most. Fabulous. Pair. Of. Shoes. EVER. That’s not a pipe-dream; I know that actually happens.
It’s the friendship. It’s the friendship these women share… It’s truly akin to believing in Santa Claus for me. I don’t typically avoid fairy tale type things. I find them fun actually. I love watching The Little Mermaid and letting myself get caught up for an hour or so in the far-fetched possibility of that being a reality. The difference is that fairy tales are out of this world fantastical…they aren’t based on anything that could ever be authentically possible in this world. And those are beautifully imaginative and refreshing thoughts to entertain for a period of time. But the friendship: the lasting, loyal, fun, loving, and practical friendship these women share is something that is theoretically possible. Hell, it should exist and I imagine it does exist for some, but I have never seen it in real life, much less ever known it myself. This is what makes this show too painful for me to watch.
As if the writer of that show (as well as the God of Universal timing) knew this excruciating fact, I then was once cursed to see (of the very few episodes I actually watched through) the episode where Carrie contemplates relationships and soul mates. Like a train wreck or a fantasy, I could not bring myself to look away or turn it off. There it was in all its glory, …dumping pounds of salt in my open wounds:
And this made sense to me….but then it has always made sense to me. Actually, if I had ever written it down as such, I could probably have claimed it was even my idea originally. I just never had that jealousy issue like other girls did. Boys were boys, the would come and go or stay…whatever… And I look how I look..take it or leave it…like it or hate it… After the age of about 12, I never imagined the fairy tale prince sweeping me off my feet and rescuing me from the wicked step-mother or from some other evil force of nature. Yeah sure, that sounded fun and romantic and all those great things, BUT…. I only dreamed of having close and authentic friends. Real friends whom I could share life and troubles, happiness and tragedy, good fortune as well as bad…both mine and theirs. That was what (and who) I hoped to have in my life someday when I got old and decrepit and reflected back on my life: that would be my lifelong soul mate, not some Prince Charming or any other “prince” of whatever! Although it was difficult to watch this show about a group of fun, fabulous and lasting friends even before I saw this specific episode, seeing this one just made it that much worse. I love the show..I hated that show now!
I’ve had this type of friendship on the one-way street thing, like an unrequited teenage crush…where I naively convinced myself it was real or at least was developing into a real and lasting friendship. I merely had to “be the friend I wished to have” and surely some like-minded person would see the extraordinary friendship value in me and scoop me up to be friends forever.
But wait….I am that friend. Due to my early life-wisdom and perspectives on male-female relationships, I have always been that friend….and still, I don’t have an Amanda or Samantha…a Carrie or a Miranda…much less, three or four! Geesh, I can’t even fathom having one. To me, the concept of having even one genuine female friend is in the realm of the truly fantastical and imaginary
Oh I’ve had a few posers… in fact, I’ve had at least three, and possibly up to as many as six over my lifetime. Three females whom I actually felt that strong connection and imagined that it went beyond “friends”, but more like family. Friends I would not have hesitated to donate a kidney, step in front of a speeding train, give up my job, my home, any money I might have, a man who loved me, men who liked me, whatever it took to preserve and nurture that friendship. After all, at the end of the day and other than my children, that was the thing that would mean the most to me when all else was lost or gone. Right? I’d have this beautiful friendship with this other person that stood the test of time and life, jobs and men, fashion changes and geographical moves…everything. This was my “soul mate”… the only lasting thing in life one might ever have which is truly priceless, precious, and irreplaceable.
No. Every single one of these friendships turned out to be merely a one-sided friendship of convenience; a relationship that would stay solid for as long as I could give..and give..and give…and one even turned out to be something far more sinister, but I don’t talk about that one at all..to anyone…ever… I don’t even like to think about that one, as the pain from it, even though many years have passed, is still very raw and smacks me in the most tender and persistently innocent part of my soul.
..and here I am, in my late thirties, dealing with my daughter’s struggles with both finding friends in a new city and leaving a slew of BFF’s behind. I worry about her as a mother will, but I mostly keep my jaded mouth shut and simply listen and try to offer hopeful insights that I had regarding friendship when I was her age.
…when I realize last night that from elementary years through college the issue always was “jealousy”. Females really are challenged with the sad and destructive jealousy gene. So, in those early years, they’re jealous – of your hair, your clothes, maybe your intelligence or how much money your parents have. In your later 20’s and 30’s, it turns into more of a man-jealousy thing, like friendships have a competitive edge for all the women in the world who grew up waiting for their Price Charming…and this earlier jealousy thing gets an additional razor’s edge…the fear that any other female might intentionally or otherwise, steal her chance with her Prince …so then that obstacle is added to the rest of the jealousy box from the earlier years. And authentic female relationships become even more difficult or impossible.
Suddenly you’re in your late 30’s and you think, Hey, cool…maybe it kinda sucks getting older, BUT now we’re all wiser; past all the competitive man-stuff, the awkward insecurities, the jealousy issues, and the life fears which have plagued and prevented friendship up until now…
Except, we are not. The divorce rate and the common theme of infidelity in relationships make some of these things still huge issues for many women even at the time in life when it “shouldn’t” be a thought anymore. These elements keep the jealousy-thing in place even at this “wise” time when we’re otherwise mostly secure (or at least comfortable) with ourselves and our lives. Then, you realize that friendships take years to nurture and grow into an authentic depth of affection. So now, we have ALL the issues from elementary years on through, further complicated by the fact that if you haven’t already been fortunate enough to have at least one friendship which survived all those earlier obstacles and stood strong, you’re now hit with the challenge that women (and people in general) tend to be more jaded and cynical about life and people and far less trusting overall. Thus, at this age, they’re often now far less likely to even extend that arm of friendship out to another female at all. I mean we’re not really clubbing anymore and looking for girls to dance with us or going to football games on Friday night and wanting someone fun to sit with at the game. We’re okay to go shopping by ourselves, go to the gym on our own, maybe even go to the movies or out for a drink by ourselves (GASP!…something we never would have done in our 20’s).
I remember my mother once telling me, “Kay, if you find even one real and solid friendship in your lifetime, you should consider yourself lucky”. So, as I go through this hardship and heartache with my oldest daughter, I find myself faced with all of these thoughts and realizations as I’m desperately seeking words of consolation and hope to give her. I certainly can’t borrow these words of wisdom from my mother to hand down to her, in spite of the fact that I fully realize how right-on she was; because I’m still facing the hard fact that I wasn’t one of the “lucky ones”.
…and I’m sure you can find the irony in the situation when after I tucked my tearful and heartbroken daughter in bed last night, after hours of heart-to heart discussion, I came in my room to see those damned SATC ladies on my television! Those damned wenches…they really do have everything!