I had this very all-over-the-place, yet poignant piece written on friendship and BOOM I must have deleted it at some point. I do that. A lot. Write, and then feel like it’s not where I wanted it to go, so I delete it, instead of saving it and using it later when I can clean it up.
Which is a great metaphor for my life right now. Not exactly minimalizing, because I love STUFF way too much, but getting rid of a lot of stuff, because it’s not what I need, not where I want to be in my life anymore.
I think for the most part it’s pretty damn healthy of me. A huge sign of growth. After all, I’m a clinger. A collector. I’m waaaaaay too sentimental, and even things that meant something to me 30 years ago, I have a hard time letting go of. I have a box of Valentines Day and birthday cards from friends in middle school. Middle School!!
But of late? I’m sort of digging this quick, slash and trash. People, things – there seems to be no limitations. But let’s stick with friendships, because that’s where this piece began. Stay with me, because this really will circle around.
The First Best Friend
I think like most kids we probably met in first grade. Kindergarten is that venue where a lot of us are practicing our people and friendship skills while our little brains are piecing together so much to be learned. I did have a first real friendship in Kindergarten with a neighbor girl named Linda. It was short lived after she threw a stick at my head when I called her mother a drug addict, leaving me with a lifetime scar that taught me two things; Never repeat gossip about another’s Mother, and duck when something comes flying at you unexpectedly. I suspect Linda and I were simply friends out of proximity to one another anyway. And if I didn’t apologize then, Linda I should have kept the gossip about your mom to myself. I apologize profusely and hope you grew up in a relatively sane household. Free of flying objects.
By first grade, you’re really starting to become a pro at this peopling thing, so close friendships are created. We shared our class together and both went to the same after school day care, so commonality was already established. She was this tiny little pixie of a girl named Tammy with waist length hair and a little turned up nose sprinkled with freckles. She dressed in the coolest clothes, with me specifically remembering this deep violet corduroy short pantsuit, that she paired with white go-go boots. Very 70’s, ala Partridge Family or something. The fact that I recall this outfit, including the shoes with such detail says a lot about who I would eventually become, but I digress.
I probably would have Single White Female’d her if I had the chance, because she was the epitome of what I wished I was versus my reality of a short low maintenance pixie cut (read part possible lazy mom and part every little girl in the late 60’s seemed to have this cut, thankyouMiaFarrow) and my cute but very run of the mill dresses, usually paired with Keds or Hush Puppy Mary Janes. One or the other. Definitely no white go-go boots. White Go-Go Boots, meant you had several pairs of shoes to wear, not just the school vs play shoes most of us had. Ultimate shoe envy was born from those Go-Go Boots.
I just remember really liking her and was so happy we were best friends. I wasn’t friends with her because we were neighbors (ala Linda) or siblings I couldn’t escape from, or worst yet a cousin who bullied me, but for weird reasons I still adored. This was a chosen friendship, which really are the best. It’s ordering off the menu, not having your meal picked out for you.
On some weekends she would take me with her to spend the weekend at her Aunt and Uncle’s house where we would drink hot black coffee so saturated in milk and sugar it was nearly beige. We would play dress up with real make-up in a real tree house, with a backyard pool, albeit a Doughboy. Looking back I realize these were probably her dad’s custody weekends, and he had her bring a friend so she wouldn’t be bored. I guess her dad lived with his family. I just knew that her Aunt and Uncle were so sweet and they put up with our six-year old screams and running around all hyped on the caffeine and sugar, until it was time to settle down for some Lawrence Welk. It was my first foray into the world of Lawrence and his bubbles. I fricking loved those weekends, Mr. Welk included.
I loved the drive out to the valley, and the tree lined street her extended family lived on. It was so very different than the concrete jungles of Los Angeles that we both lived in. But all that love turned green with envy when I learned that there were other friends she was bringing out there on weekends I didn’t go. They were sharing and enjoying what I thought of as “our” weekends. Hello Friendship, meet Possessiveness – this will be a thorn in your side for a while. My first bout of true dark jealousy came from two of those girls who were zoning in on my time, and I think I even had an argument with one of them about who was the better best friend. I might have imagined the fight. I wouldn’t be surprised because that’s how deep my ire went.
A couple of years later we moved from the oh-so loud hot concrete urban life into the suburban bliss of a beach city. Tammy and I said our goodbyes, and promised to keep in contact. Which lasted for approximately three months. Maybe. I think that is about the attention span of a typical nine year old. We may have wrote each other once each. I found new friends, and I imagine (now) that my leaving was felt for about a day or two, until her current friends just sort of absorbed the space I once took.
I recalled that friendship (and apparently the hotpants & boots that went hand in hand with that memory) for a lifetime, and it really held a sweet spot in my heart in my ethereal Mental Box O’ Memories. Enter Sentimentality. I think everyone has that one person they place in the First Best Friend category. Some are lucky enough to still be friends with them, and some are more along the lines of mine, and are nothing but sweet memories. Or were.
Fast forward to my mid-thirties, and the aspects of reconnecting with people via the internet is starting to explode. Classmates comes out, and I think I registered for every school I attended, including that elementary school in Hollywood. There her name stood out with a half a dozen others, none of which I recalled but hers. I reached out to her. I sort of had to. She was the mecca of best friends, built up by a 6 to 8 year-old’s memories that had just flourished over the years, building her and that pantsuit into something out of this world! I knew we wouldn’t have much to share, but when her response was one of near puzzlement on who I was, it was like my Unicorn Candy Walls of Childhood Memories nearly dissolved.
Oh she recalled me. I was the “one with the short hair, right?” – Damn my hereditary lack of illustrious follicles! And she did recall the weekends at her Aunt’s house. Actually she recalled everything, but not with the fervor or excitement that I did. Which is normal by anybody else’s standards. Our contact did start with the above mentioned sentence about my hair, which just weakened the foundation of how I recalled her. We weren’t on even grounds. I wasn’t really crushed, but it reads better to sound like I was. 😉 I think that like back then, we exchanged one email – she got me caught up on her life since 3rd grade, and despite her cute nose and fantastic fashion sense, she seemed like she had turned out as fucked up as the rest of us. Divorced. Living in Las Vegas. Single Mom. Regardless of all this — I still recall her as my first best friend, no matter how she recalls me – it just doesn’t come with a twinkle anymore.
My point is, I take my friendships pretty damn serious. I’m still friends with my neighbor that I met after the abovementioned move when I was 9. Interestingly enough, she and I too went thru a period where she moved and we lost touch as kids, but when we reconnected years later by chance, the friendship picked up stronger than it was before. Now some 40 plus years later, I consider her my closest friend on the planet.
There is that saying that goes something along the lines of friendships being there for a season, or a reason or something bumper sticker worthy. In other words, maybe not all friendships are supposed to be for a lifetime. I agree on that one. I think all people, good and bad enter our lives for reasons we don’t really need to know. They shape us, teach us and on occasion hurt us.
I also think some of us are one-person type friends, and others do great in groups. I wish I did better in groups, but my reality is I don’t function as well. Oh sure, I love parties and no one can go to Faire as often as I do without doing well in a group setting. But 95% of the time you find me in these settings I’ll be alone, talking with one or two individuals. It was a hard lesson to learn; this group setting. I was possessive of friendships and preferred that best buddy kind. I guess it was my need to be top dog. I wanted an Ethel to my Lucy (Yes for the record, I always see myself as the Lucy; but you don’t have to be a dowdy Ethel, just one who is willing to sign-on to my shenanigan’s.) As the years have gone by, I have learned to do better in small groups. 3-4 works perfect for me. I’ve learned that the possessiveness in friendships can be as undermining as possessiveness in relationships (which weirdly enough has never been an issue for me. Go figure.) – and most recently?
Slash and Trash the Bad.
I thought I had learned the whole Toxic Friendships blahdy-blah-blah about ten years ago when a really fucked up friendship entered my life. Except I didn’t really slash and I definitely didn’t trash. I tried to go quiet in the night. The higher road and all that sorts, said in my best snooty voice. But see that sentimental part of me that I’ve mentioned, emotionalized the little bit of good we had together, and allowed parts of the friendship back in. And then eventually I got kicked in the proverbial face with the fury of a thousand angry goats, with her horrible actions, followed by her screams of “Victim, Victim!” into the dark night. How does that go, Bite me once, shame on you; Bite me twice, shame on me? I have no ink on my body, but if I ever got any, it should be that saying, because damn I need to learn it.
I did it with another friendship, that truth be told wasn’t probably as Toxic (can we all just admit toxic is the most overused word of the past ten years?), but just as unhealthy. Lather, rinse, repeat in forgiving most all sins, and then wait for it – the goat kick to the face.
Damn that kick hurts.
Anyway, anger is usually the only thing that can really sever any ties of friendship permanently for me. Or it used to be. You know getting face punted can make you pretty damn mad after a while. It’s enough kindle to start the needed fire that burns the legendary bridge. I’ve only had one friend come back from that fire, and our friendship is cemented now, but it took work on both our parts. We WANTED the friendship to work.
Today, I think the reason I need anger is because I’m too much of a marshmallow. I recall the good parts and nostalgia kicks in and VOILA. Read above.
This last time though? It was different. Maybe the permanence of ink isn’t needed after all. Maybe after being kicked by these angry goats enough I recall that I don’t need the pain. Or the stick thrown at me when I was five. MAYBE when I see the ingredients listed in the friendship of these people, I can surmise on my own that they are not healthy. Not only unhealthy, but downright nasty. The ingredients are simple enough:
- They love to talk shit about others. I mean intimate, mean details about people you don’t even know. Or people you would swear they were close friends with. I assume this is to make you feel more important. Like you are special enough to get the inside scoop. Or – is it to keep you away from the ones they talk crap about because — trust me, if they are talking that crap about others? They are talking the same about you. Don’t think differently. Don’t think you are above it. Ultimately they don’t want you comparing notes. 😉
- They have relatively few past friendships. Look at them. Do they have close long term friendships outside of you? Probably not, and if so, very limited. Look at the family connections too. If their own family won’t have anything to do with them, that says something. LOUDLY.
- They become best friends with you almost overnight. Nothing more to that one.
- They see the negative in Every. Single. Thing. – They can be at the most beautiful locations in the world, and find something hateful or negative to say. The food is bad. The service sucks. The weather could be warmer/cooler. NOTHING makes these people happy. I surmise this is because they are so effing miserable, they simply cannot find anything happy to discuss.
There are more, but I’ve found these to be the most common. Sadly I’ve had a couple of these friendships before, and honestly didn’t recognize them for what they were initially. I just knew at some point they exhausted me. Most recently I had another, and did recognize it. This is what I learned there.
That thing about ending friendships peacefully. Just walking away? I believe these need to be burned. Not physically, but metaphorically. It doesn’t have to include drama (which seems to be the lifeblood of these friendships and probably should be #5, but I didn’t want the list to go on and on.), but it needs a firm “This is Over”. I tried to ghost this most recent toxic friendship. I didn’t answer the texts. But they just kept texting. I didn’t take the calls, but the calls kept coming. I didn’t want to hurt the person, so at one point I did initiate light banter, thinking we could keep things at minimal contact. That was probably confusing, and when push came to shove, my quiet resignation was not accepted, I needed to be fired. Suddenly *I* was the bad friend and it made me chuckle. Maybe it made them feel better. Years ago this might have burned my ego. “You can’t fire me, I quit!” Today? Fire me, either way the result is the same. I am okay with it.
Slash and trash, my friends. Walk and don’t look back. Don’t make it pretty, and don’t make it dramatic. Just cut and run.
Either way, find a way to have healthy friendships. If you have them, hold onto them. They are as precious, if not more, than family. After all, we chose our friends. Our families are usually assigned to us. Learn from those first few innocent friendships, even the ones without cool boots.
Now in closing I mentioned the Ethel to my Lucy. I am so lucky to have a few fantastic Ethel’s in my life (and quite possibly I am Ethel to a few Lucy’s, myself but I live in a world of Denial) and to them I say:
If you’re ever in a jam, here i am!
If you’re ever in a mess, S-O-S
If you ever feel so happy, you land in jail, I’m your bail
It’s friendship, friendship, just the perfect blendship
When other friendships have been forgot, Ours will still be hot. ❤