I have a lot of new friends these days. Mom friends. Friends from the neighbourhood. Internet friends. (Pssst...I love you too, kind of. You give good, albeit virtual, casserole.)
All these shiny new friends are more or less because of the "Thanks for the casserole, Biotch" grudge I've been swaddling and nursing and pretty much attachment parenting for the last couple of years. It's not that this chip on my shoulder makes me particularly attractive to prospective BFFs, it's that I've made a conscious decision to push the friends who I wished so dearly were behaving like much better friends out. I decided to protect my heart and to try not to care. I decided to start from scratch. Out with the old, in with the new. And because I am an extrovert, and I need to be social to thrive, and I need to connect with adult females to feel at all human, I have made new friends.
I make friends easily. I'm outgoing. I'm kind. I'm non-judgemental. I'm empathetic. I listen. I bring a bottle of wine. I know how to make people laugh and lighten up and feel good. And generally speaking, I give a shit about people. I like people. I like smooth people, I like awkward people, I like funny people, I like smart people, I like quiet people, I like gorgeous people, I like plain people, I like loud-mouths and know-it-alls and I even like train-wreck types and misanthropes.
So I was sitting on a park bench with a nice, shiny, new friend the other day. She'd just told me way too much information about her sex life (not good) with her husband who I see five days a week after school when we're picking up our daughters. And to steer the conversation off of that particular topic I mentioned I had a birthday coming up.
"How do you like to spend your birthday?" she asked.
"Well," I replied. "I used to always plan a little road trip up North to my parents cabin in the woods. I'd have a sleep over with my best friends. We'd drink beer and play board games and be silly. But these last few years I haven't felt like doing anything special at all. My birthday has just seemed so unimportant because I've been so busy giving birth. I kind of feel like doing something this year, though -- not a road trip but something kind of special. But I'm not sure what."
"You know what I like to do on my birthday?" she asked. "I love to have dinner out with three or four of my best girlfriends. No kids. No husbands. Just us girls drinking wine and having a fantastic meal and a good long conversation together."
It felt like someone yanked the hot wax off my soul at that moment and left it hairless, pink, and oh so smarting.
I realized, you see, that that is exactly, completely, terrible, perfectly, acutely, just what I wanted to do.
There is something rather special about friends who know you and who have known you for a long time.
My new friends are great people, but they don't know my mother. They don't know my hometown. They didn't know me when I wore army boots to poetry reading, and they would have no idea where to find me in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse. (My parents cabin in the woods, dur.)
So I did some hard work. I peeled back some oniony layers and I held the stinky, eye-stinging core of my ego between my fingers and I chopped it in half with a knife to see what was inside. And what I found was a very essential longing to repair some of the relationships I've tossed in the compost bucket.
Not all. I'm not that magnanimous. But. Some.
So I told them that my birthday was coming up and I wanted to spend it having dinner with my best friends.
"Oh really?" they asked. "Who else did you invite?"
It was a small guest list. And so I told them, without using too many words, that they were my best friends. And that I missed them. And that I needed them.
And they spoiled me.
And it was something lovely.
I feel a bit lighter. I feel fluffed up and hung outside in the sunshine.
Is all the hurt and damage we've done each other over the years undone? No. But I guess it doesn't have to be. Because some friends, once they are innies, just can't ever become outies.
They're a part of you.
Could I tell them all the things I've told you? No way. I have no idea why it's so easy to open up to strangers (sort of) and tell them all the ways I've been hurt and damaged but not be able to tell my closest friends. I guess it would be handing them way too much power. I guess it's a trust thing.
Since having babies, my skin is much thinner -- translucent, really.
Allison made this soul-searing comment on my last post: "I have some very close friends, and at one time or another I have thought I would be dead without them, and at one time or another every one of them has made me wish I had more friends so I could cut this one loose and not be bereft."
That really is the thing with innies. That really is the right word, "bereft."
Is it how much we need other women that makes relationships with them so painful? Obviously.
Does our society idealize female friendships in a way that makes us expect to much from them? Probably.
The trick is, I suppose, not to expect too much. The trick is to be in the relationship you are in, not the one you wish you had.