Bette Midler had it right. There’s something about that special non-sexual relationship between two people that is utterly addictive. Friends can consume you, lift you higher than you’ve ever known, drag you down with harsh reality until your bawling and make you laugh until you wet your pants.
I have friends, many actually but as I grow older I realise the relationships I have now with both men and women are vastly different to the friends of my youth. Maybe I should say pre-marriage. You see before I met Steve my friends knew my deepest darkest secrets. We’d call each other on the phone for three hours at a time, hanging out at their place after school, having sleepovers and lets not forget those binding moments of holding back each other’s hair after a bout of underage drinking.
Then I swiftly found myself sharing those secrets and even deeper ones with Steve. We had “sleepovers” and hung out with each other at every opportunity to the point where I was so besotted I married him. I was no longer as available as I’d once been and those school day friendships had to adjust, unfortunately some didn’t.
I also began to understand why marriage was considered sacred. Our relationship was no longer gossip fodder and the same became true for all my girlfriends as they got married or developed serious relationships. Our days of endless “guy talk” and analysis was over, actually to a point where the people who were our chosen life partners were barely spoken of at all.
I have a handful of girlfriends from school who I could call at any time, day or night and they would be there for me but they don’t even live in the same state. We maintain our friendships with text messages, christmas cards and random phone calls. They’re the same girls of my past but now they’re women with their own paths and futures.
As an adult I’ve met plenty of people but none have really replicated the intensity of the friendships of my past and maybe that’s the problem. I’ve had my school yard friends on such a high pedestal (some of which were in the end, actually quite toxic) that I’ve made it impossible for new people to join their ranks. It’s not all lost though as there are fortunately a few exceptions.
Unfortunately only one of them lives in the same town as I do. With Steve’s job it’s difficult to meet people and I could list a million other excuses as to why I don’t have many friends but the honest truth is that I’m scared. I, like many people have been burnt badly and reaching out is sometimes enough to make me break out into a cold sweat.
I’ve casually run into people, made a connection, exchanged numbers, got cold feet and never called. I’ve called a few, realised we have barely anything in common and walked away. I’ve been friends with the over-sharers, the moochers, the emotional wrecks and the two-faced bitches. Instead of feeling connected I’m just left feeling exhausted.
As I get older I have more responsibilities, a deeper and more involving relationship with my husband, a son to teach about the world, family, bills, laundry etc etc etc and occasionally sleep. I really do invest in friendships but just like our financial investments they have to be sound, a safe bet and have a strong return otherwise I keep that energy and love in the bank for someone who deserves it.
Sometimes the isolation I feel is terrible, I really am a social creature, and it’s in those moments I’m glad I’m a writer. I’m glad I have friends strewn across the globe, accessible with a single tweet or facebook message. I’m glad there are such things as blogging conferences, blogger events and lets not forget Skype.
For Aidan though I feel like I’ve cheated him out of friends. Sure he has his best mate Brock but besides the odd random friend in the park he’s all he’s got and they can’t even attend the same schools. So when there was the option to send Aidan to preschool three days a week I took it.
I wanted him to build his own little friendships without me as a driving force, to make his own decisions about who he liked to socialise with and discover the qualities he was drawn too. His preschool is quaint, colourful, driven by play and filled with warm friendly people that make you feel like you’re at home. Every single day he’s wanted to be there and right now nothing could make me feel better about my decision.
Tonight is the first PTA meeting and as I signed the sheet this morning to say I would be attending I was filled with dread. It was no longer just a drop off and pick up zone for me, this place would become my new little community. Sure I could stay home, not go to the meeting and continue on with the simple pleasantries each morning and afternoon but I knew I wanted more.
As I rubbed sunscreen all over Aidan after signing him in a lady commented on my outfit “Wow, I love your top!”. I looked up and saw a petite woman with kind eyes staring back at me, her daughter too smeared with sunscreen. Usually compliments come from other plus size women and it’s easy for me to switch into “Danimezza Mode” hand out my business card and list out stores they should look at but this was different.
I looked at my feet, shuffled around a bit and said “Thank you, it’s from Tree of Life” then suddenly I became mute, I started mumbling. Out of nervousness I allowed Aidan to distract me, giving me time to think of something else to say but I didn’t have to. Her name was Molly, she’d had several kids go to the preschool over the years, loved it and was a part of the committee.
Suddenly I felt more at ease, I explained that I was a total newbie, Aidan was my only child, I didn’t know many people and that I was looking forward to the meeting. The kids were getting ready to go in, it was now or never. I handed her my business card, she smiled and handed me hers. I was a photographer, she was a hair and make up artist, our eyes both lit up.
As I kissed Aidan goodbye and watched him as he eagerly ran to sit on the mat by his teacher ready to start the day, I wondered if I had it all wrong. Maybe I wasn’t saving my “friendship energy” for something longterm and worthwhile. Maybe that’s what I told myself so I wouldn’t be ashamed of my self consciousness and anxiety around new people.
Sure I’d been hurt in the past but the new people I’ve been fortunate to meet aren’t just reruns of old friends with different faces. They are new, the shiny kind with their own adventures and responsibilities under their belt, something worth exploring don’t you think?