I was having a lovely back and forth comment session with pearlessence regarding my blog on body image, when we hit upon a subject that struck a chord with me. We began talking about how tough we women are on not only ourselves, but also on each other. This, in turn, led to us both admitting that we found it extremely difficult befriend women for not just that reason, but also because we both found men to be much more candid and honest, which are characteristics that we both value in our friends.
I do have girlfriends. I have quite a few girlfriends, to be honest, but it has taken me years and years to find girls that I can actually trust enough to befriend. It has taken me until now, in my
30’s late 20’s, to have a group of ladies that I would trust with my inner-most thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams and, if I think back upon the reasons why, I have to admit that a lot of my lady-friend issues stem from my childhood.
When I was little, I grew up in a very small town. A town so small, in fact, that it was considered a village. This is the kind of town where everyone knows everyone and where parents could let their kids ride their bikes the 2 miles, on country roads, down to the local post office/general store because they had eyes and ears all over town. So it was natural that the children who lived closest to me were my buddies.
We rode bikes together, played on the same softball team, went to the same birthday parties, were members of the same Brownie Troop. As we grew older, we moved from our tiny little Elementary School to our local Middle/High School and things began to change. We met new friends from some of the other towns, cliques started to form, hormones started to rage. We all hit that awkward adolescent phase together and trust me some of us were hit harder than others. It was then that I started to get pulled aside by my girlfriend and lectures began.
I had always been a bit of a class clown. In elementary school I had a desk in the hallway for when the teacher had enough of my near constant performances for the other students. I had a lot of energy and very little self-discipline, but who at that age has that? As I got older, into those graceless, tween-age years, this got worse. I hadn’t discovered the theater yet, so I still had no outlet for my dramatics, but couldn’t seem to control myself long enough to enjoy social situations without becoming the recipient of an intervention from my friends. These friends of mine would get fed up with my over-the-top antics and pull me into a side room or the bathroom and tell me that this type of behavior was unacceptable. That this was precisely why people didn’t want to hang out with me and that if I didn’t learn to tone it down, then pretty soon no one would want be my friend. They even had back up as several of my their families referred to me as “Kimmy Gibbler” the annoying best friend of D.J. Tanner on Full House. You know the one, the girl all of America loved to hate. Each time this happened, and it wasn’t just once or twice, I would feel the crimson creep into my face as the shame hit my heart like a hammer. I couldn’t just be myself, I’d remind myself, I had to be better.
Middle school years slid into High School and I finally found my dramatic outlet on the stage of our auditorium. I met new friends. Drama friends. I began to be accepted for my once embarrassing enthusiasm. My old friends grew more distant as the years passed, but the lectures had finally stopped, so I didn’t much mind. My best friend in High School was a boy. A boy who loved me because I was me and I loved him for being him. We enjoyed each others company so much that I hardly remember a summer day that wasn’t spent together. It was my first real taste of what it was like to be accepted for who I was and not expected to change in any way. It was magical. Then came college.
Let me state now that I am not the best long distance friend. I am actually the worst kind of long distance friend. I forget to call or write, I am easily distracted by shiny objects, etc. Ask my parents. They will tell you that if you don’t hear from me, it means I am alive and well, but you should worry when I call. (I am no that bad anymore, but they had a point just a few years ago.) My best friend and I remained close, but the distance soon grew into a pit between us as we both moved forward into the uncertainty of our late teens and early twenties and attended colleges far away from one another.
I have to say that my college years were some of the worst years of my life. Even writing this now I have to take deep breaths and find a happy place. They started off well enough, I had a really nice roommate my freshman year and quickly became close with a lot of my floor-mates of my dorm. Then I met a boy and the trouble started. If I knew then what I know now, not just about the psychology of the teenage brain, but also the physiology and development of it, I could have avoided so much heart-ache, but I didn’t know and I didn’t avoid.
He was my first “true” love, (cough, bullsh*t, cough). We spent long hours together telling each other of our undying love and how we would marry after college and be happy forever. That summer of our Freshman year when I went to visit him and his family I couldn’t have been happier.
Sophomore year is when the cheating began and lasted throughout the remainder of our relationship. The first time he cheated, I found out from my girlfriends that he had done some unforgivable things with a freshman. When I confronted him, he cried and apologized and swore he would never do it again. He lied and the behaviors got worse and he and I became violent with each other, which I will not discuss right now. He not only cheated on me with girls I didn’t know, but with some of the very friends who had warned me of his ways to begin with. These were girls I had let my guard down around, girls I had cried to about this horrible situation I was in, girls that just a few hours previous had slept with my boyfriend and were now comforting me about what a scoundrel he was. I will leave this topic now, before going into anymore detail because I think you understand the profound impact this betrayal had on my future relationships with women. It took me years to recover from what happened. I have to say that I did not handle any of this well. Being the dramatic that I am, mixed with the actuality of what happened to me I slid over the edge to what could be termed a nervous breakdown. I left before graduating and moved to a different state.
It was years until I felt I could trust a woman again. Years and years. It wasn’t until I move to California in 2001 that I found women I could trust not to say that they liked me and then back-stab me, or to not critique me to the point of wondering how I had any friends at all. Women who are amazing, hard-working, loyal, funny, compassionate, dependable and who love me for just being me.
My boyfriend and I were discussing the body image thing and what he told me, which I then relayed to pearlessence in those comments was that we women are the ones that put all the pressure on each other. Yes there are men who hold women to impossible standards, but those are the kinds of guys who aren’t worth two seconds of our time. It is the women who are the harshest critics. I have to say I agree with him. For instance I saw a FB post from a photographer who I follow that asked what turns men off most in a woman. A few of the comments were from men and said things like, a bad attitude, or too much or too little self-confidence, but the most of the comments were from the women and ripped into other women saying things like, women that are too fat, or women that are too skinny, or women who have big noses, etc. It was really striking to see the level of spite that these ladies displayed in such a nonchalant way. It was very disappointing to read.
Ladies, this is why I have boyfriends. They tell it how it is, whether you want to hear it or not. They don’t care if you are yourself because that is why they hang out with you in the first place. Most of the time my video game and adult swim cartoon addictions are not a problem for them. Oh, and because I can dress in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt to go out and that is just fine with them. There is no, “why are we watching Archer, this show isn’t funny?”, or “Is that what you are wearing?”, or “My god could you please take it down a notch, you are embarrassing me in front of the guys at the bar.” talk. Plus, the added bonus that most of the time you can leave them alone with your boyfriend and they won’t hit on him. Most of the time; he is pretty hot though.
My boyfriend and I may be moving again soon. Lord knows to where, though I know that my boyfriend would love to find work in Nashville. It has been tough being away from all of my lovelies in California, but knowing that this was just a temporary move made that pill a little easier to swallow. If we do move to Nashville I am not sure how long we may be there. Will it be long enough for me to find some new friends and if so, how? My fear is that I will be stuck, friendless in a new state, missing my Cali peeps, or worse yet, that I will revert to my old patterns of finding friends who are not really friends. It is a predicament. At least I have my boyfriend, Emma and chocolate to keep me company until we plant our feet for a while.
Today would be a good day to call or write to those ladies in your life who are true girlfriends. If you have a lovely, or a bestie that you adore and who adores you I bet she wouldn’t mind a text, or call, or email, or cupcake delivery that says just how much you truly appreciate her. I will be sending my love to several of my missing-pieces today and reminding them that even though I am a crappy long distance friend that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss them like crazy and hope to see them soon. Also, you should call your momma. Momma’s like that sort of thing.