Girlfriends?

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.

Emma and her Besties, Belle and Cat, who sadly passed away last year. 😦 WE MISS YOU BELLSIE and BIG CAT LITTLE HEAD!

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3 thoughts on “Girlfriends?

  1. I was hesitating about posting this because it’s such a ridiculously long comment. Call it an essay, if you will.

    I’m aching for you. I can’t say that my own experiences mirror yours, but they do shadow them a bit. Growing up in a program where girls were outnumbered 4:1, I’ve always had more guy friends than girls. I felt close to guys too because I grew up on the football field with them as opposed to chit-chatting with the girls about celebrities (whom I knew nothing about). I’ve had my ups and downs in elementary school – being the annoying new kid whom no one liked, finding she whom I thought was my best friend, rising to popularity as a sweet and sporty girl, going out with the cutest guy in my grade and quickly plummeting as a target when she-who-was-my-best-friend started an online forum for the entire intermediate sector to pick apart my faults. Even the girl whom I’d befriended and defended when others teased her for her outward appearance took up the sport.

    I honestly believe that preteens just need a target to unleash their emotions on – one girl, after months of the mutual degradation, decided to tell me about it. Her last post was: “You know what? I don’t know why I’m doing this. She’s never been anything but nice to me. I’m going to tell her about this forum.” I was distraught, as even my closest guy friend – the one whom I cried to over the phone – had been trashing me out of jealousy of my then-boyfriend. My self-confidence never fully recovered as I lost faith in those I trusted most and felt closest with. I don’t think I ever opened myself fully to my friends again. Even small comments stuck with me for months (I still remember them now), whether made in jest or perhaps ringing of truth.

    In highschool we matured somewhat. I was comfortable around my friends again to a certain degree, but never again would I venture to even converse good-naturedly with that girl. She formed her own clique with other girls who liked to dislike me. I figured by then that I was flattered they spent so many of their waking hours thinking and talking about me. For all intents and purposes, I outwardly appeared to be as self-confident as ever. The badminton court was where I felt I truly belonged – no one cared about the minute differences there, everyone was there to play and to strive for improvement. The court was where I shone and took up the mantle of leadership. In my senior years, I made it my goal to get to know and converse with every member – especially the juniors, as I remembered how intimidating it was to be one.

    University followed with me meeting people in badminton as usual. However, injuries sustained in highschool caught up with me and I was forced to retire (well… I’m back now but that’s beside the point). The friends I met were some of the most petty, self-centered, unforgiving, self-righteous, spiteful individuals – and these were guys. To this day, their behaviour continues to appall me. Most of the girls I couldn’t relate to, either. They always felt entitled to my generosity but never have I received theirs in return. I was beyond exasperated – most people are supposed to have matured by now, judging others by who they were as opposed to outward appearances, taking responsibility for their actions, and learning to compromise. I will be leaving this environment soon without regrets and will not be looking back. Talk about burning bridges.

    That’s not to say I haven’t met a few amazing girls in the last year or two of university whom I’ll definitely want to keep in touch with. They are few, but that makes them even more treasured. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I can go shopping with you without feeling self-conscious about trying on outfits or making you wait, then I’m comfortable with you.

    Many of us find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and insecure in our adolescent years. But they pass (thankfully) and we pull through. We learn (sometimes the hard way) that we deserve better and are worth it. I’m so sorry that your friends abandoned you instead of loving who you were. In my books, I don’t care how weird my friends are (I’m pretty weird myself) as long as they treat me as a friend, too. Friendships are give and take. At the same time, I’m glad you did find friends with whom you had common ground – it’s one of the strongest glues between friends. I’m horrified by your college experience and wish someone could have told you to leave the – jerk (without obscenities) – and supported you through it way before you ever had to go through the subsequent events. If I knew something like that was happening to my friends, I would be so angry and unforgiving and give the other a piece of my mind. I really hope karma bites back every one of them.

    I hadn’t intended to tell my life story, and I tried to gloss over details as much as possible. I’m sure if those who knew me read this, they would know if I were talking about them, but I try to keep a semblance of anonymity as much as possible while still sharing my own experiences. It definitely rubs me the wrong way when people make derogatory remarks about specific individuals on the Internet publicly because they feel safe behind a screen and keyboard – probably the remnants of my forum experience.

    Last but not least, your picture is adorable. Pets are a great source of comfort and unconditional love. I’m so happy I adopted my cat, as she and my boyfriend were my source of comfort through those bouts of loneliness throughout university years. Wherever you decide to move, be assured that you can always keep in touch with and confide in those who are close to you now, what with the Internet especially. And that we computer addicts will still be sitting here, blogging away and appreciating your work.

    • Wow! I am so glad that the internet wasn’t as big of an influence when I was in high school! I can not imagine having someone create an internet forum trash talking me. How awful for you! It is tough enough to be a kid without all of the added social pressures placed on you by others to be someone you aren’t. Thank you so much for sharing your insights. I think it really helps to know that we have all felt like outsiders at some point. I am just glad that we have both been able to move on and not let the betrayals of a few blind us to the possibilities for the future. I agree about the pets. They are the best and they love you no matter what. Thank you for your thoughtful comments!

      • I think that a lot of it stems from envy and jealousy that we are different and that we stand out. For me, it was that I was a girl who fit in with the guys but who still saw me as a girl – so a girl whom they could be comfortable with. Most of the comments were from girls, and guys who either liked the girls, were jealous, or were just jerks. For you, I feel that perhaps they could have been “embarrassed” by you, but perhaps also that you could express yourself without qualms and that you also managed to be the center of attention. I would certainly admire that courage and the ability to grab attention at the turn of a hat.

        The majority of people in the world will not truly appreciate your value. Good friends are hard to come by – not sure if I can count over a handful as close, but certainly doesn’t come up to two. My mother once told me she really truly feels that only one of her friends (she’s got MANY) is her true best friend – happy for her when she’s successful, and a helping hand when she’s struggling. Not to mention their friendship has stood the tests of both time and distance – almost two decades later and on opposite sides of the world. These are the friends worth keeping. All the rest, just deal with them when you have to.

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