Friendship sucks. I suck at it. At any one given time in my life, I've been able to count the number of good friends I have on one hand, like a mitten, with maybe the other hand for friends scattered around the country who live far but are close to my heart. I'm okay with this "mittens" approach to friendship because I've always hated cliques. Maybe my hatred of them stems from some sort of jealousy over not being included—ugh, how vulnerable and pathetic.
I'm an outsider, an outlier friend-wise, but I do believe in loyalty. As an adult child of an alcoholic, I’m sure I believe all kinds of dysfunctional things about friendship but loyalty is important. If I'm your friend, I would do anything for you. Expecting the same in return may be why I have mittens full of friends instead of truckloads full and I’m fine with that. This week I was lucky enough to have some celebratory gatherings with real-life friends, and I felt blessed. I’m also grateful that my husband and I have been best friends for nearly 30 years—having a life partner like him helps ward off the stinging arrows of failed friendships. I was “born without a filter” and usually attribute my big damn mouth to the fact that I’m not more socially involved.
In fact, I recently moved out of town and un-friended over 100 people on Facebook. Why? Because I don't interact with them either in the real or virtual world. They don't "like" my posts because they've hidden me from their feeds as I have them so why are we "friends" again? I prefer my FB friends to fall into two categories: people I actually know and am friends with in reality—who care about me even in some small way—and people I’ve never met who read my writing. I don't know them personally, but they’re nicer and more supportive than many “acquaintances.” The FB friends in between were some of the 100 I un-friended. Honestly, I felt like I was doing them a favor by un-friending them. I always feel guilty about posting my writing on social media and annoying people. How fucked up is that?
I’ll admit that I have the friendship maturity level of a middle school girl. Handling friendships is my Achilles’ heel, my Kryptonite. I blame this on a very traumatic friendship incident in college with my roommate and (at the time) wedding bridesmaid. A terrible argument happened and I moved out, telling her I certainly didn't expect her to be in my wedding anymore after I discovered what she'd said about me behind my back. This friendship PTSD is still with me a quarter century later.
Recently, a very good friend of mine said something that really stayed with me. "The default with us is that we're friends unless we have something happen that would mean we weren't friends anymore. The default is not that we're not friends." It was mind-boggling to me. Okay, so I don't have to automatically think that if you're not in touch, it means you don't want to be friends with me? That's what had always been my default in the past.
Between a fucked-up childhood and a fucked-up friendship ending in college, I truly am friendship challenged. But those who meet the challenge are the absolutely the warmest, most perfect kind of mitten and I consider myself very lucky to have them to keep me warm.
I am so hoping I am one of your mittens.