I’ve talked about this before. But something happened recently which makes me need to talk about it again. When I experience a hurt, I have to write about it. Talking doesn’t help.
I am sitting in my office eating my fifth box of milk duds and contemplating all the events in my past that have led to this moment. I can’t begin any earlier than five years old. I don’t remember life before preschool. In preschool, friends don’t exist–not like they do at twenty-four in grad school. I played with the same girls every day; we played strange versions of house where husbands and wives got killed off so that they could be resurrected into a new family.
In kindergarten I wandered around with my first “friend”–a boy named D****. I had a wonderful time telling him stories about my parents that may or may not have been true. But then all the girls began running away from cooties, quite literally. A new game became popular in which the boys chased the girls and tried to kiss them. No one ever got kissed, of course. The one time D**** got close enough to try, my brother Chris ran up and bit his shoulder. Goodbye, D****.
A few weeks into kindergarten, a new girl came to class. The first time I saw her, she was wearing a red dress with lady bugs printed all over it. I walked up to her at recess and told her that I would be her friend. And I was. We never had any problems until second grade. And then the only problem was that another new girl, H***, wanted to be her best friend too. So we very maturely took turns being best friends. H*** didn’t stay long in school. She came from a large family and had several older siblings. A******* and I were best friends again and stayed that way until fourth grade.
Even in fourth grade I enjoyed talking more than any other sport. I spent my recess sitting on the swings talking instead of playing. A****** used to sit with me, but one day she asked if she could play house with V***** instead. I wasn’t offended; I didn’t feel threatened. I agreed wholeheartedly, and I remained on the swings talking. For three weeks I talked on the swings before it occurred to me that something must have happened. Things were different now, and I didn’t know why. I bravely went to the rock where A****** and V***** were playing house. And I asked A******* why we weren’t playing together anymore. My first heartbreak: A****** looked at me and said, “There’s no law that says I have to be your friend.”
I decided then that the only appropriate course of action was to never have a friend again. I would be loyal to the end. I had pages and pages of imaginary friends that I took to heart during those bleak three weeks. I finally settled on an imaginary horse that I would ride up and down the soccer field throughout the allotted recess time. My teachers told my parents that I needed to make real friends.
I made an effort. When a new girl came to school a few weeks later, I decided that I would be her friend, especially when I found out that she liked horses. She and I then began galloping up and down the soccer field together. But a few weeks of that and my teachers told my parents I needed to make a new friend. C**** was a bad influence on me.
After some tears of frustration and misunderstanding, I began playing a sport I had never touched before and have never touched since–soccer. I have no real talent, but at the time I was already as tall as I am now and weighed just about as much–maybe five pounds less. I made a terrific goalie. Through soccer I met a girl two grades behind me. We had nothing in common. She had blonde hair. She is still shorter and skinnier than I will ever be. She smiled everywhere she went. She loved the outdoors. She loved bugs. When I would go to her house and play, we played house outside in the freezing creek and tried to capture as many fire ants as we could. I never wanted to play in the creek or capture fire ants, but I wanted to be her friend. After two years she also had to leave school for financial reasons. She and I kept in touch for a while, but four years ago she got married and had a baby so we’ve lost touch.
I entered my seventh grade year, once again alone and searching. I grew up at a boarding school. Beginning in seventh grade, several foreign students came to America to get a good education. I helped tutor them in English. And so I met H**** by helping her with English. She did so well in school her seventh-grade-year that we both decided to skip eighth grade. However, upon entering ninth grade, I made the startling discovery that I was no longer cool. Being smart wasn’t cool. I didn’t own cute clothes. I still hadn’t discovered makeup or hair straighteners. H**** was cool, and she reveled in that stardom.
I don’t remember how or why I became friends with A**** who was two grades ahead of my pathetic sophomore self. I clung to her as my new-found identity. Her best friend was another senior named D***. I spent time with both of them since they were always together. Jealousy was never a thought that entered my head. I was okay with being the second–for both of them. But in any boy-girl triangle, there’s bound to be drama. A**** thought D*** liked me and so ditched us both. I’m sure he did not initially. Most of my tears were wrapped up in D***’s heartbreak that he could not fix his friendship. But with her gone, he and I became best friends. And for the first time in my life, I knew that boys weren’t girls. And boys brought with them a whole new world called dating.
D*** left for college, and I went in pursuit of a new best friend–preferably male. I went through two painful rejections during this search that I can remember. One boy I knew through choir; he told me one day that he didn’t care if I lived or died. Another told me to my face that he would never ask me out in a hundred years. But there are some high-school seniors who are rather desperate for a girl’s attention. I enjoyed the attention B**** gave me, but I expected him to be like D*** and forget me when he graduated. I actually wanted him to. I never expected him to use the words, “I love you.” Once again my heart broke; only this time it was because I had broken someone else’s heart.
When I got to college, I waited a year and a half before I even dared hope for another best-friend relationship. Somewhere in that year and a half, a switch went off in my brain. Yes, I wanted a best friend. But I wanted a boyfriend more. I made several friends my sophomore year; one of them was Fishie. I thought these friends would last for a lifetime. But then graduation happens, and everyone goes their separate ways. Some of them I never expected to keep in touch. Others I expected to telephone me every day. You can imagine the disappointment when I realized that even my “best” friend and I only communicate once every few months!
Through all this, I’ve vowed to never be a “convenient” friend. I want to be a friend who is willing to do the hard thing. I want to be a friend who forgives and forgives seventy-seven times. I want to be a listener. I want to be an encourager. At the same time I have found myself remaining distant out of fear. I don’t want to be hurt again. Out of self-defense I end up hurting others who want to get close to me. And then there are those rare and unexplainable friends I have made this year who quite honestly cannot hurt me because I love them beyond my self. Someone I love and respect tells me that I need to have that kind of love for everyone. I don’t think I can. I don’t think I should try. I will always fail.
And so . . . for anyone out there who wants to be my best friend, please understand that I’m not best-friend material. There’s a reason people push me away.
Read my blog. You’ll learn more about me that way than if you talked to me face to face anyway.