On complicated friendships


A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a blogger event hosed by a mobile phone company. I like getting invited to things, especially blogger things, where I can wear sequins in socially acceptable situations rather than at the supermarket in the middle of the day. Getting an invitation automatically makes me feel cool, popular, a girl about town. So I pulled on a favorite sparkly blouse and excitedly left my house, eager to mingle with bloggers, nibble on canapes and maybe get my hands on a gift bag.

I expected to walk into the showroom and be greeted by friendly, welcoming faces - women who were just as excited to meet me as I was them. However, the other attendees were tightly clustered in the back of the room, glaring at me. They didn't introduce themselves. The didn't say hello. They didn't smile. They whispered in low, conspiratorial tones, sneaking looks at my shoes.

After twenty minutes of wandering around, faking deep interest in cellular data plans, I slunk out.

On the way home, I tried to figure out what had gone wrong. What was so appalling about me that no one said hello? Why didn't anyone talk to me? The more I thought about it, the more horrified I became. What was wrong with me, anyway? Are my current friends just pretending to like me?  AM I DESTINED TO BE ALONE, FRIENDLESS, SPENDING MY NIGHTS DRINKING FRANZIA AND EATING LEAN CUISINE IN THE DARK WHILE WATCHING GOSSIP GIRL WITHOUT A SOUL TO TALK TO???

I'm not great at being bad at things. When I was in high school and had an audition for orchestra, I locked myself in a practice room for weeks and played scales over and over again, drawing the attention of my friends, who thought I'd lost my grip on sanity. I cut myself off from my family, skipped meals, procrastinated on homework, and generally made those around me miserable. I had to get first chair. And since then, I have felt that failure just isn't an option.

I view friendships in the same way. I want to be good at them. No, I want to be great at them. I want to be your deepest confidant, the woman you call when you hear of a sale at Anthropologie or have a fight with your husband. I want to have inside jokes and go thrifting with you and hotly debate which character on Beverly Hills 90210 had better hair, Brenda or Kelly. I want you to call me in the middle of the night to share some random bit of gossip you found on Twitter. I want to be the best friend you've ever had. And I want every woman to want to be friends with me.

This desperation to be liked has been a thorn in my side. It's led me to overlook some pretty deplorable behavior in past friendships. I've tolerated being talked about behind my back. I've struggled with setting limits and saying no, becoming the woman others stick with volunteer projects and hosting duties and personal shopping requests. I've stayed friends with people who have hurt me, trying to forgive but unable to really forget. I've avoided confrontation like the plague. It's much more difficult to make friends as an adult than a teenager, and because of that, I've been reluctant to admit that a friendship has failed.

But I'm coming to the realization that it's okay to fail at certain friendships, and perfectly fine to grow out of some and let them go. As I've transitioned from college student to newlywed to mother to self-sufficient woman, I've cycled through different groups of friends. Each friendship taught me something about myself and reflected the phase I was in at the time. There are some people I am just not going to be friends with, no matter what I do. Not everyone is going to like me. And there are other friendships that aren't meant to last forever. Some people are meant to drift in and out of your life, and that's okay.

I'm grateful to have so many amazing people in my life right now, and finally have the understanding that friendship is more about quality over quantity. The friends that are meant to stick around will.

Have you struggled with letting go of certain friends? Have you ever felt you failed at a female friendship? Do you think it's harder to make friends as you get older? Have you cycled through different groups of friends? Or are you still close with women you knew from childhood?


20 comments:

  1. Girl, I totally know where you're coming from. I've always been the super loyal friend who maintains relationships for life. And when I meet someone I like, I want to be capital F Friends. It's only in later years that I've realized that not all friendships have to last forever (because we're not the same people forever), and not all acquaintances will be Friends and it's OK.

    My circle of friends spans the globe, from Seattle to Spain, and grows every new place I live or work. I had two bridesmaids in my wedding: one person I've been friends with since age 15 even though we've never lived in the same town; and another I've been friends with since first grade.

    And then there are the virtual friends I feel like I've made through blogging. (Like you, maybe? :)

    Now, going into a room full of strangers to mingle? That's a whole other circle of Hell.

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  2. "But I'm coming to the realization that it's okay to fail at certain friendships, and perfectly fine to grow out of some and let them go."

    I think this is the best and hardest thing about being an adult. I "broke up" with a former best friend about three years ago and don't think I'm over it. Sometimes friend break ups are worse than relationship breakups when you're younger.

    Needless to say, I think being able to pick your friends is a great part about growing up.

    As for those mean girls? They are probably insecure about themselves a bit, too.

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  3. Reading this was like a giant exhale for me. I so feel all of this. I am not friends with anyone from my childhood at all. I try to be and it just doesn't work. I am not like them and they are not like me. Then I feel guilty for not "feeling" it. Nor did I maintain college friendships. Or first job friendships. Or even second job ones. I'm so bad at this. Even now I am not that good at maintaining the friendships in my life. I work in a school and when we let out for the summer months we all make promises for margarita lunches and afternoon pool dates. I opt instead for solo backyard afternoons with my son and weekend trips with my husband. Or I am all over my twitter friends for weeks on end then get burnt out and have to take a break.

    When I was little, I used to spend intense weeks with the kids in our neighborhood. Then I would want my space. I'd play independently at my house with dolls, dress-up stuff, or just reading. I needed solitude. I guess part of my personality is simply that. I love me some friendships, but at the same time I need my space. I just wish I knew how to balance that better. Sigh.

    I'm not a bad friend. I pinky swear!

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  4. I was an extremely insecure and unhappy child. Because I thought no one would like me for who I was, I did things that I either thought would make people like me or that would push them away before they could push me away. I was so very lucky that there were two girls, one who I met at age 4 and the other at age 6, who saw through the neurosis from the very beginning. They are the only two friends that I have carried from childhood and really are both more like family. We're not alike in many ways; we raise our children differently, we live our lives differently, and our personalities and interests and evolved dramatically and yet somehow we're able to look past that in a way that could never happen if we were meeting each other as adults. Interestingly there are a few people that I really wasn't friends with as kids that I now really enjoy spending time with.

    As an adult I've come to realize more and more that I cannot change who I am to meet other people's expectations but there is still that lingering feeling of wanting people to want to be my friend. I'm not friends with people I met in my teens, or early 20's but I met a couple of women when I went back to college in my mid 20's that I now count among my family. I've been at the birth of one of their daughters (and am her godmother) and they are both "aunties" to my children. Once again, our lives are different than they were 8yrs ago when we met but those differences seem to be transcended by our shared love and similarities. Since having kids I have begun to make friends based on our shared role as mothers. This has been a very freeing stage of development for me because I feel like for the first time, I am choosing my friends based on true connections. There are plenty of moms that I'm friendly with that I am totally comfortable with never being friends with. I found that I am increasingly more comfortable with letting go of "friends" that I've found I was really not connecting with or that were simply too much work for the limited level of connection. And I'm sure that people have let go of me for the same reasons.

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  5. See I'm the exact opposite. After having low self esteem through high school and being the freak wearing crazy shoes (a la Jeffrey Campbell)I now dismiss the cold shoulder. If they don't want to be friends I chalk it up to I'm not everyone's cup of tea or they are missing out 'cause I'm a hoot.

    And hey I was 1st chair flute every year too!

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  6. hmmmm. First: Hello! :-)
    I can not really relate to your worries, why you would be worried, when you did not make contact at a mobile-phone-hosted blogger-event.
    It this would have been your 20 year-highschool-reunion, then yes!
    I guess the inpoliteness of those participants who did not want to meet you has nothing to to with friendship. Still I know the akward feeling when you leave an event and you could not make contact with no one. I once returned home and Mr Paula could not believe NO ONE talked to me. NO ONE.

    If it were a "failure", it would mean friendships have to last forever? i need to think about this!
    Just wanted to let you know that those people definitely are not your friends. They probably missed a great opportunity to get to know you.

    I on the other hand fear a bit bloggers who feel like friends but definitely are not my friends, but just bloggers I met online, might take over the real life. When you feel closer to people you have never met in real like. Just because we can blank out all the aspects we don't like about the other person (this is way harder in real life!).
    It feels good, to share the same weird habits with other bloggers, to find out that the way others see our world, is very similar to our view - qualities online find in the blogsphere.
    I feel as if our real friends have to match up with the not-so-real-but-so-nice-friends aka followers/commenters/fellow-bloggers. I am torn!

    I love to hold on to old friendships, just to find out the other one does not care any more and went on. Outch!

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  7. PS: it seems I can not even break up with my hairstylist after only 1 year. I am really bad at letting go ;-)

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  8. I have trouble with letting go of friendships that are a complete disaster. I always feel like I need to be the better person even if that person doesn't seem to care about what is going on with my life and only comes to me when they have problems. I wish I could be better at letting certain friendships go when they are a failure, but I can't. Maybe someday?

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  9. Yes, this whole post is all to familiar with me :/

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  10. I think the really good friendships are the ones that develop slowly over time.

    I think the bloggers you mentioned were obviously insecure themselves. Why else would they be so closed off to others? Having been the 'new kid' alot when I was growing up - I had to put myself into many of these situations and most of the time both parties were feeling the same exact way. Not always - but most of the time. And if they were just plain mean then who needs them?

    Sounds like you *are* a good friend. Hang in there.

    PS - I played in the orchestra too. (Still do occasionally.) Viola. :)

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  11. "I've stayed friends with people who have hurt me, trying to forgive but unable to really forget." - I've been there, too.

    "But I'm coming to the realization that it's okay to fail at certain friendships, and perfectly fine to grow out of some and let them go." - I've had to let some friendships go over the past few years and it's hard because of all the shared past and memories, but what's the point when these "friends" treat you like crap?

    It is SO much harder to make friends as an adult than as a teenager. (My mom keeps saying that if I had a baby, I'd meet new people that way, but if I had a baby now I'd never even get to see my child because of commuting to and from work let alone meet other parents.) I have some friends, but no one with whom I can "have inside jokes and go thrifting with" and "hotly debate which character on Beverly Hills 90210 had better hair, Brenda or Kelly." And I miss that closeness but I can't seem to find it.

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  12. Friendship is so hard sometimes. Especially with high school friends who just doesn't seem to have grown up like you have. I strive my best to keep my friendships, but I also believe they are a 2 way street. It takes 2 to tango just like a marriage :)
    ...
    Come enter my Shabby Apple dress giveaway just in time for holiday parties season!

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  13. I hear you lady! I had this conversation with a friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in over 2 years. We realized that we have a lasting friendship, and we need to work harder at staying connected. It's definitely quality over quantity. Going through many different life transitions you really see who sticks by you through them all, and who you can count on in any situation. Don't settle for a terrible friend, because they don't deserve you.

    xo L.

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  14. Gaah this story is exactly why I'm so apprehensive about going to social events. Why do adults act so clicky? Clearly they have some petty superiority complex. It's taken me a long time to be comfortable with the fact that I'm just not the type of gal who is ever going to be "popular". I consider myself to be a really chill, laid back and accepting person yet making friends that stick doesn't happen to often for me. That said the friends I do have are pretty amazing and I am who I am so I no longer sweat it if peeps don't take to me. Also making friends as you get older is SOOO hard. You just don't interact with people the same way. QUALITY is much more important. By the way you seem like a pretty bad ass chick. Those bitches missed out!

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  15. I think that many women can relate to this post. In the movies there is always those amazing female friends. But in real life those kinds of friends only come once in a while. I've put up with mean friends for the sake of history until I realized that I only wanted lovely things in my life. It's so much more difficult to make friends as an adult. I'm in Australia now and it's hard to make friends because everyone already has friends and aren't really making the effort to make new ones and I'm shy. It's a tricky path to walk and understand that there is nothing wrong with you and actually you're pretty fabulous!

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  16. You write from your heart.

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  17. Sometimes I focus on things that are beside the point: Like while reading this whole past and all the comments, the only thought running through my mind was, "GAAAAAH! Why weren't the people at the phone event friendly to you??"

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  18. Same. I tend to revert to Kindergarten techniques - 'You're funny, we're going to be friends!'

    That doesn't translate as well on the interwebz. Go fig.

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  19. I've found that as I become older making new friends is a lot of work. I prefer the friendships that understand when I do not have time to see them for long periods of time but then we can pick right back up like we never missed a beat. Because of this I only have a few very close good friends. I can't do high maintenance or drama...those need not apply.

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  20. I'd rather have one amazing friend than 100 crappy ones. Apparently the average woman has 4 true friends and that is 100% fine by me, so long as they are true!

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