The F word. — The Social Experience
Friendships. I've never been too terribly successful at the concept of them. As a teenager I was repelled by the high school cliques which included the cheerleaders, the athletics, the drama club, the stoners, the geek squad etcetera. This resulted in having only one best friend at a time with a smattering of others as sufficient party fodder. As a teenager I was content with this lifestyle because I was close with my family and would spend most of my free time with them. After high school my family situation changed and I hadn't maintained any of my high school connections. I started to feel an emptiness that no amount of moving across the country (time and time again) seemed to fix. My best friend from high school had been living the NYC dream for a few years and had been begging me to join her. I finally conceded.
Moving to New York City was a weird exception with the friend factor. I essentially moved INTO the center of her large group of existing friendships and they kind of just, took me in, no questions asked (we dubbed it, The Circle of Power). For the next eight years I had roughly twenty people I could turn to for anything, who I could call a friend without hesitation or question, a group of people who were really more family than friend. I became used to it, started to rely on it, and eventually came to realize that they were what was important in my life. They loved and supported me, they were always there for me, they were there to experience life together - good times and bad - and it was the group of them that created the foundation on which I stood and started to grow. (hi guys!) And so moving to Portland and essentially starting over in the friend department, well, it was challenging.
In NYC my longest and closest friendships were mostly with guys, two of which became my best friends. My female friendships always seemed to be... complicated. My first two female friendships became extremely tumultuous and eventually self-destructed (they were evil robots after all - high school best friend included). Two more women came in to fill the absence of their predecessors and while the three of us actually became quite close it seemed our friendships were peppered with character and lifestyle differences, it didn't necessarily hurt the relationships but it didn't exactly make them stronger either.
So when we moved to Portland I decided it was time to make some lasting female bonds with balanced and grounded women who shared my humor and interests, including my love of horror movies, comic books and 80's music.
But playing with girls (aww yeah) is a whole new ballgame. They are fickle and flighty creatures whose emotional needs can at times be confusing and exhausting. I had a lot of starts and stops here in Portland, I took some social chances, leaps of friendship-faith and gestures that I would have never attempted in New York. It made me braver in a way, but it also at times left me a little unsure of myself. Sometimes those chances didn't turn out so well. More than once I put myself out there only to have it unreciprocated. I would find myself doing a dance of constant uncertainty. The metaphorical petal plucking of she likes me she likes me not. But it never stopped me, if I met someone new and I liked them I did it all over again. And lo and behold, it eventually started to pay off.
It took about a year before I finally met the two people who would quickly become my best friends ( a boy AND a girl!) And about a year after that until we met a few more people that would become a constant in our lives. And about a year after that we met a few more. And a year after that - etcetera. Adam and I have now been in Portland for nearly five years and it's taken four of them to create the group of friends we have now. Years of meeting people through work, meeting people online, meeting people through Adam's bands, meeting friends of friends and then throwing party after party (after party after party) to mingle those people and FORCE THEM TO LIKE EACH OTHER. Like any good family does.
And now to maintain, nurture and grow those friendships we have frequent gatherings of activities like game nights; hookah nights; movie nights; seeing bands together; playing pool together; sharing meals together; going to plays; going dancing; and celebrating holidays together. In general - creating excuses to see each other on a weekly or semi weekly basis. Some of these friendships are years old, others still seem new as we continue to learn about one another and allow our lives to intersect in frequent and basic ways.
My husband is my very best friend (and I his) but we are not codependent, solitary people and our selfish, fun-seeking personalities are happiest when we are surrounded by people who we enjoy. As I grow older I start to wonder what my life will be like when I'm in my 40's and 50's, when I enter my twilight years of 70's and maybe 80's. Aside from Adam, who will be there for me when I need them? Who will I play bingo with or go to an early bird special with? Who will watch Jeopardy with me and shake their head because I'm so bad at trivia? My own family lives thousands of miles away and I see them once a year at best, and I don't want to have children. I love spending time alone (and in fact need to spend time alone) but I don't want to be alone. I want to grow old with the people in my life. Sure, friends come and go, people move away or grow apart. But I want there to always be a group of people who are my foundation (and I theirs), where I can stand and grow and be comforted in the certainty that they are there to catch me if I fall.
Take it from me my darling, life begins at 40, and it looks like you are building a head of steam as it fast approach's. Father time waits for no one.
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