Friendships are easy when you’re a kid. When I was five, my best friend was my neighbor Natalie, an energetic three year old who loved to play. It was great because I loved playing, too. I can’t really remember what kinds of things we played, but I just remember being really sad when we finally moved out of that townhouse to a duplex about 20 minutes away. 20 minutes might as well be 10,000 miles to a couple of kids like us.
I was sad, but life went on and in a few weeks I was in a new school and making more friends. One of those was Miriam, with the apples in her cheeks and the Jehova’s Witness mother who wouldn’t allow her to celebrate anything fun. It kind of worked out well for us because although we were Catholic at the time, my mother was pretty strict insofar as letting me play outside or go to friend’s houses. Miriam and I were only in the same class for second grade, but we remained best friends until the 6th grade. I had other friends, some really close, like my friend Ketty-Elena whose mom was a teacher at our school. Ketty was pretty well off. I still remember one of the best times I had as a kid was going to her 1950′s themed birthday party, dancing to oldies music in my pink, poodle skirt and drinking ice cream sodas. But Ketty had other friends from when she was younger that she was even closer with, so I remained “BFFs” with Miriam. I remember telling her she would be the maid of honor at my wedding, no matter how much time had passed. It’s funny, the promises we make as kids, and how few of us remember them into adulthood.
Miriam wound up going to a different middle school, and started hanging out with what I can only refer to as “chonga” girls. They were the girls that tried to act like hard asses even though they were only 12 and 13 years old, who wore oversized flannels but not in a 90′s grunge way, who painted their lips dark brown and dark burgundy with thick lip liner all around, and would never admit to liking anything that “little girls” liked. Miriam started to change, and I did, too. I was more into Alanis Morissette and the Smashing Pumpkins and watching Daria and wearing oversized flannels in a 90′s grunge way. And when I finally started wearing make-up, it was strictly dark pink, red, and burgundy lipsticks that I carried in my bag.
In the fifth grade, I met Susan, and Susan would go on to replace Miriam as my best friend for many, many years. Susan would be a lot of things to me, and our friendship would create such a shit storm in its wake I can’t even begin to describe it. She introduced me to atheism and agnosticism. She was the first person I came out to as bisexual, and was even my first kiss (female or otherwise). She introduce me to my very first boyfriend (and subsequently the boy I would lose my virginity to), which would in turn break her heart as she would later confess she actually liked me. She would go on to break my heart by being the girl said first boyfriend would cheat on me with. Still, we remained friends.
Susan and I’s bizarre best friendship would go on and off throughout high school. I would worry about her smoking pot, thinking she was destroying her life, only to later on smoke with her once I realized it wasn’t a big deal. We would hang out in secret because my mother didn’t like her and disapproved of our friendship. Going to local shows was never more fun with anyone else but her. I would introduce her to her first long-term boyfriend. She would let me crash with her when I went to New York to visit a boy I really liked. And so on, and so on.
We finally began to fall apart as adults, when drugs and mental illness began to take hold of my friend. Her time in New York led her into the arms of an abusive, asshole, drug-dealer boyfriend. When she finally told me about him, I pleaded with her to leave him. She did, and wound up with his friend, who was another mess all together. Meanwhile I was drinking and screwing my way around town until I wound up in a stable relationship, which inevitably ended and then I went back to old habits. Still, I was in much better shape and couldn’t understand why she would allow herself to get hit or be with anyone who was even verbally abusive. It just didn’t make sense. After the second asshole left her, she fell in with some guy from what seemed like a religious cult, who asked her to marry him. As her best friend, I had to flat out tell her it was an awful idea. She knew it was true, and eventually they broke it off.
But she was never the same girl from before. Things in her shifted. She stopped making sense one day. I sometimes wonder if it had to do with a bout of meningitis she had. She began to disappear for weeks and months at a time. Alcoholism settled deep within her, and then all of a sudden i’d get a phone call from her from some mental ward at any number of hospitals. I always wanted to go see her, but I could never bring myself to do it. I know I’m a bad friend for it.
Eventually, I grew tired and even fearful of my friend. I told her flat out I couldn’t see her unless she took her meds. She didn’t make any sense otherwise. She didn’t understand and I couldn’t make her. The friendship we had dwindled into nothing and the last time I saw her she had vomited on my friend’s couch at a New Year’s party after going on about some transmitter in her arm that came in the form of a bizarre tattoo she had done. I miss my fucking friend.
Since then, I’ve had other close friends. Other BFFs on and off, but since Susan, I’ve always kept a bit of a distance from everyone. And after my daughter died, I feel like I distanced myself even further.
Making friends is hard. Making friends after your best friend became a borderline schizophrenic alcoholic mess is even harder.
These days, I have only a small handful of folks I would call good friends, but they all live their own lives, just like I do. Being a wife and a mother takes up a lot of time, and even when it doesn’t, it sometimes feels like my non-married, non-child-bearing friends don’t relate to me as much as before. I can talk about my days of cleaning spit up and changing diapers, but I know they’re not as interested. My “mommy” friends are busy with their own lives, their own families. And really, what I want is to make friends that a) know where I’m coming from and b) have some similar interests. Before writing this post, I even opened up Craigslist and considered putting up a “Strictly Platonic” ad. It would go something like this:
Late-twentysomething feminist writer seeks other feminist mamas for going out for vegan food, watching independent films, visiting tea and coffee shops (and occasionally a smoke-free bar if it’s a good one and we’ve got good baby-sitters), good local shows (if you can recommend music, that’s a plus as I have has zero time to search for any), zines and short stories (maybe we can critique each other?), volunteering, traveling, craft beer, tasty wine and yoga for e-mail/letter exchange and eventually in-person hang outs. Let’s be positive forces in each other’s lives. Too much negativity and shit talking in the world. Also, please understand that having a three month old means I’ll be a flake 83% of the time (I’ll understand if you’re a flake sometimes, too). PS. I promise I don’t suck.
What do you think? Too much?